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Old 11-28-2007, 10:27 AM   #1
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Please help me with a cracking foundation...


Hello Good People,

I have a townhome. About 3 months ago I noticed a crack in my foundation at a corner of my townhome. I have attached pictures so you can see what I'm dealing with. The foundation is cracked on both sides of the corner. The cracks are run about 14" on 1 side and just 1 vertical crack on the other side.

I'm not sure what to do. I've called some structural engineers and they want a few hundred dollars just to come out and look at it. Further costs would be incurred for them to recommend a plan to fix the problem. My other options are to hire a concrete contractor to knock out the loose stuff and rebuild the corner. The last option is for me to "paste" some additional concrete over the cracks myself.

I'm concerned because winter is coming and I don't want melting snow to get in those cracks and make them worse. I know foundation problems are serious business, but now is not a good time financially to hire a structural engineer and pay for an expensive solution.

Based on my description and these pics, does anybody here have some recommendations? How bad is my situation? Thanks in advance!




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Old 11-28-2007, 10:50 AM   #2
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Please help me with a cracking foundation...


Probable cause is your downspout drainline.

You will need to dig to check your footer.

But quick fix is cut downspout and redirect away from your house ( 8' if you can) Go ahead and apply concrete bonding agent and mortor the cracks.

Good luck.

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Old 11-28-2007, 10:56 AM   #3
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Please help me with a cracking foundation...


Basement, crawlspace or slab on grade?

Block or poured concrete?

Is this the only crack?

Is the inside of the foundation visible? Are any cracks visible on the inside of the foundation?

How old is the townhome?

Are there any signs of previous crack repairs?

Is the brick painted? (possible sign of previous crack repair)

Can you dig down to the bottom of the crack? How deep is it?
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Old 11-28-2007, 11:03 AM   #4
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Please help me with a cracking foundation...


It looks like your downspout is burried? If it is it needs to be carrying the water away from the foundation. Answer some of jogr's ? to get a better answer but if you are just looking for a quick fix i would use hydralic cement or morter to slose the cracks for winter and then do some digging when summer comes around to find out how bad the situation is and save up some money.
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Old 11-28-2007, 12:32 PM   #5
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Please help me with a cracking foundation...


If the water from the gutter is transported by the buried drain, water is not the issue. Issue may be the footers were not poured correctly. In such a case, a concrete company would need to dig that area out and possibly jack it up to level.
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Old 11-28-2007, 12:41 PM   #6
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Please help me with a cracking foundation...


Thank you for the quick replies. I'll try to answer some of these questions. Tomorrow, I'll take some better pics that show the entire area. We planted a garden out front 2yrs ago. I'm concerned that maybe that's causing the problem. Although, the last owner had a garden as well. I've read that putting plants in clay based soil is a bad idea. There's a lot of clay in my soil. Also, I know the ground drainage isn't good in that corner. During heavy rains I get a large puddle that forms on the sidewalk. If I was diagnosing the situation I would say it's between the plants and the sidewalk drainage that are causing this problem. Of course, I didn't know any of this stuff until I starting reading about the foundation cracks.

I'm really afraid this is going to cost me a fortune. I'm looking for experienced opinions, because I only know what I've read on the internet. Let me know what you think with this additional info. And thanks for trying to help. I appreciate it.

Basement, crawlspace or slab on grade?
There is a basement below this crack. The crack is at ground level and the basement is underneath. I can see the crack from inside the basement as well.

Block or poured concrete?
Looks like poured to me. I don't see any lines that would indicate blocks.

Is this the only crack?
There are a few more cracks in the basement. 2 vertical cracks in the on 2 different walls of the foundation. These are visible inside the basement. They are very thin cracks- hairline cracks. I noticed them within the past few months as well. There are some bricks and mortar in the basement as well, and I've noticed some cracks/shifting in the mortar as well.

Is the inside of the foundation visible? Are any cracks visible on the inside of the foundation? see above

How old is the townhome?
It was built in the mid 60's.

Are there any signs of previous crack repairs?
There is 1 previous crack repair. A vertical crack running from one of the basement windows was repaired. I don't know how long ago that was done, and I've owned the place for 3.5yrs.

Is the brick painted? (possible sign of previous crack repair)
see above

Can you dig down to the bottom of the crack? How deep is it?
I dug to the bottom. It goes about 8-12" under the surface dirt.
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Old 11-28-2007, 12:51 PM   #7
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Please help me with a cracking foundation...


So the total length of the crack is about 2 ft. long? Can you tell if that corner of the house is sagging, floors out of level? I am from wisconsin and have delt with two houses with cracked foundations, some of the local basement repair companies will come out and give free estimates on what they would do.
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Old 11-30-2007, 12:47 PM   #8
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I haven't noticed any problem with the floors sagging. I've seen a few hairline cracks at various points throughout the house, but nothing that looks dangerous. They're just short hairline cracks.

