Thursday, June 2nd, 2011 by Tim Snyder
"I need someone to come look at my foundation. There's a crack in the brick foundation wall that's really worrying me."
Foundation repair specialists in the Denver area are very likely to receive calls like this from concerned homeowners. In this part of the country, brick and stucco are very popular as exterior finishes for houses. These masonry finishes are durable, attractive, and (unlike wood) fireproof and immune to rot and insect attack. But brick, stucco and stone walls can crack when soil conditions cause a foundation to settle, heave or buckle.
It's important to note that when a house has a brick, stone or stucco exterior, this masonry material is usually a veneer. Instead of extending completely through the full thickness of the wall, brick, stucco and stone are typically installed over a structural wall of wood framing or concrete block. Only on older houses (those built before 1900 or so) are foundation walls likely to be built from solid brick or stone.
So if the brick or stucco facing isn't structural, why worry about cracks? That's a good question. Hairline cracks - those that are too narrow to admit a business card--aren't really a concern because they're too small to admit moisture or insects into a wall assembly, and they're not visible unless you get very close to the wall.
Larger cracks in a home's masonry wall are worth investigating and fixing. For one thing, larger cracks in a masonry wall detract from a home's appearance. This in turn can diminish real estate value. But larger cracks in a brick, stucco or stone wall can also indicate a problem with the foundation.
A house that has wood siding - shingles, clapboards, or board-and-batten siding, for example--can have a foundation problem that has little or no effect on the siding's appearance. Wood, after all, is flexible and resilient. If a foundation wall settles slightly, wood framing and siding will simply bend down slightly above the settled foundation, essentially concealing the damage.
Masonry, however, isn't a flexible material. Whether it's mortar, brick, stucco, concrete block or poured concrete, this material can't stretch. More specifically, masonry is strong in compression, but not in tension. So when the soil beneath a foundation wall settles, creating a void beneath the concrete footing, the footing will break under the load from above rather than bend. The brick, stucco or stone veneer above the settled foundation wall has the same inability to stretch, so it's also likely to crack, especially around door and window openings.
The good news is that an experienced foundation repair specialist can permanently repair foundation settlement, bowing and shifting problems that cause cracks in brick, stucco and stone walls. As the foundation is stabilized and moved back to its original position, cracks in upper masonry wall areas typically close up. Mortar joints between bricks become even again, and with minor touch-up work with masonry patching compound, it's as if the damage never occurred.
For brick foundation repair in Denver, CO call Complete Basement Systems today!