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Frost heaves or expansive soil damage can cause substantial damage to basement, crawl space, or garage floor slabs in some conditions.
Each type of basement slab, floor slab, or slab on grade crack is discussed and described with photographs below.
Before we describe crack, movement, and damage patterns and diagnosis in concrete slabs, we need to introduce three different types of poured concrete floor slabs. We use the three Carson Dunlop Sketches shown here to comment on the occurrence, causes, and significance of cracks and movement in poured concrete slab construction. The author's first construction job (construction at the Fleet antiaircraft missile training center, Dam Neck, VA) consisted of raking roughly level loose-fill dirt inside of building foundations. Over several summers of this labor we never once saw anyone using a soil compactor and rarely did we see gravel poured inside of the foundation walls before the slab was poured. The bad news about typical floating slab construction (where the soil is not compacted) is that anything that causes the soil to settle risks slab cracking and settlement. The good news about cracks in floating slab construction is that the damage is to the floor, not to the structure that is supporting the building. As you can see from the Carson Dunlop Associates sketch above, the supported slab is a lot like the floating slab - it claims to have gravel and claims to have compacted soil below the slab.
But the edges of the floor slab rest on a lip built into the poured concrete footing which also supports the building walls. The good news about a slab with this design is that a little soil settlement below the slab will not cause the floor to tip nor crack provided it has been adequately reinforced. The bad news about a supported slab design is that if there were significant soil settlement below the slab and if it lacked proper reinforcement at the time of construction, it might collapse. Where may this occur: if you inspect a garage built on what was originally a sloping hill, you can expect that the interior of the garage foundation was filled with lots of backfill soil. As you see in the Carson Dunlop Associates sketch above (used with permission), a monolithic slab is poured at the same time as the building footing that is going to support the building's walls. If structural cracks appear in a monolithic slab they might trace to footing settlement which might be a structural concern, depending on the amount of settlement, its origin, and type of building construction. Notice that the sketch shows insulation on the exterior of the slab - unless special methods are used, it can be difficult otherwise to insulate this floor from the surrounding soils, an important factor in cold climates and where heating costs are increasing rapidly. Where exterior foundation insulation is carried up above grade and right under the building exterior siding, there may be a risk of wood destroying insect attack on the wood-framed wall. The articles listed below explain how we recognize and diagnose signs of cracking, damage, movement in these different concrete slab construction methods. See SINKING BUILDINGS where we include case histories of both building settlement and slab cracking, heaving, settling: diagnosis and repair. See FOUNDATION CRACK DICTIONARY since that article series also assists in distinguishing among types of cracking in concrete foundations (vertical supporting walls and footings). We bought a house two years ago, after it sat empty as a model home for a few years, so now ita€™s about five years old. We live in Austin, Texas and the drought has been really bad here, and recently we have discovered a few hairline cracks in a few different tiles. There is a lot of limestone and rock in the area, and so we never thought wea€™d ever have a problem here, unlike Houston, where foundation problems are everywhere. There a few small hairline cracks throughout the house in the sheetrock, but these were there when we moved in and havena€™t gotten worse, and seemed pretty normal to me.
Well, mentioning the drought, a few neighbors have said they have a few cracks too, and they had a foundation company come out, and the company told them it was because of the drought, and told them to soak the foundation. I went out and bought soak hoses and are going to set that up, and I also bought a nice laser level and checked the slope of the foundation.
So this leads to my main questiona€”how much slope in a foundation is generally acceptable to build on? I agree that the cracks you describe are more likely due to slab settlement or movement and that considering Austin has been in a drought, soil settlement (rather than rising due to suddenly newly-wet expansive clay soils) is probably at work. I also agree that other crack sources such as concrete slab shrinkage are probably not at fault. It's useful to distinguish between a crack that only affects the floor slab (usually not structural, the building is not threatened) and a crack that includes the foundations and footings (structural, the building might be threatened depending on extent of movement).
While building codes expect footings to be poured level, I'm not surprised to read that a foundation and footing slope one inch over 20 feet in new construction. Examine the sloping foundation walls wherever masonry foundation materials and surfaces are visible.
Also take a look at the location and pattern of floor cracks, If a crack line is more or less straight, and if it runs towards the foundation walls or more or less at right angle to the foundation wall, then if the foundation wall and footing had settled you'd expect to see wall cracks in the same area.
If those clues of actual footing settlement and foundation movement are absent, you are more likely seeing settlement in the concrete slab itself.
