Your Complete Guide to Basement Cracks: What Are They, Are They Important, and How You Can Fix and Prevent Them

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As your home ages, things will begin to settle and deteriorate, and in turn, there will certainly be repairs and replacements that will be necessary as time goes on. For example, your air conditioner might go out, your garage door springs may corrode, or your exterior paint might need a touch-up every now and then.

As much as we’d prefer not to have to maintain our home over the years, this is inevitable as everything eventually breaks, aesthetically ages, or malfunctions, no matter how well we treat it. In fact, according to the National Association of Home Builders, 30 percent of home remodeling activity involves maintenance and repair.

If your home happens to have a basement, basement cracks are just one of the many things you’ll have to look out for as your home gets older. Learning about them at first, basement cracks may seem like something you can overlook, but in reality, they are a bigger deal than you might think.

Reading through the following guide, you’ll learn more about what basement cracks are, why it’s important to get them repaired, signs of water damage due to unfixed basement cracks, and how you can fix your current basement cracks and prevent future ones.

What Are Basement Cracks?

Basement cracks, simply put, are common cracks that develop on the floor, walls, or ceiling of your basement that occur over time. Cracks are most common near doors, windows, corners, and angles.

These cracks can be thick or thin and long or wide. Likewise, there may be just one crack, or there might be several cracks in one or multiple areas of your basement. The bigger the crack and the more cracks that are present, the more you should be weary about your basement’s current condition.

There are different reasons why you might have cracks in your basement, which can be either mild and common or major and relatively rare:

  • Structural damage or overload on your walls
  • Seepage and leaks (often due to malfunctioning or poorly-maintained drainage systems)
  • Frost heave when the soil thaws and freezes underneath your concrete
  • Concrete shrinkage as it dries (commonly to due concrete curing too quickly)
  • Foundation movements
  • Concrete settlement

If you’re concerned about seepage, leaks, or structural issues being the potential cause of your basement cracks, it’s a good idea to call a professional to come out for inspection. After all, the start of a thin, tiny crack may actually mean there may be bigger, more important issues than just the crack alone to worry about.

Is it Important to Repair Basement Cracks?

Just like any other part of our home that requires maintenance and repair, basement cracks will also eventually require repair sooner or later. Waiting too long to seal the cracks in your basement can result in consequences as cracks widen and spread, resulting in other areas of the basement or home become affected.

Even if the reason for your basement cracks is not a cause for concern, cracked concrete makes for the perfect home for many pests from earwigs to centipedes. For that reason, delaying repairing these cracks is not a wise option for the health and safety of your home and its inhabitants.

Besides potentially housing unwanted pests, failing to seal your basement cracks in a timely manner can result in water flowing into your basement and causing expensive water damage. Since water supply and sewage lines run through your basement walls, it’s incredibly risky to leave cracks in the basement alone.

Simply put, the larger the crack and the longer it has been present in your basement, the more dangerous it can be in terms of future water damage and residence for insects. So, always make sure to get cracks repaired before it’s too late.

Signs Your Basement Already Has Water Damage

Keeping basement cracks for long periods of time for water to break through at any minute is essentially like leaving the front door of your home open and then being surprised to find strangers and unwanted animals in your home.

If water pipes eventually burst and leak through your basement walls, you’re in for a whole lot of trouble. Water damage can affect not only any belongings you have stored in your basement but also your basement itself, including the development of toxic mold.

Toxic mold is definitely something you don’t want in any area of your home. This unwanted fungi damage the surfaces it lives on, can alter your basement’s structure, and can trigger both allergies and infections in humans. Thus, the damaging effects of toxic mold are best avoided by simply repairing basement cracks as soon as possible.

Apart from the visibility of mold and cracks, signs that your basement may already have water damage include:

  • Musty odors, especially right after it rains
  • Efflorescence on your basement walls caused by the condensation of water
  • Unexplainable stains on your walls or flooring (typically green, yellowish-brown, or black in color)
  • Crumbling or deteriorating wood, drywall, plaster, or other building materials

While water and moisture can certainly enter your home through basement cracks, other sources of water that can enter cracks include water from a malfunctioning hot water tank, HVAC system, leaky pipe, a blockage in your sewer line, leaky window, or poor drainage of your rainwater channeling system.

Remember, the longer the water sits in your basement, the more damage it can do overtime. Just like repairing basement cracks is important sooner than later, tending to water damage itself as soon as possible will also be vital.

How to Fix Basement Cracks

Ideally, the sooner basement cracks are tended to, the better. While cracks in the basement don’t necessarily need to be fixed the second you spot them, waiting months or even years to repair them certainly isn’t a wise choice as consequences of not repairing your basement cracks may arise, like major water damage.

Nevertheless, fixing basement cracks is quick, easy, and affordable. Most basement wall, floor, and ceiling cracks can be repaired with an epoxy-based resin and a caulking gun. One or two coats of epoxy (letting the first layer dry before applying the second, if necessary) might fix the issue in a snap.

Best of all, for simple crack repairs, there is absolutely no need to hire an expert to do the work for you if you already know what the reason for the crack(s) is. In fact, there are many simple-to-use, do-it-yourself kits for minor wall repairs readily available in home improvement stores near you, so you can seal your own basement cracks.

However, if you notice that a basement crack runs along a natural crack in the concrete floor or if the crack runs horizontally along the wall, you’ll want to have your basement checked for structural issues, preferably from a professional.

How to Prevent Basement Cracks

While they are bound to happen eventually as home gets older, you can still prevent basement cracks from developing to an extent. Proper care and preventative methods will be important to engage in to keep your basement crack-free for as long as humanly possible.

Behinds quickly patching up cracks as you see them developing, it will be important for you to engage in other forms of repair and maintenance around your home in order to prevent unnecessary, avoidable basement cracking. Your landscaping plays a critical role in whether or not your basement will develop cracks in the near future.

This includes keeping gutters and spouts clear, installing drains in your yard where necessary, opting for sloped landscaping, ensuring plants aren’t too close to the home (especially trees as their large, deep roots can damage your basement walls and can even interfere with piping), and adding a few inches of mulch around your home.

Once the damage is already present, it’s important to reiterate the importance of getting basement cracks and its associated causes and effects tended to in order to prevent other damage throughout your basement or even on the rest of your property. With basement cracks being so easy to fix, it’s foolish to let them develop into major issues.

Conclusion

Although it may be intimidating to learn that the cracks in your basement could potentially be bad news, the important thing to remember is that home repair and maintenance is absolutely vital no matter how bad it is and regardless of the cause. The good news is, basement cracks are generally easy and cheap to repair.

However, letting basement cracks sit for long periods of time is setting yourself up for danger. Basement cracks are ideal places for water to burst from to lead to water damage and the development of mold in your basement. Likewise, pests love to nest in these cracks. Thus, crack repair is no joke and should be tended to very soon.

Overall, taking good care of your home to ensure it will stay in its best condition over the years involves being observant to changes that take place in your home, considering what features in your home will need to be repaired or replaced over time and protecting such, and most of all, actually having issues tended to as they come about.

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