Have you taken a look around your basement lately? A lot of Milwaukee homeowners, especially those with unfinished basements, may not often look past the washer and dryer or the stacks of boxes or the stored lawn furniture. But, it’s a good idea to check out the basement walls once in a while because you never know when you’re going to find a crack.
And, if you find a basement crack in your Milwaukee home, what are you supposed to do about it? Well, that depends…
OK, so you found a crack in your basement wall. What do you do now, fix it right away or wait and see? Consider the different types of basement wall cracks before you decide:
Narrow Cracks – When you find a crack in the basement wall, get a ruler or tape measure and measure its width. If the crack is less than 1/8” wide, it probably does not represent a structural problem with your foundation but may be a source of seepage into your basement.
Wide Cracks -- If the crack measures more than 1/8”, there is a strong possibility that it is compromising the structural integrity of your foundation wall. If you find one of these basement cracks in your Milwaukee home, keep searching because there’s a good chance there are more like it.
Dry Cracks – If there is no sign of water in or around the crack that means that it is not seeping…right now. Once you have spotted the crack, check it periodically, especially during periods of heavy rain or snowmelt when the soil around your foundation is likely to be saturated.
Wet Cracks – Obviously, if the basement crack is wet or shows signs of having seeped water on to the wall or floor, it’s a problem. Both narrow and wide cracks can allow seepage.
Cracks in Poured Concrete Walls – If the foundation in your Milwaukee home is poured concrete, cracks in the wall can run in any direction, vertical, horizontal or diagonal. Non-structural cracks can occur singly; structural cracks are often “paired” in a roughly symmetrical pattern.
Cracks in Concrete Block Walls – Concrete block foundations are very common in Milwaukee homes. Typically, cracks in concrete block walls occur in the mortar joints between the block and often follow a “stair step” pattern. When these cracks are structural in nature, the wall is usually bowed inward in the center.
One thing that all of these cracks have in common is that the most common cause of cracks is the lateral pressure exerted on foundation walls by soil outside the foundation that expands when it is saturated with water.
Another common thread is that all of these cracks are repairable. Non-structural seeping cracks in poured concrete walls can be permanently repaired by injecting them from inside with expanding urethane. Similar cracks in concrete block walls require a “positive side” repair, applying an exterior waterproofing membrane to the outside of the foundation and covering it with drainage board that channels water down to exterior drain tile.
The repairs indicated by structural cracks go beyond the cracks themselves to the walls in which they appear. Most structural cracks can be repaired by applying engineered carbon fiber strips to the wall; severe ones require the use of steel beams.
As for that “fix or wait” question, only a narrow crack that isn’t seeping falls into the “Wait and See” category. Some cracks just happen and they never leak or get bigger but they shouldn’t be ignored. The others mentioned above require repair to avoid a wet basement in your Milwaukee home or, far worse, significant structural damage.
When you discover a basement crack in your Milwaukee home, you need an expert opinion from a professional who knows the difference between a structural and a non-structural crack and how repairing a concrete block foundation differs from fixing a poured concrete one. The pros at U.S. Waterproofing have been helping homeowners in southeastern Wisconsin deal with cracks for more than 30 years so doesn’t it make sense to ask for their free advice?
If you want to know more about basement cracks in Milwaukee, please ask your questions in the Comments box below.