Foundation Repairs

If Your Property Has a Basement, You

Probably Have a Crack in the Foundation

Most foundation cracks are normal and do not pose an immediate issue. However, water is the most destructive force in the world and it will eventually do enough damage to allow water into the basement. The combination of thermal movement, drying shrinkage, and other environmental stresses affect all foundations. If Reliable Basement Services treats your foundation cracks, you won’t have to worry about this happening.

As stated above most cracks are normal and part of wear and tear on a house, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a problem. Even if the crack doesn’t leak the fact is that cracks NEVER get smaller. They only get bigger and they all pose a risk to your home. You can have a 10-20 year old crack that has never leaked before start gushing like a fire hose. More importantly untreated foundation cracks can pose a serious risk to the structural integrity of your home. Your foundation supports everything above it (all the important stuff at least) it should not be cracked and weakened. To prevent this, you need to investigate foundation crack repair companies. As with all home-improvement projects we recommend getting quotes from at least 3 sources.

March 2020 Basement Crack Repair Specials

Reliable Basement Services is a Chicago foundation repair company that has successfully repaired thousands of basement cracks for satisfied customers. We generally treat 2,500-4,000 cracks per year. Our technicians are skilled professionals at repairing cracked foundations. We can PERMANENTLY (all our interior crack injections come with a lifetime transferable warranty) fix your cracks by using a high-pressure injection of polyurethane foam repair materials or a low-pressure injection of epoxy resin. With interior crack injections, there’s no need for a disruptive excavation. Our crack injections have resulted in many successful Chicago foundation repairs.

Foundation crack repairs start at only $480 from Reliable Basement. In Chicagoland, the average crack repair job costs roughly $915 (most houses have more than one foundation crack). While Reliable Basement Services average crack repair job over the last 2 years only costs $840. Meaning that many Chicagoland consumers are paying $75 (almost 10%) more than the industry average for our area. As with all investments (home-improvement projects especially) we recommend getting at least 3 price quotes.

Epoxy or Polyurethane Injection?

Reliable Basement Services uses 2 different types of injection material when fixing foundation cracks, Epoxy and Polyurethane. Often when repairing a cracked foundation either option would work. However, there are some general guidelines that help us decide which type of injection to use. If your crack needs to be structurally repaired, where the goal is to bond the wall back together AND stop water, epoxy is the right choice. However, if the crack is not a structural concern and you only need to repair the crack to prevent water seepage, a polyurethane injection is the best choice. This might make you ask the question; is the crack in my basement a structural concern?

We look for three main things when deciding if a crack is a structural problem:

1. Width of the crack. The easiest and most common concern from a structural perspective. A “normal” crack usually related to drying/shrinkage (normal behaviors for concrete over time will never get very big. Houses are built not to move and even if the foundation cracks there shouldn’t be enough movement for the crack to widen out. However, on walls where there has been significant movement you will see cracks that grow wider than 1/8”. Anything over 1/8” is where we start to be concerned. While you can measure this exactly if you wish the easiest way to look at a crack and decide is to ask; could I fit 2 coins side by side in this crack? If so, then the crack is likely structural in nature and should have epoxy or other additional steps to mitigate the problem.

2. Deflection. Deflection is when one side of the crack “sticks out” further than the other. An easy way to determine this for yourself is to run your hand over the crack from both directions. Does your hand get hung up passing over the crack from one way or the other? Then there is deflection and additional steps will be needed to treat this crack beyond a standard polyurethane injection.

3. Elevation Change. The least common and often hardest to diagnose structural concern. If the top of the foundation wall is visible you visibly look to see if one side of the wall is higher than the other. Most of the time the shift will not be this dramatic and will require extensive measurements that Reliable Basement is happy to help with. Also, if this type of damage is present it is most likely the sign of a more serious problem that crack repair will only be a small part of.

Epoxy Crack Injection

Epoxies have an incredible compressive strength of 12,000 PSI or more—that’s even stronger than most concrete (4,000 PSI is standard for floor slabs)! This makes epoxies a great choice for cracks that require structural repair. However, epoxies cure very slowly. It usually takes them hours to harden, which means it’s possible for the epoxy to flow out of the backside of the crack before it has hardened if there is no backer, a qualified Reliable Basement estimator can help determine if this will happen.

