Assessing Cosmetic vs. Structural Foundation Damage
Visible drywall cracks, most commonly referred to as hairline cracks, don’t necessarily indicate a serious problem. These may also occur seasonally and are commonly referred to by experts as “seasonal settlement cracks,” which is a cosmetic issue.
However, foundation problems are a structural issue – which means they can really mess up the structure of your home if not taken care of properly. So, one’s a bigger concern over than the other, even though you may think both look bad. Cosmetic issues are a much easier fix and one hairline crack won’t necessarily indicate you have a foundation problem with your home.
Help, I See a Crack! What Kind is it – Cosmetic or Structural?
One helpful tip recommended by a foundation consultant with Stratum Foundation Repair, a Texas-based foundation repair company, is to determine whether a crack is cosmetic or structural. This expert recommends performing a “quarter test” on cracks to help determine whether or not a foundation may need repair.
How to perform the “quarter test” on a crack in your home: when you see a crack, if you can take an edge of a quarter and stick it inside the crack, it’s probably something that needs to be investigated further by an expert. If that crack is opening up, it means things (aka the bones of your home) are pulling apart.
While any noticeable crack is a cosmetic issue in itself, a structural issue stems from things pulling apart. If it comes out too far, parts are no longer connected, which is obviously a bad thing.
If you see a crack that’s smaller or what’s commonly referred to as a hairline crack, then they’re most likely seasonal movement cracks. As long as the crack isn’t widening or separating, there’s not as much cause for concern.
The signs associated with foundation damage usually occur in tandem, with more than one at a time. It’s usually unlikely that a bunch of different signs or cracks don’t have separate causes.
That means it’s not enough to have just one crack to correctly assume it’s a foundation issue. When the foundation moves, it’s causing many pieces of the foundation to move. Experts look to find a concentration of cracks and breaks, along with evaluating other areas of the home for common signs indicating foundation problems.
Basically, foundation consultants typically look anywhere where there’s a joining of two materials because those are weak spots: brick meets window, trim meets window, ceiling meets wall, etc.
6 most common signs of foundation issues include:
- Water bill inconsistencies: If your water bill shoots up suddenly, it may indicate a foundation issue related to a plumbing leak.
- Odors: A foul order coming from soil near house is another warning sign of foundation problems.
- Cracks: This is the most common issue homeowners notice. Signs of foundation issues in relation to cracks include several cracks popping up on walls, near ceilings above doors and in corners.
- Doors and door frames: If you begin to notice that doors are not opening or shutting properly or are not matching to the frame properly as it once did, this is another foundation issue indication.
- Separation of freeze boards (the jointed trim near the roofline and on the corners of the home): When you are able to see a separation in this area, it often signifies that the foundation is moving. Experts look for separation higher up, which is easier to spot.
- Expansion joints (the lines in between bricks that look like caulking): Expansion joints exist to help combat the issue of moving bricks, since bricks typically don’t allow any sort of movement. But, when there’s an issue, you can see displacement, usually near the top of the wall.
Remember, if at any point there’s a concern that your home may have foundation issues, it’s important to act immediately. If you believe you may have a foundation issue after evaluating your home for these common signs, it’s time to consult a foundation expert.
Companies, like our Texas-based Stratum Foundation Repair, offer free foundation inspections to get to the bottom of the issue. Our foundation repair company will help you resolve whether or not there’s an issue and, if so, what you can do to resolve it. We’ll also help you assess both the current problem and also create a plan that helps combat any future foundation issues from occurring.
Now that you’re able to better determine whether or not you may have a foundation issue, we’ll next dive into the foundation repair process so you’ll get a better understand of what to expect. Go here to read Part 3 in the series.