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Question DetailsAsked on 4/13/2016

Staircase crack on detached brick garage is worsening--who to call?

The crack begins at a corner about 5 feet from grade and continues along wall to grade. The cinder block on interior wall shows similar staircase pattern of separation. It is about 10 yrs old, and drawing shows footing below grade.

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With diagonal stairstep cracking like that, it normally means differential settlement over the length of the wall - so a soils bearing capacity failure or washing out; or a structural failure of the wall or grade beam itself in rare cases (usually because contractor skimped on reinforcing or concrete infill of block wall).


Also common in areas of expansive/shrinking soils - generally in the Midwest running east-west from mid-Wyoming/Eastern Montana/Rockies over halfway or so to the Mississippi River, and north-south from well into the Canadian border states down into south Texas/New Mexico but in some other areas also.


Hairline cracking you might choose to mark the ends with a felt tip pen and see if growing (especially if you are new to this house so don't know whether or not this is initial new construction settlement which might have stopped). If growing noticeably or more than hairline (say pencil point tip or larger in width) or for peace of mind I would definitely get a Structural Engineer in there to look at it for typically $200-400 range. Unfortunately, in cases like this, he will commonly ask for the footer to also be excavated for inspection under the cracked area to see if the footer is failing, soil conditions are unsuitable, etc.


From the pattern you describe, especially if continuing down the interior of the foundation wall towards the footer, since going from corner towards center, would normally be indicative of inadequate foundation support under the mid-wall. In cases with poor soils or lack of compaction before the footer was poured, the corners tend to stay in place because there is support in both directions, with the center of the main load-bearing walls (usually the long sides) that are carrying the roof and floor joist loads, acting as a beam carrying the wall loads, settles.


If this is an unheated or cool garage in the winter (assuming real winters in your area) could also be an indication of frost heaving - check level across the block joints might tell where the foundation ins settling/raising as case may be.


For the repair, if needed, might be a Mudjacking contractor to add support under the wall, or a Foundation Repair contractor. But I suggest having an engineer look at it first, because contractors will have a tendency to suggest a repair, and many foundation contractors push their favorite or "proprietary" system regardless of whether it is a proper solution for that case or not.


Oh - and don't fall for "miracle" cures like surface-applied carbon fiber tape or such - many discussions in the Home > Foundation Repair link in Browse Projects on types of fixes and some of the dubious repairs being marketed out there. Ran into one a few months ago where they were touting a system where they applied a "microcrystalline polymer repair plane" to fix bowing foundation walls - turned out the "fix" was just normal basement "waterproofing" paint with pure white silica sandblasting sand mixed in and brushed on - a total scam.


Also, as noted in some of the above comments - pay attention to how any potential fix will appear after the fact - an invisible fix or partial replacement is much preferred to a roughly comparable priced or even cheaper one that will make it obvious that there was a foundation problem. Nothing kills buyer interest like a mess of exposed tieback ends or support beams holding the foundation up, even if they are a proper structural fix.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD




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