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  1. #1
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    Default Horizontal Crack in Basement Wall

    I am in a contract on a house that was built in 1944, this 80 year old house has a long horizontal crack in the basement wall. It does not appear to be bulging outward, but it make me wonder. I had the house inspected, and the inspector did not hit on it much, just said if I had any other questions about the wall, to call a structural engineer. I do not have the extra money to hire an engineer, yet, so I have been doing research myself. I have read all the hype about those type of cracks being very bad, but the house has stood for 80 years already. I plan to work on water being pushed away from the house, since there is a dip next to the foundation, that collects moisture. This is also a craftsman style house, and has never had any gutters on it, but 3 foot eaves hanging over the entire house. The basement appears to get some moisture in it, but does not smell. This is a 2300 Sq Ft. house, that has had a lot of work put into it, tons of supports placed in the basement, most of the house remodeled, so it is holding up a lot of weight. Thanks in advanced for any replies, have a great day, and be blessed.

    F.I.R.E. Services

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Horizontal Crack in Basement Wall

    Quote Originally Posted by Clay Burton View Post
    I am in a contract on a house that was built in 1944, this 80 year old house has a long horizontal crack in the basement wall. It does not appear to be bulging outward, but it make me wonder. I had the house inspected, and the inspector did not hit on it much, just said if I had any other questions about the wall, to call a structural engineer. I do not have the extra money to hire an engineer, yet, so I have been doing research myself. I have read all the hype about those type of cracks being very bad, but the house has stood for 80 years already. I plan to work on water being pushed away from the house, since there is a dip next to the foundation, that collects moisture. This is also a craftsman style house, and has never had any gutters on it, but 3 foot eaves hanging over the entire house. The basement appears to get some moisture in it, but does not smell. This is a 2300 Sq Ft. house, that has had a lot of work put into it, tons of supports placed in the basement, most of the house remodeled, so it is holding up a lot of weight. Thanks in advanced for any replies, have a great day, and be blessed.
    WHile I like your reasoning regarding standing for 80 years, I am more concerned about the "tons of supports". The smartest money you may spend might be the fee of a structural engineer.

    Steven Turetsky, UID #16000002314
    homeinspectionsnewyork.com
    eifsinspectionsnewyork.com

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Horizontal Crack in Basement Wall

    Photos would help.
    Just because a house has set for 80 years does not mean its OK. Did the crack happen 79 years ago, or did it happen last year? No real way to know that, but it is a factor in how serious the crack might be.
    No bulging in the wall is a good sign. However, it does not mean its A-OK either.
    There are more factors than just the horizontal crack.
    Since none of us on this forum were at the house, and there are no photos, it's very difficult (to impossible) to determine if this is a serious problem or not.
    If I were you, I would contact the original inspector and get additional feedback on his take of the crack. I would probably go ahead and find the money to get a structural engineer to look at it.
    This is a big purchase, and the cost of the engineer is a lot less than foundation repairs that might be needed if this is not a small issue.

    OH!!!! MIssed the part about "tons of supports" added.
    GET A STRUCTURAL ENGINEER!!


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Horizontal Crack in Basement Wall

    Thanks for your quick reply, the supports are mainly in the middle of the structure, not along the edge, if that matters any. You may be correct, maybe I should try to swing the money for a SE. We are getting a great deal on the place, but house settlement has been repaired, not much foundation repair, but a little. The inspector said that he did not really see much he did not expect to see, for a house this age, and did not really address the crack, but did act like it was not of much concern. Would you all put in your report, if you thought a crack was bad, to get the opinion of a SE, if you were concerned?? He put that if I had any other questions about it to consult one??? He done a good job on the inspection, but left me wondering in this one area. I know, it will all boil down to me, and you can not really know, without seeing it first hand, but I was just seeking a few opinions from some pros. Thanks again, and be blessed.


  5. #5
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    Default Re: Horizontal Crack in Basement Wall

    Yeah, sorry, I do not have any pictures right now, but will try to get some. My fear, is that the house has set vacant, and the winter was hard this year, and caused the crack, with ice quacks or something similar. I will try to find a SE in my area, and get it checked out. Thanks again everyone!!!


