Foundation settlement cracks appear on the cinderblocks and brick of a house when the footing is settling. Diagonal cracks, aka stair-step cracks, indicate that the foundation could be sinking. But maybe not!
Properly diagnosing a foundation settlement issue is critical to preventing further damage, without breaking the bank. Cracked bricks either mean the foundation is shifting or could be caused by a swollen lintel. If foundation repairs were installed in an area where the cracks were caused by the metal of a lintel swelling, the problem would not be fixed and the whole expense would have been a waste.
Here are the main causes of foundation settlement cracks:
- The soil cannot support the weight of the home
- The footing has broken
- The soil is not fully compacted
- Groundwater has washed out the soil from under the footing
- Trees roots under the footing have decomposed, leaving a void
- The shrink-swell soil has dried up and shrunken
- The shrink-swell soil is saturated and has expanded
- Additional weight was added to the original structure
- An act of God such as an earthquake has caused sudden damage
- The concrete making up the footing is decomposed and weakened
It’s almost impossible to diagnose the exact cause of foundation settlement cracks unfortunately. Most of the causes occur underneath the top-layer of soil and without warning so if you are noticing cracks in your brick it’s safe to assume you should take steps to repair the settled foundation.
Because most causes of foundation settlement cracks take place sub-surface, the best repairs involve bypassing the problem soils and supporting the weight of the home on strong soil layers, found at various unknown depths underground. The best repair option for lifetime stabilization is called ‘Foundation Push Piers’.
Foundation push pier repairs involve a heavy steel bracket supporting the bottom of the broken footing and galvanized steel pipe sections, driven into the ground, until the steel pier reaches stable, strong soils. Pipe sections are driven sequentially, one at a time, with an industrial hydraulic pump and drive ram while pressure readings are monitored. The resistance and PSI of the hydraulics relates to the strength of each soil layer as the pipe is driven slowly into the ground. Once the pier has reached the soil layer, strong enough to support the weight of the home, then the weight of the home can be transferred off the soil under the footing and onto the strong, stable soil layer.The key to repairing foundation settlement cracks is permanently stabilizing the footing that has settled. Correction is also a key benefit of foundation push piers. Once installed, the installation crew has the opportunity to attempt lift on the home to achieve maximum correction.