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Foundation Cracks Can Stop a Real Estate Deal Right in its Tracks

By Temple Young Subscribe to RSS | February 17th 2012 | Views:

The housing industry is always in the news these days, as different experts assess the depth of the downturn or offer various strategies for a return to prosperity in this massive economic sector.

One certainty about selling a house in this current economic environment is that major issues like structural problems can scare away banks and buyers like never before. That's why a cracked foundation should definitely be investigated before a house goes on the market.

Structural vs. Non-Structural Foundation Cracks

Many cracks that occur in a foundation wall or slab floor are caused by normal concrete shrinkage, rather than by structural problems. These nonstructural cracks are typically of the "hairline" variety: too narrow to admit the edge of a business card, and not accompanied by any displacement or shifting of masonry along the length of the crack.

Some foundation cracks are actually planned in order to reduce stress on the foundation. Instead of joining seamlessly to the foundation walls that surrounds it, a poured concrete basement slab has an expansion joint between the edge of the slab and the surrounding walls.

A structural crack in a masonry foundation will be wider, and the width of the crack is likely to vary. In a concrete block foundation wall, structural cracks can occur in a "stair step" pattern along joint lines, or the crack can extend vertically across the full height of the block. In poured concrete foundation walls, structural cracks can be more random, but they often extend diagonally from corners. Structural cracks in all types of masonry can include some measure of displacement -masonry on either side of the crack that shifts up, down or sideways so that it's not in the same plane as the masonry on the other side of the crack.

Don't Panic; Just Call in a Foundation Repair Company

In Rhode Island, Massachusetts and most other states, a real estate agent will usually recommend that structural cracks in a foundation be repaired before a house is put on the market. But instead of calling in a handyman or remodeling contractor to simply fill a large crack with patching mortar, it's smarter to call in a foundation repair specialist.

Simply patching a structural crack in a foundation wall or slab is certain to be a temporary fix. If the crack was caused by expansive soil or soil settlement, the repair strategy should successfully remedy or overcome these conditions in order to complete a permanent repair. Fortunately, foundation repair specialists have engineered solutions to soil problems that cause structural cracks in foundations. For example, they can drive steel piers into the earth beneath a slab or foundation wall that has cracked and settled, in order to connect the foundation to more solid soil at greater depth. An adjustable bracket on each pier enables the contractor to lift the settled section back to its original position. When this repair method is used, the crack usually closes permanently.

Warranted Repairs Protect Buyers and Sellers

A reputable foundation repair contractor will provide a warranty to the home or building owner after a recommended repair is completed. A handyman or general contractor is unlikely to do the same, because they know that structural problems will recur if structural causes aren't addressed as part of the repair. With a warranted repair from a foundation repair specialist, buyer's and sellers alike needn't worry about future foundation damage. The transaction can take place.

Temple Young - About Author:
Foundation Supportworks of New England is a foundation repair company in Massachusetts. Visit them online for a free foundation repair estimate.

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