Monday, April 7th, 2014 by Cade Ingle
"I have a crack in my brick foundation that I need someone to come take a look at."
Foundation repair specialists in Iowa are very likely to receive calls like this from concerned homeowners. Brick and stucco exteriors have been very popular in Iowa. These masonry finishes are durable, attractive, and are fireproof and immune to rot and insect attack. This gives them a big advantage over wooden exteriors. Unfortunately brick, stucco and stone walls can crack when soil conditions cause a foundation to settle, heave or buckle.
Brick, Stone or Stucco Veneers
Most modern day houses have a brick, stone or stucco exterior that is a veneer. It does not extend completely through the full thickness of the wall. The brick, stucco and stone are typically installed over a structural wall of wood framing or concrete block. Home built before 1900 are likely to have foundation walls built from solid brick or stone.
So the question now is: If the brick or stucco facing isn't structural, why worry about cracks? That’s a good question. Hairline cracks, or those that are too narrow to admit a business card, are not really a concern because they are too small for moisture or insects to penetrate through. They are also not visible unless you get very close to the wall.
Large Cracks Indicate Foundation Problems
Larger cracks in a home’s masonry wall can be extremely hazardous to a home. These cracks are worth investigating and fixing. Larger cracks in a masonry wall detract from a home’s appearance which can diminish real estate value. These larger cracks in a brick, stucco or stone wall can also be telltale signs of a foundation problem with the foundation.
Masonry vs. Wood
A house that has wood siding like shingles, clapboards, or board-and-batten siding, can have a foundation problem that has little or no effect on the siding's appearance. This can be very dangerous as wood is flexible and can cover up cracks beneath. If a foundation wall settles slightly, wood framing and siding will simply bend down slightly above the settled foundation, essentially covering up the damaged area.
Unlike wood, masonry is a rigid material that will not flex to cover up a damaged area. Whether it's brick, mortar, stucco, concrete block or poured concrete, this material can't stretch. Masonry is strong in compression, but not in tension. When the soil beneath a foundation wall settles it creates a void beneath the concrete footing. This causes the footing to break under the load from above rather than bend. The brick, stucco or stone veneer above the settled foundation wall has the same inability to stretch, so it's also likely to crack, especially around windows and doors.
On a positive note, an experienced foundation repair specialist can permanently repair foundation settlement, bowing and shifting problems that cause cracks in brick, stucco and stone walls. When the foundation is moved back to its original position and stabilized, cracks in upper masonry wall areas typically close up. The mortar joints between bricks become even again, and with minor touch-up work with masonry patching compound, it's looks as if the cracks and damage never occurred.
Midwest Basement Systems specializes in foundation crack repair in Des Moines Metro area as well as other surrounding cities like Marshalltown, Ft Dodge, Ames, Waterloo Cedar Falls, Mason City, Osceola, and Ottumwa. Visit Midwest Basement Systems online for all of your foundation problems in Central Iowa!
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