What are the Main Causes of a Damaged Basement Foundation?

This blog discusses the causes and signs of cracks in a homes foundation. Topics include; cracks and bows in concrete, concrete block, brick, poured cement, and newly built walls.

There are a ton of old homes in Toronto, and many of them will soon be approaching their 100-year mark.

As the years pass, the foundations of these older homes become damaged. They suffer from water pressure, shifting grounds, and/or faulty construction. These damages deteriorate the structural integrity a home and can become very costly if they are not properly corrected. Additionally, a damaged foundation can result in water leaks and mould.

Common Causes of a Damaged Basement Foundation.

Your Concrete Foundation Wall becomes Bowed.

A key structural sign that your basement foundation is damaged is when a wall or all the walls becomes bowed. A foundation wall that has become bowed is a clear indication that the structural integrity is undergoing a serious problem. Keep in mind that a bowed wall may not show any signs of a crack. That doesn’t mean that one wont form or is present on the exterior side.

A bow in the wall shows that there is an inordinate (uneven) amount of pressure being applied. Over time the bow will continue to develop and eventually cause a crack. Cracks will begin to appear in the exterior of the wall before there is any indication of cracks on the interior of the wall.

Your Brick Foundation Wall becomes Bowed

Brick foundation walls are uncommon but can be found in old Toronto homes.

Brick walls are subject to forces of pressure and can become bowed over time. A bow in a brick wall is not nearly as noticeable in a visible inspection, nor as easily spotted as a structural pressure bow found in a concrete wall. The only visible sign is the displacement and scattering of loose mortar on the floor. This occurs as cracks appear.

It is important to remember that a bow in your brick foundation wall threatens the structural integrity of your home. If you begin to notice any cracks on the interior, you can be assured that the exterior is also suffering. I would highly recommend contacting a concrete/ foundation specialist if any of these symptoms are discovered.

Step Cracks on a Concrete Block Wall

Step cracks often appear in a horizontal direction at the bottom corner of a basement window casing. Over time the cracks will begin to step down like a set of stairs and follow the joints of the concrete blocks.

Step cracks are usually caused by:

· Pressure from tree roots

· A shift in the soil pressure

· Weight from the upper portion of the home

· Cracks from structural fatigue

The stress in a step crack is different from a horizontal or vertical one. In horizontal or vertical cracks, the structure is being pulled in opposing directions. However, in step cracks the pressure force is simultaneously pulling in all four directions, causing major safety issue. A step crack shows that the structural integrity of the wall is seriously diminished, meaning the wall is extremely weak.


Bows in a Poured Concrete Wall

Bows in a poured concrete wall are sign of foundation destabilization. These cracks can be both vertical or horizontal and can appear anywhere on the wall. One crack usually results in the appearance of others, so make sure you fix the issue as early as you can. Similar to a bowed brick wall a crack on bowed concrete wall begins on the exterior side.

Foundation Wall Cracks in a New Home

Unfortunately, Foundation cracks in new homes are more common than you think. The most common cause of these cracks are builders, who are a rushed schedule, and backfill the excavated area before the concrete fully dried and set.

Many Individuals ignore these issues because they believe the wall is new and strong, however, that is not the case. It doesn’t matter how old or new your foundation is, a crack is a clear sign that the structure has become damaged. I recommend fixing the issue as soon as you can because it will worsen over time.

Small adjustments now will save you money in the future.

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