Chris' Corner: Here a crack, there a crack (part 2)

Here a crack, there a crack (part 2)


Russel Ray is a very professional, knowledgeable and experienced home inspector from San Diego CA and fellow Active Rain blogger.  Over the last while, he has written a series of posts on the subject of cracks in a property.  If you have a crack and are unsure of the impact on your property, consult with a professional, such as a structural engineer, however, as a primer, and to gain general knowledge, I have found Russel's information very helpful.  This is Part Two of his series Russel discusses cracks in a foundation stem wall below a solid wall (ie no windows or doors or openings above) ...


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Here a crack, there a crack....
(part 2)

DISCLAIMER: This discussion is based on several decades of experience in real estate, including as a home inspector and general contractor. I am not now a concrete professional or licensed structural engineer, so if you are not comfortable with common concrete cracks and our discussion here, hire one of those two professionals to help you. This discussion, however, should help you be a little more knowledgeable about cracks so that you don't just automatically assume the worst. Cracks happen, kind of like ActiveRain blogs.

We're discussing the crack in the picture below and we'll presume that you have read Lesson One:


Lesson Two

If the type of crack in the picture above is in a foundation stem wall below a solid wall, i.e., no doors or windows in the wall, the crack should be in the midpoint of the wall (A in the illustration below) to be considered a common concrete curing or shrinkage crack.


As concrete cures (dries), like most everything else, it shrinks. It will dry first where it has the most exposure to air, and that happens to be at the corners. As the corners dry, then, they tug at the rest of the wall, and as the rest of the wall dries, you'll get that crack at the midway point, all else being equal, i.e., no doors or windows in the wall to create different stress points.

There is a standard of deviation of about 10%, so if you have a 40-foot solid wall, the crack should be at 20-feet plus or minus four feet, or somewhere in the 18-22 foot range. Any other location could indicate:

  1. poor concrete mixture
  2. inadequate rebar
  3. poor rebar placement
  4. poor soil conditions
  5. earthquake or abnormal wind conditions

In the case of 1, 2, and 3, they aren't necessarily structural concerns that need to be repaired; certainly you're not going to tear the house down to start over with a good concrete mixture with good rebar in proper locations in your foundation concrete. It's also not necessary to scratch that house off your list if you like it. The cracks are simply deficiencies that we can document based on crack locations, and you can take care of the cosmetic concerns quite easily.

If there is a door or a window in the wall, then the weight of the wall will be different, resulting in different stresses on the foundation stem wall below. Due to that different weight, the concrete curing/shrinkage crack will often be in a different location, but still predictable.


Locations indicated by A in the illustration above are the most likely locations, with B locations being second most likely. It is possible to have both cracks, too. A crack like that in the referenced picture, in either of these three walls in locations A or B, would be of no structural concern to me. It is what it is. Have them expoxied and move on with your life.

However, if you choose not to have them expoxied, then when you go to sell, your buyers might choose that least expensive home inspector who is unfamiliar with concrete cracks and recommends that his clients hire a licensed soils or structural engineer to look at them. Then you'll have a mess on your hands. Best to simply have them epoxied.

Please comment and let me know if this information was useful to you. Thanks.

Join me soon for Lesson Three.


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Comment balloon 0 commentsChris Smith • April 20 2011 02:44PM