In that construction settlement of the slab may produce cracks as the floor bends and dirt below it settles. If the floor slab was poured atop of dirt that covered the footings, or inside of the footings, the entire slab may settle or tip even at its perimeters.
In any case, the combination of pouring a slab on soft fill and changes in soil moisture invite soil settlement and slab cracking.
See SETTLEMENT IN FOUNDATIONS for a more broad explanation of foundation settlement diagnosis, evaluation, and repair. Repair of the cracked floor will require removal of the cracked ceramic floor tiles, including enough mastic and crud removal that you can bed replacement tiles smoothly in place.
Watch out: do not lay ceramic tiles across control joints as movement there is likely to cause cracking in the filed finish-floor .
Continue reading at CONTROL JOINT CRACKS in CONCRETE or select a topic from the More Reading links or topic ARTICLE INDEX shown below. In Australia it is mandatory to reinforce concrete floor slabs with galvanised steel mesh which is laid 1 in. Anon, take a look at SLAB CRACK EVALUATION (article link at page left highlighted in green) - below it you'll see a list of individual articles describing various types of concrete slab cracks by cause, location, and appearance. Sure just use the CONTACT link found at top, left side and bottom of our pages to send me photos.
I work on the 3rd floor of a building that was constructed within the past few years so it's fairly new.
Mary, it doesn't surprise one that there might be shrinkage cracks in a large concrete slab nor that the cracks might follow the location of structural beams buried in the concrete. We had a pipe burst and flood our house, and our basement had ankle deep water which then all soaked into the concrete foundation. Carey, if the cracks are very straight they may be showing up expansion joints - tough to say without seeing some photos and knowing the construction. Anon: if roof loading on walls caused wall cracks, I'm not sure how wall cracks cause random or cross-floor cracks. I think more likely you are describing a building where the same contractor made multiple mistakes or shortcuts. If there are no water (nor radon) leaks through this gap it might be OK or you may find later that it is a water entry point; the best fix in that case is to get water away6 from the building and maintain the gutters and leaders. Most likely you or an expert will want to make a few test cuts to see just what is going on. We have just had a 20 x 15 foundation installed (1 days old) for a patio room and is has numerous cracks already is this normal for a foundation that does not have any stress relief?
Garry, cracks that appear rapidly and early during curing of a foundation or slab may indicate difficult pour conditions such as very hot weather, or a problem with the mix, or even settlement if the site was not properly prepared.
We just finished a new house build and have noticed spider cracks in the garage floor running from an interior wall to a centre floor drain. If your problem is a home built over expansive clay soil there are systems to address the cyclic movement that would damage a slab; without fixing the cause, just fixing the cracks would be futile. Also you'll want to have an expert examine the building to be sure you're making the right diagnosis and that there is no related foundation damage.
What kind of professional is able to evaluate changes caused by this change in slab integrity and give us proper solution in that rain water penetrated this hairline crack recently? Mark I don't completely understand your description, but in general an experienced foundation contractor, a building inspector with experience in foundation inspections, or if necessary a structural or civil engineer IF that person has expertise and focus on foundations, could all address your question. Typically we look at the size, pattern, location, history, and context of a crack and usually those data point to a probable cause. Settlement under a floor slab that causes cracking will usually also show up as out-of-level floors, a difference in floor height on either side of the crack, and possibly we will find correlations with poor site prep (inadequate soil compaction) or mis-handling of roof or surface runoff.
Watch out: check that the cracks don't extend into and continue in the foundation wallls - a potentially more serious problem. I'm doubtful that anyone can diagnose concrete cracking from just your brief e-note; you're welcome to use our CONTACT link (page top or bottom to find email) to send us some photos of the cracking you observe.
Often a careful examination of a crack can find evidence of its age and can identify recent movement by noticing raw or fresh surfaces on either side of a crack in the slab, wall or other masonry material. I have an opportunity to buy a property in Northwestern Wa that has a 36x60 slab already installed.
And careful attention to sealing details will be needed at the smaller building's perimeter to prevent water from entering the structure. If you are not going to cover the protruding slab with exterior roofs, say as in a porch roof, the use of a sealant at the sills is about all you've got. John Cranor is an ASHI member and a home inspector (The House Whisperer) is located in Glen Allen, VA 23060. Quality Standards for the Professional Remodeling Industry, National Association of Home Builders Remodelers Council, NAHB Research Foundation, 1987. We discuss the recognition and significance of concrete shrinkage cracks in detail at Shrinkage Cracks in Slabs. The photograph of cracks above were taken of shrinkage cracks in a concrete slab floor in a home built in 2006.
