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Cracking in Brick Walls: Why It’s A Serious Foundation Issue

Large cracks in a brick wall.

Brick walls are some of the strongest around, but they aren’t invincible. Over time, and in certain conditions, cracking in brick walls can show up—which is an issue for your home.

Long story short, cracking in brick walls is a serious structural issue. Here, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about this type of damage.

Understanding Cracking in Brick Walls

Brick walls are a popular choice for houses and buildings. They look nice, last a long time, and are pretty resilient. However, even the best brick walls can start to show cracks over time, especially if foundation settlement occurs. Let’s talk about what these cracks might mean.

4 Most Common Types of Brick Wall Cracks

Small cracks in a brick wall.

1. Hairline Cracks

  • What They Look Like: Thin lines that might be hard to see unless you’re looking closely.
  • Why They Happen: Small cracks can come from the house settling a bit, changes in temperature, or even just the brick getting older.
  • When to Worry: If these cracks get bigger or you see a lot of them, it might be time to get some advice from a pro.
Star-step pattern cracking in brick wall.

2. Stair-Step Cracks

  • What They Look Like: Cracks that run in a zigzag pattern, kind of like stairs, along the mortar between bricks.
  • Why They Happen: These cracks often mean the ground under the house is moving or settling unevenly.
  • Why It’s Important: Because they can signal that the foundation is moving, it’s a good idea to have someone who knows about foundations take a look.
Large horizontal crack between bricks.

3. Horizontal Cracks

  • What They Look Like: Straight lines that run side to side across the wall.
  • Why They Happen: These are usually caused by pressure from the soil outside the wall, especially if the ground gets too wet or dry.
  • Why It’s Urgent: Horizontal cracks can mean the wall is being pushed in or out, which could lead to big problems with the structure of the house.
Long vertical crack in a brick wall.

4. Vertical Cracks

  • What They Look Like: Long lines that run up and down the wall.
  • Why They Happen: These can be caused by the house settling a bit, which is pretty normal, especially in new homes.
  • When to Take Action: If these cracks start getting wider, it’s a good idea to have them checked out to make sure there’s no serious issue.

Understanding these cracks is the first step in keeping your home safe and sound. If you ever notice cracks getting worse or you’re just not sure, it’s always best to call in the experts to take a look.

What Causes Cracking in Brick Walls?

Cracking in brick walls is usually a direct result of foundation damage. When a foundation deals with issues such as sinking or settlement, it causes the entire structure of a building to shift. As a result, exterior brick walls crack as they move around.

Why Does Foundation Damage Happen?

  • Soil Type: Some kinds of soil (especially bentonite clay) shrink when they dry out and expand when they get wet. After rain or snow, the foundation will move up and down with the ground, which is bad for the stability of your brick walls.
  • Improper Drainage: Water is one of the biggest causes of foundation damage. If water collects around your home’s foundation due to poor drainage, it can make the soil too wet and muddy. This causes the foundation to sink or move into the soft soil. Check your gutters, downspouts, and yard grading to ensure water is moving away from the home.
  • Extreme Weather: Weather can be tough on houses. Lots of rain can make the ground too wet, and drought can make it too dry. Both situations mess with the soil, and in turn, your foundation. Also, extremely cold weather (common in Colorado) can freeze moisture in the ground, causing it to expand and push against the foundation.
  • Tree Roots: Trees growing too close to your foundation are likely to cause issues as the roots expand. Firstly, roots suck moisture from the soil, which can cause foundation settlement as the soil becomes weak and brittle. Secondly, tree roots can sometimes grow straight into a foundation wall, causing it to crack and crumble over time.

How Do Foundation Issues Lead to Cracks?

