As a homeowner, you just never know when the day will come that you walk outside, casually glance up at the wall of your house and see a crack. Talk about a recipe for instant stress!
What should you do? Who should you call? How much time do you have before your house falls down?
While the appearance of an exterior wall crack can bring up all of these worries and more, a crack in the early stages is rarely cause for panic. Rather, you can think of it as your home’s early warning system kicking into gear to send up a distress S.O.S. alert before things get any worse.
On that note, the one and only thing you want to make sure you don’t do when you see an exterior wall crack is ignore it. That wall crack is not going to fix itself. It may not get worse anytime soon, but it definitely won’t get any better.
In this article, we outline the most common outcomes we have seen over the years when exterior wall cracks are neglected.
1. What is now a trickle could become a flood
Concrete by its very nature is a porous material. While it is quite popular and affordable for building, and especially for crawl spaces and basements, concrete does have its drawbacks. “Settling” is one of them.
When concrete dries, whether into pre-poured bricks or freshly poured walls, it begins to settle. The settling process often forms very tiny air bubbles and micro-fissures deep in the interior where you can’t see them.
Over time, as the surrounding soil shifts and humidity and moisture seeps in, air bubbles can merge with fissures and turn into small cracks. Pressurized water from the surrounding soil is continually forcing its way in, widening those cracks still further.
When you see a crack pop into view in your exterior (or interior) wall, it is time to take action. Otherwise, if a plumbing pipe bursts, a water main leaks, the water table rises or you have a serious weather event, what is now a trickle could easily become a flood.
2. Trapped water that freezes can expand and widen the crack
You only have to live through one Canadian winter to know they are memorable. Rain, sleet, ice, snow – even a mild winter season delivers them all quite reliably.
When the weather temporarily warms and the ice melts, released water will fill the fissures and cracks in your walls. But as temperatures plunge again, that now-trapped water will freeze, expand, and push the cracks farther apart.
3. Unseen micro-fissures invite mould and mildew growth
As if winter doesn’t bring enough extreme weather to push your home’s structure to its limits, then along comes spring and summer with all that humidity and heat.
Before you know it, the risk of frozen water is replaced with the risk of damp and moisture and mould colonies taking root inside the cracks in your walls.
Over time, you may see the areas around the wall crack starting to turn whitish-brown, greenish-brown or even black, letting you know in no uncertain terms that you have new fungal guests who intend to stay.
4. All insects see is a “Welcome Home” sign
The great wild outdoors is a stressful and often dangerous place to live. The average insect spends as much time each day hiding as it does hunting. And little in life looks quite so welcoming as an exterior wall crack when you are ready to hang it up and catch a break already.
The thing about exterior wall cracks is that they often lead through to interior wall cracks and thus to the inside of your house. If you have ever watched a spider scuttle across the floor or an ant tiptoe along a wall crevice and wondered, “How did THAT get in here?” well, now you know.
5. Moisture from outside can cause rotting wood inside
The mould and mildew we talked about in No. 3 is unwelcome enough. But as an exterior wall crack is allowed to linger over time, and as more moisture seeps inside as a consequence, this can layer on another worry in addition to the resident fungi.
The new worry is rotting wood and drywall. Depending on the type of insulation your home has, you may find the insulation degrading as well as a result of the constant onslaught of moisture and damp.
6. No one loves finding rodents in their basement
From the inside of your home looking out, it may appear as if moisture and water is all too easy to find. There it is again, dripping off your eaves and running in rivulets down your window panes.
But to a wild animal, water can be surprisingly scarce. Finding reliable sources of moisture and water is key to survival, and animals don’t forget their secret sources easily.
Once an exterior wall crack begins to develop, it can become a go-to destination for local wild animals making their rounds. Rodents and small mammals may choose to make their nests nearby, knowing they won’t have to travel far to get their needs met.
More than a few surprised homeowners have awoken in the middle of the night or the early morning to the telltale sounds (and signs) of squirrels in the attic, raccoons in the basement, possums in the crawl space or mice under the sink. Once you have, you are unlikely to ever forget the experience.
How to Fix Foundation Cracks
From wall anchors and braces to reinforcers, jack posts, slab piers, foundation piers, affordable basement waterproofing and more, we have the tools and the technology to fix the cracks that keep you awake at night.
Do you need assistance assessing and repairing exterior cracks in your foundation walls? We can help!
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