Depending on the mix and pour conditions as well as the site work preparation significant concrete shrinkage cracks can appear in a basement slab. Our photographs above show shrinkage cracking and ensuing minor settlement cracks occurring in the same poured concrete basement floor.
Happily the building owner at the site where we made the photos above did not report water entry through these openings, though it certainly might be expected as the home ages and its footing drains stop working, particularly if surface runoff and roof runoff are not kept away from the building. When we see combined slab shrinkage and slab settlement condition we suspect that the concrete pour not only allowed for excessive shrinkage, or perhaps shrinkage without control joints, but also the pour was made on top of poorly prepared soils.
We discuss the recognition and significance of control joints in poured concrete slabs in detail at Cracks at Control Joints in Concrete.
We discuss the recognition and significance of settlement cracks in poured concrete slabs in detail at Settlement Cracks in Slabs. A monolithic concrete slab is one which includes the building footing as part of the slab, created in a single continuous pour of concrete. A floating concrete slab is one which is poured at a (generally) uniform thickness on the ground without a separate footing. The photograph above shows a rather straight crack across a garage slab near the garage entry door. What is happening here and why is this particular crack straight if it's a frost or soil heave crack? In freezing climates building foundations include a footing which extends below the frost line. Readers should also see CONCRETE SLAB CRACK REPAIR and may also want to see SINKING BUILDINGS where we include case histories of both building settlement and slab cracking, heaving, settling: diagnosis and repair. Our recommended books about building & mechanical systems design, inspection, problem diagnosis, and repair, and about indoor environment and IAQ testing, diagnosis, and cleanup are at the InspectAPedia Bookstore.
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Our commercial steel buildings are pre-engineered, which considerably shortens the time from design of the building to a finished building when compared to traditional building techniques. At a Journal of Light Construction conference (Boston 1985) a lecturer informed us that "Every concrete truck that comes to your job to pour a slab has at least four cracks in it. Flooding, leaks, or simply poor handling of roof and surface runoff can send water under a building where it causes loose soil to settle.
Only if you see a floor slab crack that continues up in the foundation wall where the crack meets the wall would the structure be obviously involved.
If your builder was the same fellow who hired the author (as we described above), all of this fill was left un-compacted.
I kinda freaked out and started putting a level to everything in the house, and all the door frames are perfectly level and the countertops are very, very close to being perfectly level.
The foundation slopes about 1 inch over about 20 feet towards the left side of the house, which happens to be the downhill side.
Because I know brand new foundations wona€™t be perfectly level, but about how much can a new foundation be off-1 inch, 2 inches, 6 inches? A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a foundation, slab, or floor cracking problem because someone with experience might see clues that escape even a smart, careful, thorough homeowner performing a DIY investigation.
I think that slab shrinkage cracks appear early in building life, are not structural, and are less likely to suddenly telegraph through a ceramic tile floor. A key diagnostic step will be to convince yourself that this out of slope condition is as-built or that it is the result of settlement.
A one-inch change in slope, if it happened after construction, would often be expected to produce vertical or stair-stepped cracks in the foundation wall.
Cracks tend to be away from and sometimes roughly parallel to the foundation walls, or to appear as islands around the Lally columns. Unfortunately there is no magic band-aid that will make the cracks disappear, especially where ceramic floor tiles are installed. Before replacing the tiles that were removed you might want to also install mesh tape over the floor slab cracks to reduce the chances that those cracks telegraph again through the new tiles.
No one can assess with certainty the significance of the slab cracking you describe just by a few written notes, but it's possible that what you describe is not a structural concern.
But in general, if the floor itself is not structural, that is if it is not supporting the structure, then the risk of a structural collapse is reduced.
We can definitely tell that one side of the crack is higher than others in quite a few places. Generally we want to keep water away from the building - that's the first choice and approach, rather than relying on a seal at the last possible point of water entry (that's a second band-aid approach). Today I noticed an extensive web of cracks in the basement slab - long, fairly straight cracks in every room! We replaced with a new unit and still so signs of it being able to keep up (almost like I've lost insulation or something?), the laundry room vinyl (just the other side of the garage) is bubbling and pulling away from the wall. The floor was poured in winter conditions and and 6 months later these cracks are showing up.
