Footing cracks are not the most obvious sign of foundation settlement. They are not as glaringly apparent as stucco cracks, ceiling cracks, or drywall cracks. Footing cracks tend to be hidden behind shrubbery or grass. While they are not the most conspicuous sign or symptom of foundation issues, they are a serious one. Cracks are always indicative of something else. And, when it comes to footing cracks, the causation is never benign.
Dalinghaus Construction Inc. has been in the foundation repair game for decades, with over 100 years of combined experience. We’ve serviced thousands of foundations and witnessed a plethora of cracked foundation footings. We are here to educate, whether you choose to repair with us or not. This article illustrates the causes of cracked footings and discusses repair options. So, let’s dive in.
Why is my Foundation Footing Cracked?
First, foundation footings are an extension of the foundation itself around the perimeter of the home, generally extending the foundation depth by 2-3 feet. This extra depth provides inherent structural support against unfavorable weather and seismic conditions. Generally, there are 2-3 inches of footing visibility around the home, looking like an inverted baseboard. Footing cracks are often missed because they are concealed behind flowerbeds or unkempt grass.
Foundation footings crack due to a catalog of issues: expansive soil (such as porous clays and loams), inadequate drainage, seismic activity, water leaks, and so on. Incompetent, non-load-bearing soil is the number one contributing factor to cracked foundations. It is estimated that over half of the homes built across America were erected above clay dense strata.
The primary issue with loam and clay soil is that they are highly susceptible to fluctuations in the water table. Additional moisture equates to soil expansion, less moisture equates to soil shrinkage. This cyclical (often seasonal) expansion-and-contraction exerts stress on homes’ foundations, resulting in footing fractures. A great example of this is foundation settlement.
Foundation settlement is when a foundation submerges deeper into the soil, often sinking unevenly. This cracks the foundation and creates a ripple effect up through the framing of your house. Foundation settlement can result in cracked drywall, doors/windows that are difficult to open and close, sloped floors, and other tell-tale symptoms.
It is absolutely imperative to address foundation settlement; however, before we dive into the basics of this underpinning foundation repair, here are a few more causes of footing cracks.
Tree Roots Cause Footing Cracks
Tree roots are an extensive system of nutrient absorption and anchorage. They grow towards moisture-dense soil, including soil that is directly underneath your home. Roots have a tremendous amount of force and can push upward on your concrete foundation, fracturing your footing.
Poor Drainage Causes Footing Cracks
Proper drainage systems aren’t only important for expansive soils, water affects every soil type. Sitting water can quickly corrode your concrete foundation and result in heavy concrete spalling. To mitigate water damage, we suggest utilizing gutters, french drain systems, and concrete patios sloped away from your home.
We here at Dalinghaus subscribe to the motto – preventative maintenance is the best form of maintenance (particularly considering water mitigation).
To learn more about the acidic nature of spalling and how to avert compromised structural integrity, read our article What is Concrete Spalling (Causes, Prevention, & Treatment).
Poor Soil Compaction Causes Footing Cracks
Poor soil compaction is especially prevalent in new homes and new home communities. If the soil was not correctly compressed down prior to the foundation being poured, the foundation may sink and fracture in the near future. The soil is simply not strong enough to sustain the weight of the structure. Foundation underpinning may be necessary to negate the poor compaction.
Plumbing Leaks Cause Footing Cracks
Plumbing leaks incur water damage, from busted water pipes to nasty sewer spillage. A long-term leak can generate extensive damage. The leak needs to be found and stopped before the cracks can be fixed via epoxy (a concrete sealant).
ADUs and Added Second Stories Cause Footing Cracks
Foundations are constructed with an original weight capacity in mind. If this original capacity is overloaded behind its intended designation, the footings and foundation itself can crack. Underpinning may be required to address this issue.
Extreme Temperatures Cause Footing Cracks
Extreme heat and extreme cold can wreak havoc on the chemical makeup of the foundation. Frost, especially, can damage your foundation. Unfortunately, there is no way to circumvent the weather; however, the cracks can be treated via epoxy and/or carbon fiber wrap repair.
Acts of God/Natural Disasters Cause Footing Cracks
Earthquakes, floods, sinkholes, tornadoes (and so on), can deal a significant amount of damage to your foundation as a whole. What affects the foundation affects the entire home. And, conversely, what affects the home affects the foundation. Depending on the extent of the damage, this repair may include underpinning and/or carbon fiber crack repair/reinforcement.
To learn more about carbon fiber crack repair and its incredible tensile strength, read our article Structural Carbon Fiber – Foundation Repair for Cracked Footings (7 Steps).
How to Fix Cracked Foundation Footings (Underpinning)
The key in addressing foundation footing cracks (or any crack for that matter) is to determine the source prior to the repair. For foundation settlement, the most common origin of cracked footings we encounter in the foundation repair industry, push pier and helical pier underpinning are the best corrective measure.
Push pier and helical pier systems are driven down to load-bearing competent soil or bedrock, acting as underground stilts to support your home. Underpinning can support, secure, and potentially return your home to maximum practical recovery. After this, if the size of the footing cracks warrants it, a carbon fiber wrap repair can take place.
Check out our case study: Home Foundation Stabilization in Los Angeles, CA
Free Foundation Inspection
In this article, you learned about the primary reasons for foundation footing cracks and the best ways to address them.
Dalinghaus Construction Inc. has fixed thousands of foundations and inspected thousands more. We’ve seen it all and are happy to share our knowledge with the world – even if you don’t choose us as their foundation repair contractor.
So, if you’re not sure why exactly you have foundation footing cracks and would like to narrow the list of suspects down, you can receive a free foundation inspection in our service areas of Southern California and Arizona. Click the link below –