Photograph of a substantial settlement crack in poured concrete.How to Diagnose & Evaluate Diagonal Cracks in Concrete Foundations / Walls
Angular or sloping cracks in concrete foundations or walls

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Diagonal foundation cracks in concrete walls or foundations: diagnosis & repair:

This chapter of the Foundation Crack Bible discusses in detail the process of evaluating foundation diagonal foundation cracks in concrete foundations and related signs of foundation movement or damage. Diagonal foundation cracks and movement are discussed by type and location of the cracks and their common causes.

Foundation cracks, which are signs of foundation damage, can mean very different things depending on the material from which a foundation is made, the location, size, and shape of the foundation crack, and other site observations. Page top photo: severe diagonal, near-vertical cracking in a poured concrete foundation wall supporting a modular home.

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Diagonal Cracks in Poured Concrete Foundations

Photograph of diagonal cracking in poured concrete (C) Daniel Friedman

[Click to enlarge any image]

The diagonal crack shown above is interesting because of its width (more than trivial or hairline) and discontinuity, suggesting that it occurred during foundation curing, perhaps involving both shrinkage and footing settlement. A more thorough inspection of the entire foundation, site, building age, construction methods and other details are needed.

Severe diagnoal cracks at the corner of a newly-poured concrete foundation (C)

The severe diagonal cracks at the corner of the newly-poured concrete foundation walls above suggest something was seriously wrong with this concrete placement: I was not sure if we're missing reinforcement, had an improper concrete mix, or if the wall froze during set-up. Seeing the second image below suggests we have no horizontal steel reinforcement in the wall.

Severe crack in new concrete wall (C)

List of Typical Diagonal Crack Patterns in Concrete Foundations & Walls

Concrete walls tend to display vertical cracks but settlement or frost heaving at a corner of a concrete wall can produce diagonal cracks or breaks in that location.

Steep diagonal cracks may also appear in concrete foundations due to unusual point loads that exceed the compressive strength of the concrete (maybe it was weak concrete not high loading), and we've seen steep diagonal cracks in poured concrete and other high-rise masonry buildings exposed to frost damage.

Steep diagonal shrinkage cracks: But in this photograph of a diagonal crack in a poured concrete foundation, we are almost certainly looking at a large shrinkage crack. Notice that discontinuity in the crack pattern?

A typical cause of diagonal shrinkage cracks in a concrete foundation wall is an improper mix or improper curing conditions at the time that the foundation wall was set in place or "poured".

Diagonal cracks appear at stress points such as emanating from a corner of a window or door from loading and more often from concretre shrinkage.
See CONCRETE SLAB CRACK EVALUATION for more examples of shrinkage and stress cracking in placed or poured concrete.

These crack patterns form clues to help diagnose the probable cause of diagonal foundation cracks in buildings:

Note that often at these foundation failures cracks are visible both outside and inside, but outside they may be covered by backfill.

For detecting evidence of sink holes in an area by visual inspection see Sink Holes: Can X-Ray Vision [Advanced Building & Building Site Inspection Techniques] Warn of Sink Holes? in Florida or elsewhere

Diagonal "Cracks" That Do Not Indicate Wall Movement - Cold Pour Joints

Reader Question: How can we distinguish a diagonal structural crack from a cold pour joint in a poured concrete foundation wall?

I am hoping you can help me out here, the home inspector was not very helpful to me for this one. I have attached an image of the foundation cracks in the basement, I am wondering if you can help me identify if there is any structural problems. The outside of the wall is backfill. Thank you so much for your help! - C.C. 9/5/12

Photograph of contraditory diagonal "cracks" in a poured concrete foundation wall (C) InspectAPedia & C.C.

Reply: Unfortunately your initial photos were quite blurry and small, making any detailed examination impossible. I cannot see if you are actually showing photos of actual foundation cracking (such as due to settlement or movement) or if in fact we are looking at foundation wall leak stains along cold pour joints.

Certainly the large dark diagonals in your photographs are COLD POUR JOINTS, CONCRETE. We will continue the discussion in added detail in that article.

At WATER ENTRY in BUILDINGS we provide a series of articles detailing approaches to basement waterproofing, starting with the simple, inexpensive basics but also including the use of excavation, geotextiles, etc.

For evaluating the seriousness of foundation damage see

FOUNDATION MOVEMENT ACTIVE vs. STATIC which helps determine if the foundation movement is ongoing,

FOUNDATION DAMAGE SEVERITY for a discussion of just how much foundation movement is likely to be a concern.


Typical repairs for diagonal shrinkage cracks in a poured concrete foundation wall include the following steps

1. Assess and confirm the type of foundation cracking that has occurred so that we understand its cause - since knowing the cause of a crack helps understand the probability of future movement or damage - that is, confirm that we're looking at a shrinkage crack - something that occurred at or close to the time of construction, not a crack that occurred as a result of stresses, loads, or building movement.

2. Assess any impact of the diagonal foundation crack on the structure or its stability. For the diagonal shrinkage crack above it is unlikely that there has been any measurable impact on the rest of the building structure.

But because multiple forces or stresses can be at work at a building at the same time, a shrinkage cracked foundation might also show signs of settlement or actual movement. If this crack also showed signs of ongoing or cyclic building movement, such as due to frost pressure, thus converting it into a structural crack, we'd expect to see breakage across that discontinuous point in the crack shown in our photo, and we might also see lateral dislocation - that is, the foundation wall on the two sides of the crack would no longer be flush. And if there is ongoing settlement we'd expect the crack to be wider at its top than at its bottom (in most cases).

3. Seal the diagonal shrinkage crack against water leakage. If the crack is confirmed to be only due to concrete shrinkage, and to stop water leaks through the foundation, an expert might recommend sealing using epoxy injection. The appeal of that approach is that the cost is much less than a foundation waterproofing effort involving exterior excavation.

A complete guide to foundation repairs for all types of damage is found beginning

Watch out: all foundation waterproofing solutions should begin with an identification of the source of water entry and steps to correct it outside if at all possible. The most common sources of foundation leaks are improper handling of roof runoff or surface runoff - problems that can often be corrected without digging up the foundation.


Foundation Movement Articles


Continue reading at DIAGONAL CRACKS in BLOCK FOUNDATIONS, WALLS or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.





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