Cracks in a brick wall could be a sign of foundation trouble. Problems arise when some parts of your foundation shift — via sinking or lateral movement — while others don’t. This is called differential settlement.
In this article, we’re going to cover the types of brick wall cracks, their causes, repair methods, cost of repair, and how to prevent cracks in a brick wall.
Causes of Cracks in a Brick Wall
There are various causes of cracks in a brick wall including:
Differential settlement – All structures settle into the ground to some extent after they’re constructed. This is expected, and as long as the entire structure settles into the soil at the same rate, there shouldn’t be any problem. Problems arise when settlement isn’t uniform. This is called differential settlement, and it can cause serious structural damage.
Causes of differential settlement include soil that wasn’t adequately compacted before construction, weather changes, seismic activity, flooding, and heavy excavation next to the foundation.
Expansive soil can also cause differential settlement. Expansive soil expands as it soaks up moisture and shrinks when it dries out. Over time this swelling-shrinking cycle – which is usually seasonal, but can also be caused by rainfall, leaky plumbing, etc. – creates movement under the foundation that can lead to differential settlement and structural damage, including cracks.
Subsidence – Changes in soil volume cause subsidence. Subsidence differs from settlement in that settlement is about the building’s weight pressing down on the soil. Subsidence can happen even if there isn’t a heavy building sitting on top of the soil.
Poor design and/or construction – These things happen.
Natural disasters – Earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.
Interaction with other structural elements – Cracks in a brick wall can also be caused by the wall interacting with other structural elements, including roofs, concrete slabs, etc.
Deterioration from poor maintenance – An example of this would be gutter downspouts that aren’t being diverted away from the home.
Vibration – This might be caused by nearby construction, heavy excavation, etc.
For more information see How To: Check your home’s foundation.
How to Fix Cracks in a Brick Wall
Some cracks in a brick wall are structurally significant, while others are just ugly. Therefore, the nature of the crack determines the repair method. Cracks that don’t threaten the building’s structural integrity are easier to fix.
If the crack is structurally significant, it isn’t enough to simply repair it cosmetically. The building needs to be stabilized first so the crack won’t return after the repair. Stabilization methods include underpinning using steel push piers, helical piers, or concrete piers. Once the building has been stabilized via underpinning, we can handle the aesthetic aspects of the crack.
If the crack is not structurally significant – for example, a vertical crack caused by concrete shrinkage during the curing process – tuckpointing with mortar, grout, or like materials may be the chosen repair solution.
How Homeowners Can Prevent Brick Wall Cracks
Since most foundation problems are caused by water, controlling the groundwater around your home’s foundation is essential. You can do this by:
- Cleaning your gutters regularly – Clogged gutters can cause water to spill over the side of your home and into the soil next to the foundation.
- Installing downspout extensions, if necessary – Many downspouts are too short and release water next to the foundation. Extensions are easy to install and will channel that water away from the foundation before releasing it.
- Regrading your yard, if necessary – Your yard should slope away from the foundation. If it doesn’t, have it regraded. A landscaper can help you with this. It also might be a good DIY project.
- Installing a drain tile system – Drain tile systems (interior and exterior) ensure good drainage by preventing excess water from building up in the soil under and around the foundation.
- Not planting water – hungry vegetation next to the foundation – After watering, the water soaks into the soil around the foundation.
Of course, you’ll also want to make sure the soil around the foundation doesn’t get too dry. This is especially important if you have expansive soil. Therefore, keep the soil hydrated during a drought so it doesn’t dry up and shrink.
Cost to Repair Cracks in a Brick Wall
The cost to repair cracks in a brick wall depends on various factors, including your geographical region, the type and severity of the crack, and the chosen repair method. Therefore, we can’t give you an estimate without first performing an inspection.
The only way to know the cost of repairing cracks in a brick wall is to contact an experienced foundation repair contractor and request an inspection and estimate. Most contractors will do the inspection for free.
For more information see How To Repair A Cracked Foundation.
If you have suspicious cracks in a brick wall and you’re in our service area in Middle Tennessee or Southern Kentucky, contact us today for a free inspection and repair estimate.