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Horizontal Crack in Basement Wall

    In addition to the other replies, I would also be asking the vendor as to the history of the crack, leakage, widening of same, if he has any historical perspective should be part of your due diligence.


  7. #7
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    Default Re: Horizontal Crack in Basement Wall

    Is it poured concrete or is it a concrete block wall where the crack is?

    How wide is the crack in fractions of an inch, and is it wider at either end?
    Does the crack taper off to nothing or does it run the full length of the wall?

    Is there a concrete footing? Dirt floor in the basement or concrete? Sump pit?

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  8. #8
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    Nov 2011
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    Default Re: Horizontal Crack in Basement Wall

    Before investing in the services of an engineer, you could buy yourself some peace of mind by spending less than $20 on an extensometer kit. The kit will include the adhesive to adhere the device to the wall, bridging the crack. Make note of any change in the crack width over a period of a few months, then decide if an engineer is (urgently) needed. Zero movement means the crack is dormant, and less likely to cause problems.

    I think your inspector was remiss in not addressing the crack in more detail. His wording left it up to you to make the decision to call the engineer, allowing him to walk away without expressing a professional opinion, and while ending all involvement. Did the "tons of supports in the basement" raise any concerns from him? If the supports are temporary jack posts, just bearing on the concrete slab, there may be more serious problems in your basement's future.


  9. #9
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    Default Re: Horizontal Crack in Basement Wall

    Quote Originally Posted by Clay Burton View Post
    ...I had the house inspected, and the inspector did not hit on it much, just said if I had any other questions about the wall, to call a structural engineer. I do not have the extra money to hire an engineer, yet, so I have been doing research myself. ....
    Quote Originally Posted by Clay Burton View Post
    .... .....maybe I should try to swing the money for a SE. We are getting a great deal on the place, but house settlement has been repaired, not much foundation repair, but a little. The inspector said that he did not really see much he did not expect to see, for a house this age, and did not really address the crack, but did act like it was not of much concern. Would you all put in your report, if you thought a crack was bad, to get the opinion of a SE, if you were concerned?? He put that if I had any other questions about it to consult one??? He done a good job on the inspection, but left me wondering in this one area......
    Clay,
    Would love to know if your inspection report was a few reprinted pages that had lines for comments, as apposed to a report that was a narrative with pictures.

    From your comments you may have a problem despite the getting a good deal on the property.
    1) You say the settlement problem was repaired and not much foundation repair. If you can come to that determination and can not determine if the crack is a issue, then you have a problem.
    2) If you are questioning the inspectors assessment of the crack, then you have a problem.
    3) Your inspector saying "... inspector said that he did not really see much he did not expect to see...." is a problem. He was there to tell you what he say, since the inspector is supposedly experienced and you are not. He was there to educate you on the property.
    4) If you think you are getting a great deal, then you have the money to spend on a SE. Or maybe you just think you are getting a great deal, but in reality a money pit.
    5) If you think "...He done a good job on the inspection,...." , I might question what your basis for comparison has been.
    6) Either you paid to much for the inspection or you paid to little for the inspection. Since you clearly have unresolved questions.

    Typically the inspector's response to your crack question is stated in definite terms in the report. You either are directed to get a SE or not. The inspector should give you a definitive statement supported with an explanation of his reasoning.

    Go back to your inspector and request a definitive written statement with a detailed explanation on the crack in question. If he can't do this, run do not walk to a SE. Or get an inspection done by someone that will give you something you can rely on.


  10. #10
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    Default Re: Horizontal Crack in Basement Wall

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post
    Is it poured concrete or is it a concrete block wall where the crack is?

    How wide is the crack in fractions of an inch, and is it wider at either end?
    Does the crack taper off to nothing or does it run the full length of the wall?

