Why Are There Cracks In My Concrete Footing? (Causes)

When your house has foundation issues, the common signs are easier to find. Doors and windows are difficult to open, your chimney is leaning, cracks appear on the ceiling, your stucco is cracking, sloping floors, and you’ll see diagonal cracks on windows and doorframes.

Then there are the problems that aren’t so obvious…

The dreaded concrete footing crack. 

It’s not something to lose sleep over. The problem is footing cracks don’t make themselves stand out too much. They’re a little more hidden.

Dalinghaus Construction has inspected over 10,000 homes, having done foundation repairs on over 1,000. We know what to look for with our free foundation evaluations. Our foundation inspectors have years of experience to diagnose the problem in your home. They can see the trouble you may not have first been aware of, especially with those pesky footing cracks.

They’re not easy to find

Footing cracks appear on both slab-on-grade and raised foundations.

For slabs, these cracks can be strenuous to find since most of the footing is under the soil. You would have to look very hard to find a footing crack for your slab. What’s likely to happen is our production team will find them after digging in the places they need to install piers.

While our foundation inspectors can’t use X-ray vision like Superman to see underground for slab foundations, they see multiple footing cracks each week for raised foundations. They’ll crawl into your crawlspace to see if anything is wrong. The cracks may still be underground, but the footing for a raised foundation protrudes above the soil.

Causes for concrete footing cracks

Foundation settlement or heaving

When soils under your home start to expand or contract, your footing will shift with the gradual movement. When expanded soils cause heaving, a part of your home is moved upward. For settlement, the soils contract from being too dry, causing a part of your home to sink. Pressure is applied disproportionately from what the foundation was originally made to handle.

Inadequate soil compaction

New homes and communities deal with this issue more often than you’d think. Incorrectly compressed soils can cause your foundation to sink and fracture. If the soil isn’t strong enough to hold your home, foundation repair via underpinning might be necessary to stabilize your home.

Tree roots

Tree roots are far stronger than you may realize. Roots will expand to your footing looking for nutrient-rich soil and water/moisture – conveniently under your home. This causes heaving as though the roots are trying to flip a table out of anger.

Poor Drainage

If a pipe breaks and spreads water into dry soils, the moisture will cause the clays to expand. Not only that but pooling and sitting water on your concrete footing can result in concrete spalling and deterioration. 

You’ll want to mitigate this by making sure gutters, drain systems, and patios are sloped away from your home. You’ll most likely see other underlying problems.

ADUs and adding multiple stories to your home can cause cracked footings

A footing is designed to handle the original weight of your home. If you add an additional structure, the footing can be overloaded and cause cracking. If a load has increased past the limits the footing can handle, engineers will design footings for the new load to meet the updated requirement. 

It would be like lifting a 120-pound boulder only to have someone come up and tell you to lift another one that’s 240 pounds. That’s double the weight and possibly more than you can handle. It’s naturally more difficult to hold for a longer period. So you have to build up muscle to hold that weight for a longer period.

Extreme temperatures

You’re less likely to see cracks in extreme heat, but extreme cold can be a different story. The moisture and chemical makeup of the concrete can be compromised when there is a frost layer. You can’t change the weather, but at least your concrete footing is fixable with an epoxy or carbon fiber wrap repair.

Mother nature is making a statement to society

AKA Natural disasters. Neither you nor I can prevent floods, earthquakes, and other natural occurrences. Maybe Storm from the X-Men can, but she’s a fictional character – which doesn’t help in this predicament.

Natural disasters affect the home and foundation as a whole. The extent of the damage may require foundation repair through underpinning and/or carbon fiber crack repair.

Cracked footings are not always a sign of foundation settlement or heave

The direction of the crack will indicate the primary issue you’re dealing with:

Vertical cracks

Vertical cracks in your footing are most likely a sign of a foundation issue due to settlement/heave. Your concrete footing wasn’t originally made to handle the excess pressure.

This isn’t a sign of a foundation issue on its own. If you’re seeing cracks on stucco, your chimney starting to lean, your floor is slanting as though Tony Hawk can gain enough speed to do a kickflip into a grind, and other common signs and symptoms, you’re likely facing a foundation issue.

Horizontal cracks

If your footing wasn’t properly cured after installation, the concrete might have dried out too quickly and caused it to crack naturally. Moisture will sneak into those cracks and connect with the rebar, oxidizing the steel or iron and causing it to rust. The rebar naturally expands the more it rusts and creates more cracks.

Improper curing isn’t always the cause of the rebar blowing out. Sometimes cracks can appear from the foundation settling, allowing moisture to sneak in. Regardless, rebar blowing out is always a result of moisture making contact with the metal in your footing.

How are cracked footings fixed?

If the source is from your home settling, we will install a push and helical pier underpinning system as a corrective measure. Piers are hydraulically driven into load-bearing, competent soil or bedrock to support your home and return it to maximum recovery. 

After this, assuming the cracks are still significant in size, a carbon fiber wrap repair can take place. When we underpin to stabilize or raise a home, there isn’t a guarantee a crack will be sealed, especially with concrete. Applying a carbon fiber wrap will seal the crack and prevent that pesky moisture from getting back in. 

Can I fix cracked footings on my own?

Absolutely! There are plenty of ways to DIY. Epoxy is one solution. 

The task at hand is finding the issue at hand. What is nice is being able to have an inspector identify whether that crack is an isolated issue or part of a larger problem. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to get a free evaluation from us or another foundation repair company. 

It’s like when you go to the doctor to figure out what’s happening with your body. Doctors aren’t likely to tell you the cough you have is separate from your fever, runny nose, and fatigue. They’ll let you know you have the flu.

Disclaimer: We are not medical professionals. This is only a comparison to another point. If you’re having medical issues, see a doctor, or someone else who is qualified. 

Have someone check your footing cracks

Even if you’re able to fill in a crack, you should still have a professional check out your concrete footing and the rest of your home. You never know if there is a larger problem at hand. Dalinghaus Construction has inspected many foundations and has years of experience in understanding why your footing has a crack. You can schedule an inspection by calling (877) 360-9227 or clicking the button below!

WRITTEN BY

Brian Dalinghaus

Brian is one of the Co-Founders of Dalinghaus Construction. He has been in the foundation repair industry since 2005. During his career, he has been associated with helping over 4,000 homes and structures throughout California and Arizona.

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