Why It’s Not a Good Idea to Let Cracks in Concrete Linger
Most cracks, whether in the basement wall or floor, start out super thin. Depending on the circumstances, they either stay at that width or slowly widen over time. When such cracks are yet to leak water, the urgency to repair these cracks may become low. While cracked concrete is a definite eyesore, they also can become a serious nuisance, even if the effects are not always visibly obvious.
Basement Cracks and Water Seepage
The most visibly obvious problem associated with cracked concrete is leaking water. Cracks in the foundation or slab provide easy entries for water. Water seepage from cracks can be a regular occurrence depending on the water table surrounding a foundation or only during rainstorms. Either way, water entry into the basement via cracks poses several problems.
Asides from the potential damage to items or the inconvenience of mopping a wet floor, the natural conditions of a basement or crawl space make a natural breeding area for mold and the musty smells often associated with wet basements.
Basement Cracks and Soil Gases
In addition to water, cracks in a basement wall and floor are prone to allowing in soil gases, including radon. While not visibly obvious, the entry of these soil gases lead to poorer air quality within the basement and crawl space. Unfortunately, such ramifications are not limited to just the basement or crawl space. With at least 50 percent of the home’s air originating from below-grade, having unhealthy air in the lowest level means that it will eventually circulate to the upper levels.
Poor Indoor Air Quality
The combination of excess moisture and the resulting mold, in addition to various soil gases, can lead to poor home air quality. This is especially more concerning in cold weather climates when the home is void of fresh air for long periods of time during the long winter season, creating an unhealthy environment that contributes to symptoms involving asthma or allergies.
Cracked Concrete and Structural Concerns
Most basement wall cracks are shrinkage cracks that leak water and allow in soil gases. From a structural standpoint, they are relatively harmless. In contrast, signs that a wall crack may be structural is when it is greater than or equal to 1/8″ wide, diagonal, horizontal, jagged or stair-stepped. These type of cracks typically form as a result of continued movement and the resulting stress around the foundation (i.e. settlement, soil pressure, freeze/thaw cycles).
Structural cracks if left unaddressed may eventually pose a real structural risk to the foundation, especially if the movement around the foundation results in the formation of additional cracks within the same area of the wall.
Structural cracks may begin as hairline and appear to be harmless, so homeowners are advised that once a crack is noticed, to be mindful of it to see if it changes or widens over time.