Tag Archives: brick crack

Foundation Movement – Part II

As discussed in the last blog post, foundation movement is usually related to soil movement. The highly plastic clay soils in portions of Texas have caused 100’s of millions of dollars of damage to foundations. In non technical terms, a highly plastic clay is one which expands a lot with an increase in the soil moisture content and then shrinks a lot when it dries. It has been my experience that the worst foundation movement occurs during dry weather, which occurs every summer in north Texas. This dry weather causes the soils to shrink and allows many slab foundations to settle. Fortunately, settlement of a foundation can usually be remedied by installing piers (piers are expensive but are usually very effective in stopping further settlement in the area of the piers).

However, depending on the soil conditions, the opposite can occur when the soils become re-hydrated (either from Mother Nature or homeowner irrigation) and the foundations are heaved upward by the swelling clays. Upheaval can be very difficult to remedy. I have seen some residential slab foundations in Irving and Carrollton (Texas) heave upward 8 to 10 inches and a commercial building slab heave over 12”. Needless to say, this can be catastrophic to the structure. This type of movement creates significant sheetrock cracks, slab cracks, brick cracks, out of level doors and floors, etc. and obviously lowers the value (and livability) of a home and usability of an office building. Foundation upheaval can be a very difficult and expensive problem to remedy.

 My next post will discuss an actual case file where a custom home with a well designed slab foundation experienced about 5” of upheaval during the first year.

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Posted by on January 29, 2011 in foundation repair


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Slab Cracks

Slab cracks in slab foundations can cause great anxiety to homeowners. However, many slab cracks do not pose a structural problem to the foundation. For example, many times, slab cracks appear soon after the concrete is installed and are usually caused by poor quality control by the concrete contractor. Most of the time, these types of cracks are hairline in width and are only superficial (do not penetrate deep into the slab) – however, there are exceptions. Generally speaking, these types of cracks are related to the excessive loss of moisture in the concrete and are called plastic shrinkage cracking. Plastic cracking is related to many factors during the slab installation process, including: wind, low humidity, excessive water content in the concrete mix, exposure to the sun, etc. These types of cracks will not usually have a negative impact on the structural ability of the slab.

The cracks that concern us the most are the cracks caused by foundation movement. Most of these types of cracks are hairline to 1/16” wide or so, however, I have seen slab cracks that are ¼” and wider. Many times, an extensive network of slab cracks is an indication of poor rebar placement and/or significant foundation movement.

Unless a slab crack is covered with floor tile (which will also crack) or the slab crack allows excessive moisture penetration from the subgrade soils, most slab cracks cannot be easily detected under carpet or wood flooring.

The usual remedy for a slab crack caused by foundation movement is twofold:

  1. Stabilize the slab so it cannot move. This is typically done by installing piers.
  2. Epoxy inject cracks that are 1/32” wide or wider.  This type of work needs to be done by an experienced technician.

There are other reasons concrete slabs crack but that is another topic for another day.

Jim McNeme, P.E.

Foundation Engineer

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Posted by on January 2, 2011 in foundation repair


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