So it seems the consensus so far is to fill the outdoor cracks with hydraulic cement and redirect the gutter out of the downspout. Any other opinions?

Here are some additional photos showing the general area of the problem and the corner crack as viewed from inside the basement.




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Old 11-30-2007, 01:07 PM   #9
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Please help me with a cracking foundation...


Thanks for adding pics and info. IMHO this is still water related... weathering over time in various size cracks in the block. Be sure your downspout drain is not leaking... if it is fix it or relocate your downspout.
Patch your cracks... besure to cut out the mortor and tuck point where the brick meets the block. Dig down to fill the crack below grade... apply sealer..
You should be good... OR call the engr for a $ 150.00 if you are that worried... sleeping well is worth that and more...

Last edited by Big Bob; 11-30-2007 at 01:08 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 11-30-2007, 02:12 PM   #10
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Please help me with a cracking foundation...


If it was me I'd dig down the 12" and patch the entire crack as others described. I'd try to use your existing downspout and drainpipe setup so you don't have to go over the sidewalk. Check it to see if it is clogged or leaking and make sure it's open to wherever it discharges, fix as needed.

Then sit back and watch the crack area over the next few years. If you see significant additional cracking then you might want to get that engineer to look at it. Right now it doesn't look like anything significant for a 40 year old house.

I have to admit I'm a little puzzled by the construction. It's not something I'm familiar with. It appears as if a row of block was placed on top of the poured wall with slots cut in for the floor joists (and at the corner someone has attempted to repair the crumbling block once with mortar and again with a plaster?). On the outside it looks like poured concrete for the most part but the one wall almost looks like it has vertical lines every 16" almost like a block wall. Is this possibly a row of block with some parging?

Or perhaps the row of block visible on the inside is 4" block hidden behind the brick and placed there because the dirt grade goes up to the same level as the brick in places not shown in the photos (like the other side of the window well?).

Or maybe that's not block at all but a concrete band poured on top of the previous pour with the joists embedded??? If that joist in the corner is embbeded at the same height as the cracking you see on the outside it could be that moisture reached the wood joist and it swelled slightly producing a hairline crack in the concrete. This let in more moisture, causing more swelling and more cracking in a never ending cycle. The joist looks ok on the inside but it looks like an old water stain on the concrete below the patch.
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Old 11-30-2007, 02:12 PM   #11
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Please help me with a cracking foundation...


Thanks Bob. So I should:

Dig down to base of crack
Fill cracks with hydraulic cement
Apply concrete sealer to the affected area
Bypass the downspout by extending gutter to another drainage area

Is that correct?
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Old 11-30-2007, 03:09 PM   #12
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JOGR- Thanks for your input. I'm pretty sure I'm going to try fixing this myself before paying someone else a lot more to do the job. I'll dig down by the crack and the downspout, but I'm hesitant to test the downspout for leaks with water- it's already dipped below freezing here. I guess its ok for me to put water down there on a day that is several degrees above freezing...

When I do the digging I'll post more pics. I don't know much about block vs. poured but you made some good points about those vertical seams that are shown. I'd never thought of that before. Also it never occurred to me that someone had patched up that corner inside the basement. Now that you mention it, there does appear to be 2 dissimilar materials coming together in that corner.

I'm relieved that you guys don't think this is a huge problem. I've been worried about it; thinking my house was going through some big shift and I might have big problems inside as well. Not that I can rule that out entirely, but I'm relieved that it appears to be fairly benign.
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Old 11-30-2007, 06:33 PM   #13
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Please help me with a cracking foundation...


I second the digging down and filling, you want to make sure you get all the loose or weak concrete out with a chisel or grinder and masonry blade so the hydralic cement has good solid concrete to bond to. After filling the cracks use a foundation sealer/water proofer to seal the surface to help keep water out. There are alot of opinions on what product to use as a sealer so do some research and see what you think. I used a liquid rubber sealer, went on with a brush and dried as a flexable rubber so it can expand with the house and acts like a rubber boot. That will take care of the wall. You need to find out where the water from the downspout is going, if it is being carried away from the foundation like it should be or not. If need be for the winter just drain it above ground, like a elbow on the downspout and then an 8' piece of downspout heading away from the house. I couldn't see any cracks in the tuck pointing for the bricks so your foundation doesn't seem to be sagging so if you take care of these cracks you should be fine. good luck.
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Old 12-01-2007, 09:12 AM   #14
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Please help me with a cracking foundation...


Ponch- I think if I knock away all the loose material that whole corner is going to come off. If I tap it, it sounds hollow, which leads me to think that air is traveling through the cracks from side to side. Meaning that whole corner is loose, maybe 5-6" deep. Then I'd be looking at doing concrete for the corner, rather than just filling the surface cracks. Is that something I can do as a 1st timer? Can I build a new corner all by myself?
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Old 12-01-2007, 11:29 AM   #15
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Please help me with a cracking foundation...


Remember the little engine that could?

I think I can.. I think I can... I think I can......

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