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Foundation Crack...Who do i call?

2350 Views 8 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  Guywithskills
Hi all, looking for some quick advice.

I have an end-unit townhome in MD and recently noticed a few hairline cracks in the foundation. They look like they follow the outline of the underlying cinderblock walls, but are on the outside where the cinderblock was covered with a coat of whatever white stuff makes it look like it's not blocks.

Anyway, when i inspected further i found a slightly bigger crack that i could slide a really small nail into. This was a little lower where i could see not the 'white stuff', but the black waterproofing was there. Theres' been a lot of settling so i have several inches that are covered in that instead of the white stuff.

Thinking the crack was small, i dug down to find bottom of it, and after digging for about a foot I'm noticing it hasn't ended yet, and is going pretty much straight down, not around blocks (least not yet). It's about one block in from the corner in case that matters.

Wondering what my next step should be...besides freaking out, which I am doing. Any advice? I"m wondering who I should call, if i should just dig further and see if it ends and it's something a novice could handle, etc. I'm not getting water in basement, although maybe that's because i had a company put a french drain in about 8-10 years ago when i did...
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Got a picture?
Seeing any cracks on the inside?
It's common to have a foundation crack, most are not a big deal.
No picture right now. I thought about taking one, but it's currently dark out, so will have to wait until tomorrow.
stairstep crack

It sounds like you have a settlement crack that is following the mortar joints in the block masonry wall. Its called a stair-step crack. This happens when your footings were not poured on solid, virgin soil. It is usually not a problem as long as your home sits high, and the terrain around your home falls away from the foundation. This should not happen in a properly constructed masonry wall where the base for the footings is deep enough and on virgin soil, or has been properly compacted.
This is one of those posts where a couple of pics would be useful. As the others have said, it could be something or nothing. Concrete blockwork is prone to shrinkage, which causes cracking and this type of cracking is usually of no consequence.
Masonry walls

Properly designed masonry walls, laid up with properly mixed mortar, Expand and contract with temperature changes. That is why you will see control joints in them at about 40 ft. Intervals. If they are placed on a properly compacted substrate, and a properly designed footing, they do not crack.

I do not know how local building codes get away with blatantly erroneous statements, but they do it all the time. The county in which I live allows vinyl siding to be installed directly over sheathing, without a secondary protection, like building wrap or asphalt saturated felt.

The vinyl siding association clearly states that a secondary moisture barrier is needed to prevent moisture intrusion. The problem is that building codes are life safety codes, not moisture intrusion codes. Go Figure.
Properly designed masonry walls, laid up with properly mixed mortar, Expand and contract with temperature changes. That is why you will see control joints in them at about 40 ft.
All materials expand and contract with temperature changes, but that is not the primary purpose of movement control joints in masonry construction.
They are there principally to allow for inevitable initial movement of the material. CMUs do shrink over time, and movement joints allow this to prevent, or reduce, uncontolled cracking.
Conversely, clay units expand gradually for some time after constuction as the initially dry brick takes up moisture from the air; compressible joints are built-in to accomodate this.
Here in Colorado I'd call my Home Owners association first because they are responsible for the shell of the building.
The size falls under the concrete guarantee: Concrete is guaranteed to crack, not burn and wont be stolen. The cracks are not big enough to do anything more than caulk them. I would make sure the dirt is a little higher next to the house depending on how much water shows up in your area and extends out about 2 ft; to reduce water going into the ground around footing. the raised dirt will help to shed water. Also insure flower beds are not against house or water draining is not up against. Even xeroscape within 2to 3ft from house to keep water away is recommended. Doing this will eliminate most of the issues to stop the progression.
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