Polyurethane Crack Injection

If the main concern for your basement is a water seepage, polyurethane foams are the best choice. Polyurethane foams are elastomeric and set quickly, which makes them the most effective solution for waterproofing when there is no need for a structural repair. Because of its expansive properties, this material will get into even the smallest crevices. The elastomeric nature also allows polyurethane to accommodate slight concrete movements. Even with age, this seal will stay intact. Due to its consistency this product can also be injected under high pressure. This ensures that the entire crack gets filled from top to bottom, out to in. At 800 to 2,000 PSI the injection of this product will push through the wall to the soil outside the wall. This ensures no moisture can penetrate the crack and expose the repair to Chicago’s, often vicious, freeze thaw cycle.

Polyurethane begins to cure in just minutes! This means there are fewer chances for the material to flow out of an injected crack when it’s still in its liquid form. Even if some of the polyurethane does leak, it will expand to fill the void. Urethane is perfect for basic foundation crack filling.

Superficial Repairs Vs. Foundation Crack Repair Companies

Many homeowners may be tempted to use caulk or hydraulic cement to patch concrete cracks. But caulk is only a temporary solution for repairing a cracked foundation. It’s superficial and won’t prevent water from seeping behind the material. The result of this is efflorescence. Eventually, the caulk will crack and peel off, which will expose a crack that has enlarged from freezing and erosion. Hydraulic cement does not bond well. It also leads to efflorescence. Eventually, all of the seeping water will dislodge the cement plug.

Reliable Basement Services has a success rate of nearly 100% when it comes to Chicago foundation repair. We are so confident in our manufacturers and our staff that we offer a lifetime warranty on all our injection repairs. We are dedicated to your satisfaction.

By using an injection product, Reliable Basement Services is able to fix any major inconvenience you’re dealing with. We’ll save you thousands of dollars, and you won’t ever have to deal with an exterior excavation disrupting your daily life.

A do-it-yourself basement crack repair kit is never a good substitute for hiring a Chicago foundation repair company. These kits won’t provide you with the money back guarantee or the professional high-quality service you’ll get with Reliable Basement Services. If you are looking to sell your home, the buyer will most likely require you to give them warranties of the work you’ve had done. If you opt to use the do-it-yourself kit, you won’t be able to provide that.

How to Evaluate and Diagnose Foundation Cracks

Shrinkage Cracks

Usually, shrinkage cracks are uniform in width. They are sometimes v-shaped—wider and then diminishing or stopping before reaching the bottom of the foundation wall, but this is less common. If you have a wall crack that goes all the way into the floor, it will most likely involve the building footings and may be a settlement crack that is damaging the structural integrity of the building.

While it is curing, concrete shrinks. With poured concrete, this shrinkage causes cracks that may be non-uniform if the wall components are held by footings/framing. It’s common for there to be minor shrinkage cracks that are hairline, random, intermittent, multiple and meandering in the concrete. If the concrete was not properly mixed, or if control joints were omitted, the shrinkage cracks will be larger and appear more frequently. Sometimes cracks form because of the omission of or the placement of steel reinforcements.

Most of the time shrinkage cracking is a result of a poor mix, rapid curing process, or other factors with the original construction. It’s less likely that shrinkage cracks will require structural maintenance or repairs if they are in the concrete because these cracks aren’t expected to continue after the initial curing. Although poor drainage, water pressure, weather, and other factors can make these "normal" cracks change over time, causing problems.

Concrete Block Foundation Walls

Concrete block foundation walls also shrink as they cure. They rarely expand very much when exposed to moisture and temperature changes. With concrete block walls, you’ll probably see uniform shrinkage cracks that occur towards the center of a concrete masonry unit (CMU) wall. The wall is stronger at the building corners. CMU walls can’t be injected like poured concrete walls. They require different repair methods.

Brick Walls

Instead of shrinking, brick walls usually grow indefinitely. Bricks are not often used for below-grade foundations, but instead for above-grade foundations supporting the first floor of older buildings. Entire buildings can also be constructed using structural brick walls. If you see a crack in a brick wall, it’s probably due to movement in the structure, a support problem, or thermal expansion. Cracks in structural brick walls can be serious if the bond courses are broken because there is the risk of sudden catastrophic wall collapse. If you have cracks or bulged cracked brick walls, you need immediate professional attention.

