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There comes a time when cracks begin to appear in the sheetrock walls of a house.
Those cracks usually appear in areas of least resistance, for instance, near windows or doorways. It is an unfortunate reality a homeowner must face from time to time. Usually, a victim will have to make a quick trip to the hardware store to get some spackle to patch the crack, then a year later the crack returns. It seems unfair.
Is there a solution to this problem?
The answer lies in the stability of the home’s foundation. We will try to avoid engineering technobabble to give you a clear idea of what is going on. It all comes down to the construction quality of the foundation.
The soil underneath and around your house is as important as the house itself. In the beginning, a construction crew managed to dig out a big hole called the “clay bowl” to fit in the entire foundation of your house.
In most homes, the footing and basement walls (made of stone or concrete) are inside this “clay bowl” and sit atop a dense, undisturbed soil. A slab (one-piece concrete floor) sits on top of the footing.
The space surrounding outside basement walls allow crews to apply a waterproofing barrier on the outside walls before filling the space with backfill soil. Here is where it gets interesting. Backfill soil is the same soil removed to make the “clay bowl,” except it is now broken down into loose soil. That loose soil no longer has the density of natural soil that was there for millions of years.
The backfill soil is compressed as firmly as possible, but it will never come close to the density of the untouched soil beneath the footing. Backfill is also used to fill the space beneath the slab flooring. So now, we know the two most vulnerable areas of a house, they are the soil surrounding the outside walls of the basement and the soil beneath the slab floor.
Time is not on your side.
Over time, a house will settle into the “clay bowl.” It could be subtle over decades or more noticeable because of the characteristics of the soil in your area. Weather can be a factor or perhaps the deterioration of poorly mixed concrete used to make your basement. There could be some other reasons as well.
One thing is for sure when the backfill area becomes saturated after a major rainstorm, over and over again, the saturated soil expands and contracts when it dries. This expansion and contraction will affect your home with subtle movements. Your home becomes 200-ton boat in a sea of soil that has 70% less density than the soil that surrounds it.
Next time you notice a crack in your basement or living room wall…
Contact us at American Dry Basement Systems. Our inspectors are thorough, code compliant and licensed. They can help you assess the situation and help keep your foundation in good shape. Prevention will be a benefit for you in the long run by maintaining the structural integrity of your home and the safety of your family.