    Is there a concrete footing? Dirt floor in the basement or concrete? Sump pit?
    The basement is poured about 5 foot up, then blocks laid on top of it. All repairs have been in the block portion. I am going back to get more details about the crack, some good photos, some measurements, stuff like that. It does not go the full length of the wall, but a good portion of it. Concrete floor, with no cracked gaps. There is no sump pump, only a drain. The realtor talked to the homeowner about the crack, they said it has been the same, the whole time they lived there, 6 years. It gets wet in the basement, but not enough for a sump pump. The basement does not smell musty. I plan to take a straight edge with me also, so I can tell for sure, if the wall is bowing, did not look like it from my untrained eye.


  11. #11
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    Default Re: Horizontal Crack in Basement Wall

    Quote Originally Posted by BridgeMan View Post
    Before investing in the services of an engineer, you could buy yourself some peace of mind by spending less than $20 on an extensometer kit. The kit will include the adhesive to adhere the device to the wall, bridging the crack. Make note of any change in the crack width over a period of a few months, then decide if an engineer is (urgently) needed. Zero movement means the crack is dormant, and less likely to cause problems.

    I think your inspector was remiss in not addressing the crack in more detail. His wording left it up to you to make the decision to call the engineer, allowing him to walk away without expressing a professional opinion, and while ending all involvement. Did the "tons of supports in the basement" raise any concerns from him? If the supports are temporary jack posts, just bearing on the concrete slab, there may be more serious problems in your basement's future.
    The supports did not raise any concerns, they were not supporting the basement walls, only supporting the weight of the floors, to keep them level. It may not be too many supports, it is a big, heavy old house, with plenty of supports to bear the weight. Just looked like they put some deep footers under the supports, cut out floor, poured pillars, put 4x4s on the pillars, up to the floor joists.

    Quote Originally Posted by Garry Sorrells View Post
    Clay,
    Would love to know if your inspection report was a few reprinted pages that had lines for comments, as apposed to a report that was a narrative with pictures.

    From your comments you may have a problem despite the getting a good deal on the property.
    1) You say the settlement problem was repaired and not much foundation repair. If you can come to that determination and can not determine if the crack is a issue, then you have a problem.
    2) If you are questioning the inspectors assessment of the crack, then you have a problem.
    3) Your inspector saying "... inspector said that he did not really see much he did not expect to see...." is a problem. He was there to tell you what he say, since the inspector is supposedly experienced and you are not. He was there to educate you on the property.
    4) If you think you are getting a great deal, then you have the money to spend on a SE. Or maybe you just think you are getting a great deal, but in reality a money pit.
    5) If you think "...He done a good job on the inspection,...." , I might question what your basis for comparison has been.
    6) Either you paid to much for the inspection or you paid to little for the inspection. Since you clearly have unresolved questions.

    Typically the inspector's response to your crack question is stated in definite terms in the report. You either are directed to get a SE or not. The inspector should give you a definitive statement supported with an explanation of his reasoning.

    Go back to your inspector and request a definitive written statement with a detailed explanation on the crack in question. If he can't do this, run do not walk to a SE. Or get an inspection done by someone that will give you something you can rely on.
    The report was printed off pages, with lines to write, check boxes, pictures, all in a nice binder. The settlement I was referring to, was I assumed that the floors were sagging, and they beefed it all up. The block part of the foundation, had a couple minor places, where you could tell it had some mortar spread on it. There is signs of settlement in the upstairs section, above the porch, which the basement also goes all the way under the porch. The floor has a hump and a dip, but the inspector said that even though they leveled the house back out real good, there is a good span over the living room, and with the technology back then, it just did not push it all level again. He said, if I put a post there, it could be leveled back out. All the doors shut good, but the one by the hump upstairs, has had some shaving, when the house was remodeled, about 12 years ago.

    I have a buddy that is an architect, I consulted him, and he said, from the sound of it, that it is a crack at the frost line. Not a really major deal, but it will have to be addressed, sooner than later. Of course, all the details are from my ever fading memory, so I will be taking some photos and measurements, and looking further into it.

    Thanks everyone for all the helpful replies, it is great to see people helping others out, especially with these types of issues, since they can really get costly if things go south.


