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Crack in foundation wall

Crack in foundation wall

Crack in foundation wall

Hi all,

I have a problem at home with a cracked foundation wall and I'll try to describe the situation as best I can.  The foundation wall below the stud frame and brick veneer wall at one of the front corners of my garage has a vertical crack approx 3/8" wide. The top of the foundation wall is approx 9" - 12" above grade, so I can see the crack extending from the top and disapearing below grade.  I supect that the crack goes all the way down to, and is also in the strip footing which would  be approx 4'-0" to the bottom.  The crack is approx 9" back from the front of the garage and above this, the mortar joints in the brick above at the quoin corner have cracked right up to the eaves.   In essence, if the foundation wall sinks, the brick corner could come down.  The problem seems to have been caused with water from a downspout eroding the soil.

I have thought of two fixes and would appreciate some advice/suggestions from the structural guys.

1.    I could drill a series of holes longitudinaly through the end of the wall and into the wall which is still sound.  Insert say, 1" dia bars with epoxy cement and fill the crack in the wall and the bricks above.  Sounds cheap and nasty and probably is.  The only reservation I have about this is that I'd be unsure about the soil conditions below the footing.

2.    Radical surgery on the foundation by excavating to the bottom of the footing, removing the brick corner and the broken foundation wall and pour a new wall and footing section, keying it in to the existing .  I know this way, I could be sure that the soil below is solid.  Then have the brick corner above rebuilt.

Maybe I should add that the garage protrudes its full length in front of the house and this foundation wall supports the garage side wall and the roof. The rest of the structure is fine as the crack is near the front corner.  

Hope I've made myself clear and look forward to your replies.


RE: Crack in foundation wall

I do a lot of inspections and see the kind of situation you describe. Sometimes, since the homeowner has limited funds, the problem just is left alone. There is a screw auger foundation support system that foundation repair contractors use; that method gives a more reliable support.

RE: Crack in foundation wall

I have a couple of questions first.

Is there any vertical or horizontal displacement at the crack?

Does that crack run through masonry units, or does it zig-zag through just the mortar joints?

Is the crack in the foundation wider at the top, bottom, or fairly uniform?

Can you see evidence of displacement from the garage side?  If you have gysum wallboard installed all around, take a vertical strip out and look at the back side of that wall where that crack has occured.

Depending on your location, you may have a hold-down or shearwall tie at that corner.  Check www.strongtie.com to see samples if you are unfamiliar with those things.

If you have not already done so, I would suggest that you 'daylight' your downspout and get the discharge as far away from the foundation as practicable.  At minimum, have it discharge onto a splashblock.  Do not leave it buried.

One final question.  How did you chose your handle?

RE: Crack in foundation wall

Hello again,

Thanks for the responses so far. I'll update the situation having had a close inspection including addressing the conditions that casseopeia had questioned, and noted the following:

1.    There is a very slight horizontal displacement in the mortar joint at the top of the quoin corner at the soffit

2.    The crack zig zags through the mortar joints with no damage to the bricks.

3.    The crack at the foundation wall is fairly uniform.

4.    Nothing is evident from the garage side as the crack is closer to the end of the foundation wall than I previously stated and is concealed by the garage door jamb.

I was relieved somewhat at the observations that I made although the problem still needs fixing, but the overall situation is'nt as severe as first thought. I found that the end of the foundation wall has a step or brick shelf formed in it. On this step are three bricks, for aesthetic value I suppose so that the foundation wall is not visible at the front of the garage. The bottom brick is only about 1" above the driveway and the quoin corner rests partially on the top brick and partially on the foundation wall behind.  However, the step has been formed too deep and the bricklayer has filled a 2" gap behind the three bricks with mortar so that when looking at the side of the foundation wall, the back of the quoin corner is on the wall by less than half a brick length. The bottom brick is starting to crumble and without the first three bricks, the corner could topple.

Now the big relief was that the "crack in the foundation wall" is actually where the mortar fill behind the bricks has come away from the wall due to the damaged brick which I think was caused by a thaw, water pooling and then another freeze, probably over a few years.

So my train of thought now is to shore the corner with diagonal bracing, remove the three bricks on the step below and replace them, giving the corner its front support and then tuck point the cracked mortar joints.  I also thought about filling the void behind the three bricks with a bag of ready mix concrete instead of refilling it with mortar.  Overall, would this be a satisfactory repair?  All comments welcome and greatly appreciated and thanks again for the previous replies.

To answer casseopeia's last question, my coworkers gave me the nickname....I'm a transplanted Scot.   

RE: Crack in foundation wall

Reading through your description makes me wish we could post photos or sketches of problems.  I usually automatically sketch as I listen to a problem being described by a Client. I keep having to modify my sketch of your garage.

I'm not certain I fully understand the detail, but I think I have enough to guess that you probably don't have a serious problem.  Here's what I see...

The brick is too close to the ground and I'm guessing it gets covered by snow from time to time.  All clay products swell or grow over time, usually taking 20 to 40 years to stabilize.  Softer brick seems to be worse that harder brick.  This will sometimes cause cracks by inducing stresses.  If the brick is crumbly, it sounds like it might be a softer variety.  You need a masonry unit that will stand up better to some harsh conditions.  Loss of support due to a crumbling brick will also cause the step cracking you describe.  Which ever it is, it does not sound like a serious foundation problem.

Your proposed repair sounds appropriate, but I would suggest some additional things.

Don't fill the cavity between the brick and foundation wall with mortar and leave the head joints open at the bottom course.  This will allow accumulated water to drain out. If you can get rope wicks in, do that too.  Don't use plastic weep tubes.  They clog.

Use a hard-burned brick, preferably a paver (has no holes).  This eliminates a place for water to accumulate.  Since the brick are at the bottom, weight is not an issue, the reason there are holes in face brick.

Don't use recycled brick.

Try to keep snow drifts away from the bottom of the wall as best as you can.

Come up with an equally unappetizing food nickname for your co-worker!

RE: Crack in foundation wall

You can post photos here.  Simply sign on to a free account at www.villagephotos.com and you can upload jpg files there.  Then, reference them here using the Process TGML format (see the help for this on the "Process TGML" below here and just above the Submit Post button.

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