Stone Foundation Walls

The interlaced stone layout of a stone foundation wall usually bulges and cracks from frost damage rather than cracking through individual stones. It is common to see shifting in the upper most 42” of a stacked stone foundation because that is roughly where the frost line is in the Chicagoland area. Sometimes driving a vehicle near the wall can cause similar damage. Removing stones to pass piping or make a doorway can also cause damage. We’ll need a diagnosis of the cause, the amount of movement, and the effects on structure, so we can determine what repair is needed.

Diagonal Foundation Cracks

There are many clues that help diagnose the probable cause of diagonal foundation cracks in buildings. Here are some of the most common.

Some cracks extend from the corner towards an adjacent opening and open wider at the top than the bottom. Usually, these are caused by a foundation settlement, expansive clay soil, frost damage, or damage from a shrug or tree close to the wall.

Some cracks originate under a ground floor window and extend from the sill to ground with the sill bowed up. These cracks are often due to foundation heave, clay soil, frost, shallow or absent footings.

If you live in a colder climate, you may have a crack in a corner of your home. Frost heave, frost lensing, shallow footings, water problems, or insufficient backfill could have caused these.

Vertical or diagonal cracks that open suddenly after rain are serious problems. They are usually caused by the settlement of the structure over sinkholes.

Sometimes straight or diagonal cracks appear over windows or doors. They could appear as horizontal along the top or bottom of the header and vertical at the ends of the header. This may be due to differences in thermal expansion between the header materials and the wall materials. These cracks could also be either vertical or diagonal at the center of the header or the corners, which is a loading failure. If the cracks are vertical or diagonal at the corners, this could be a point-load failure.

Horizontal Foundation Cracks

Another type of crack is a horizontal foundation crack located high on a foundation wall. These cracks can be located in the upper third of a concrete block wall if the wall is below grade. Vehicles loading usually causes these cracks. In freezing climates, they can also be caused by a combination of surface or subsurface water and frost. In northern climates, if there are cracked mortar joints in the top third of a block wall at about the same depth as the frost line in the area, frost has most likely caused the damage. We usually see evidence of this outside such as drip lines below the building eaves. This shows that there is a history of roof spillage against the building. Back inside, we might also see that the foundation damage is occurring only at the building walls below roof eaves and not at the gable ends of the home. In cold climates, frost or vehicle loading can cause these cracks.

Horizontal foundation cracks that are located at mid-wall height on a foundation masonry block or stone walls that are cracked and/or bulging inwards at middle height on the wall have probably been caused by vehicle traffic or earth loading. If there’s a driveway near the wall or if the site’s history includes the movement of heavy equipment near the wall, vehicle loading is the likely cause. Backfill damage, such as excessive height or premature backfill before the first-floor framing was in place, is another potential cause of this type of crack. If the home is located on a hillside, earth loading or earth loading exacerbated by water or frost could have caused the cracks. If your home is in an area with wet soil, earth loading or earth loading exacerbated by water or frost could still be the cause.

Next, there are horizontal foundation cracks that are located low on a foundation wall. These are caused because the forces exerted by soils against a foundation wall increase exponentially as you go from the surface level of the soil against the wall to the areas near the bottom of the wall. Essentially, earth pressure is greatest at the bottom of the wall. Because of this, we are able to distinguish between frost or water-related cracking and simple earth loading. A wall that has been laterally dislocated at or near its bottom has probably been damaged by earth loading. Horizontal dislocation of a masonry lock or brick wall may appear first as a crack and then later as a horizontal movement, as the wall is pushed inwards by earth or wet soil pressure.

Cracks in Raised Ranch Homes

In a typical raised ranch with a garage that is located in part of the basement, and with the garage entering at one end of a home, we commonly find step cracks in the front and rear foundation walls only on the garage end of the home. These cracks may correspond to some related observations:

For any of these cracks, the only way you can be sure of the causes or the solution is by hiring one of the foundation crack repair companies. Reliable Basement Services is your best choice for a Chicago foundation repair company with years of experience and thousands of satisfied customers! Call us today at 630-777-0539 to schedule your foundation repair.