  12. #12
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    Mar 2014
    Location
    Missouri
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    Default Re: Horizontal Crack in Basement Wall

    I went back to the house, my buddy, hit the nail on the head, with all his questions, and assumptions. The crack is exactly 2 foot under the surface, our frost line here. The crack is very thin, except in one spot, where a little chunk has fell out, due to moisture, which I could tell will be a problematic area, due to the fact, that I chose a very wet day, when the ground was thawing out to go look at the house. There was not really any moisture on the floor, but you could see, where the chunk fell out, that it was wet inside there. We went ahead with the purchase, and I will work on grading first, then will dig down to the footer, when I can, and install an external french drain system. I figure that I will dig down, repair the walls from the outside, first, and put the drain system in. I think it would be best to just leave the ground, next to the foundation, gravel, all the way up to the yard line. This should let the water drain down to the drain system quickly, and allow it to be moved to the road ditch. Especially, since, the house has no gutters on it. I thought about installing some of those flat gutters, and allowing them to spread the run off, all over the rock above the drainage system. I would like to thank you all for all your help, comments, and ideas in this matter, it was greatly appreciated, and helped me to know what I was up against, a little better. Thanks again.


  13. #13
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    Default Re: Horizontal Crack in Basement Wall

    You should really invest in eaves troughs and downspouts, regrading if possible.


  14. #14
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    Mar 2012
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    Lansdale, PA
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    876

    Default Re: Horizontal Crack in Basement Wall

    Quote Originally Posted by BridgeMan View Post
    Before investing in the services of an engineer, you could buy yourself some peace of mind by spending less than $20 on an extensometer kit. The kit will include the adhesive to adhere the device to the wall, bridging the crack. Make note of any change in the crack width over a period of a few months, then decide if an engineer is (urgently) needed. Zero movement means the crack is dormant, and less likely to cause problems.

    I think your inspector was remiss in not addressing the crack in more detail. His wording left it up to you to make the decision to call the engineer, allowing him to walk away without expressing a professional opinion, and while ending all involvement. Did the "tons of supports in the basement" raise any concerns from him? If the supports are temporary jack posts, just bearing on the concrete slab, there may be more serious problems in your basement's future.
    Foundation walls can sit with no movement for many years and then move (of fail) in a short time. Determining whether the wall was designed and constructed properly and whether drainage is proper would be a better approach.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Clay Burton View Post
    I went back to the house, my buddy, hit the nail on the head, with all his questions, and assumptions. The crack is exactly 2 foot under the surface, our frost line here. The crack is very thin, except in one spot, where a little chunk has fell out, due to moisture, which I could tell will be a problematic area, due to the fact, that I chose a very wet day, when the ground was thawing out to go look at the house. There was not really any moisture on the floor, but you could see, where the chunk fell out, that it was wet inside there. We went ahead with the purchase, and I will work on grading first, then will dig down to the footer, when I can, and install an external french drain system. I figure that I will dig down, repair the walls from the outside, first, and put the drain system in. I think it would be best to just leave the ground, next to the foundation, gravel, all the way up to the yard line. This should let the water drain down to the drain system quickly, and allow it to be moved to the road ditch. Especially, since, the house has no gutters on it. I thought about installing some of those flat gutters, and allowing them to spread the run off, all over the rock above the drainage system. I would like to thank you all for all your help, comments, and ideas in this matter, it was greatly appreciated, and helped me to know what I was up against, a little better. Thanks again.
    The crack could be from frost or water/soil pressure. The distance from the surface to the crack often does not tell much about the cause. your frost level may be 2 feet for the depth of a foundation, but I doubt the ground freezes to a depth of 2 feet. Foundations typically are required to extend a significant distance below the typical frost level.


  15. #15
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    Default Re: Horizontal Crack in Basement Wall

    For consideration as to frost levels generally found in Missouri.

    Missouri Climate Center


  16. #16
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Ottawa
    Posts
    7

    Default Re: Horizontal Crack in Basement Wall

    Thought I would share a link to a relatively cheap crack monitoring device Avongard that might be of use. Of course if you don't mind an unsightly mark on your wall you can get roughly the same results for free. Use a straight edge positioned across the crack draw a line on each side. Use the straight edge periodically to see if the lines still match up.

    Hope this helps.

    homeXam.ca - Home inspections in Ottawa, Canada

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