It may stain from a spill from above if the surface has been damaged,or there may be moisture comingnup through the slab. Upon inspecting of the 'slab' there are large cracks that mimic the 2007 Daniel Friedman picture below.
If you want to use our CONTACT link to send along some sharp photos of the crack and others from a more distant perspective of the wall or slab and the building and site then I might be able to comment further. But you might want to review the control joints article at CONTROL JOINT CRACKS in CONCRETE where we describe the timing, depth and location of these construction details.
Typically the slab would have been poured with a perimeter foundation intended to support the weight of the building on its perimeter or edges. You might, for example, need to build a smaller building permiter footing of solid concrete blocks set atop the existing slab.
If I were doing such a job I'd build a new masonry sill at least 1 solid concrete block high and set my wood framed wall sills atop that to permit a water tight seal at the slab and to avoid putting wood onto a sometimes wet surface. Cramer is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors and is a Florida home inspector and home inspection educator. On occasion we may also see vertical dislocation in a floor slab crack, that is, one side has settled or tipped away from the other side of the cracked concrete.
Note that these cracks begin at building foundation wall inside projection corners - a condition that probably creates stress points as the slab cures. For example if a slab is poured on poorly-compacted soil, after shrinkage cracking occurs, we may see uneven settlement among sections of the cracked slab.
In both of these cases we anticipate that significant horizontal dislocation in a poured concrete slab should be small unless steel reinforcement was omitted or was improperly installed. Proper site work and drainage are important as is proper engineering design of such structures. Also see How to Diagnose & Evaluate Foundation Cracks since those pages also assist in distinguishing among types of cracking in concrete foundations (vertical supporting walls and footings).
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Local and city planners may have strict ordinances and site-specific zoning laws that govern the size, look, and type of construction required for commercial metal buildings. At the low end of the garage where the most fill was added, significant soil settlement can occur. One crack is about 4 feet long and runs straight through about 4 different tiles, not following the grout lines.
But with almost everything else level in the house, Ia€™m starting to think it was already like that, and I just never noticed it before.
The result can be future slab settlement and cracking, exacerbated by changes in site conditions (more water, less water, freezing, drying) that may affect the soil below the slab. If radon and water entry are not an issue in your area you might live with the cosmetic defect for a while. Today a co-worker and I noticed that the unfinished 2nd floor (cement) has cracks in it all of which (mostly) follow the pattern of the beams. Other than that, I don't think we know have enough experience to properly evaluate the situation. We went back recently (we are temporarily relocated) and we noticed a crack in the concrete that we are sure was not there before. I suggest asking a local mason or building contractor or home inspector for a diagnostic inspection to make the cause of the water clear - that should then lead to a sensible fix.
It would require a remarkably strong connection and tremendous force and a bit of a lean before that pressure might affect a concrete floor slab - and if it occurred, the cracking would be most likely close to and parallel to the wall.
The stucco is falling off the outside, the right side of my garage door seems to be buckling, the foundation in the garage has spider webbed with small cracks and has one large crack running from the entry door all the way across the garage and outside.
Also, where slab crack meets poured foundation walls, there are cracks in the foundation wall and step cracks in brick veneer. For example, expansive clay below a slab could when soaked, expand and push the slab upwards.
Check with your engineer about the slab thickness, hardness, reinforcement, versus the loads that will be imposed by the new structure. Since some contractors use a fiber-reinforced cement and may omit steel reinforcement in floor slabs, this condition may occur.
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The process of getting through to the building department can be challenging to say the least. If the slab was also not reinforced and if a lot of soil settlement occurs under this floor, it could collapse suddenly, say when your car is parked there.
My realtor has scheduled a meeting with the contractor to look at the cracks, but I would like a second opinion. No wall cracks at slab crack location, but there is sheetrock crack in other locations in the house. But I am wondering whether the kitchen staining could be from a crack underneath the floor. Or alternatiely, soaked sewage waters may have caused settlement of poorly-compacted fill below a slab, contributing to uneven settlement of the floor on either side of an existing crack.
Without knowing the slab design and ingredients I'd be careful about placing loads just anywhere.
Quoting: BRANZ is an independent and impartial research, testing, consulting and information company providing resources for the building industry. Professor Wickersheimer specializes in structural failure investigation and repair for wood and masonry construction.
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It gets slightly larger at the bottom (where it meets the ground) It is in one area bout 2 feet.
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