When the foundation moves, it doesn’t move alone—the whole house moves with it, including the brick walls. Here’s how that movement can cause different kinds of cracks:

  • Soil Movement: When the soil under a house expands and contracts, it can cause the foundation to sink and move. This movement pulls apart bricks and mortar, leading to cracks. If the soil expands or shrinks, you might see stair-step cracks as different parts of the house move differently.
  • Water Pressure: Too much water in the soil can push against the foundation walls, especially if the drainage isn’t great. This pressure can lead to horizontal cracks in the walls as the foundation tries to hold up against the pressure.
  • Settling and Shifting: All houses settle a bit after they’re built, but if they settle too much because of bad soil or extreme weather, you can get vertical or stair-step cracks. This is the house’s way of trying to adjust to the moving foundation.

Understanding these causes can help you spot potential problems early. If you see cracks in brick walls, it’s a good idea to get them checked out by a professional team. Catching foundation issues early can save you a lot of trouble (and money) down the road.

Solutions to Fix Cracking in Brick Walls

When you’ve got cracks in your brick walls and problems with your foundation, it’s best to work with a professional team that has the tools and skills to fix the problem the first time. Foundation Repair of Western Colorado has been trusted by homeowners in Colorado since 2005—we can diagnose and treat your home’s foundation issues. Let’s look at some ways our team will fix and prevent cracking in brick walls.

How to Fix a Foundation

  • Foundation Pier Systems: These metal rods attach to the foundation and are inserted into sturdy rock below the soil. This helps stop the foundation from moving and properly redistributes the weight of your home, preventing cracks from showing up.
  • Wall Anchors: If you have a basement, wall anchors are one of the best repair tools. With metal rods, they pull back basement walls that are bowing because of soil pressure.
  • Steel I-Beams: Sturdy beams attach to a basement wall and are secured to the basement floor and the floor joists above. This creates a rigid frame that keeps the walls straight, lessens the severity of cracking brick walls, and prevents them in the future.
Pier being attached to the foundation of a home.

Why Fixing Both Symptoms and Causes is Important

Just like with a sick pet, treating the symptoms without fixing the underlying problem won’t really solve anything. If your walls are cracking because of foundation issues, just filling in the cracks won’t stop it from happening again. Foundation Repair of Western Colorado focuses on fixing cracks and preventing them from coming back in the future.

Preventative Measures You Can Take

Repairing foundation damage is best left to professionals, but there are some ways you can help prevent foundation problems from happening. Here are some tips:

  • Proper Drainage: Make sure water flows away from your house, not towards it. This can involve sloping the ground away from your foundation or installing gutters and downspouts to direct rainwater away.
  • Regular Inspections: Having your foundation inspected regularly can catch problems early, before they get big and expensive.
  • Stay Vigilant: Keep an eye out for other foundation issues. If you see uneven floors or doors and windows that won’t open, call someone out to inspect.

By taking these steps, you can help keep your foundation strong and avoid problems down the road. If you do run into issues, Foundation Repair of Western Colorado can help inspect and repair your home’s foundation, keeping it sturdy for years to come.

FAQs

Check the brick veneers, basement walls, and chimneys carefully. Cracks often originate in areas you might overlook initially. 

Symptoms include difficulties with doors and windows, uneven floors, and visible cracks in walls or exterior brickwork. 

Foundation pier installation times fluctuate based on the severity of foundation issues, the type and quantity of piers utilized. Typically, the pier installation process spans from a few days to one week. For personalized solutions and a comprehensive project timeline, contact Foundation Repair of Western Colorado. 

Schedule a Free Foundation Inspection With Foundation Repair of Western Colorado

Foundation Repair of Western Colorado work truck.

If you have concerns about the cracks in your brick walls, don’t hesitate to contact Foundation Repair of Western Colorado. We’ve been helping homeowners in Colorado protect their foundations since 2005, and we’re ready to do the same for you.

With industry-leading solutions and an experienced team, we’re committed to taking care of your home. Don’t let cracking in brick walls ruin the safety of your home—schedule a free inspection with us today!

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Ted Dryce

Ted Dryce

Content Writer

Ted is an SEO Content Writer who has been with Groundworks since 2021. He’s covered home repair topics ranging from crawl space encapsulation to regional soil conditions. When he’s not working, Ted is performing improv comedy and working on his own creative projects.

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