what to do about cracks in your foundation

Should I Worry (& What to Do) About Cracks in My Foundation? 7 Types

Let’s say you took up the carpet in your living room and now you see some cracks in the concrete floor that you never knew were there. On a recent stroll around the outside of your house, you suddenly spot a crack in the side of the concrete near the ground that you didn’t notice before (was it always there??). 

Perhaps you are a home buyer and you see cracks in the garage floor and elsewhere around the outside of a potential new (to you) home. In your mind, you’re like: Should I be worried? Do these cracks mean anything?

Anchor Foundation Repair

At Anchor Foundation Repair, we get calls asking these questions all the time. We’ve looked at thousands of homes in our 35+ year history and have seen cracks like these. We know that some concrete cracks mean something and others don’t. We can for sure fill you in on the cracks in your foundation.

Let’s talk through 7 kinds of cracks homeowners tend to see in their foundation. We will go over which ones to be concerned about or not, and what to do about them so you can rest easy and know how to move forward.

7 Types of Foundation Cracks and What They Mean

Not all cracks are the same, we are going to talk about 7 different types of cracks you might see around your home in your slab-on-grade foundation. These cracks are defined by where they are located, how wide they are, and what direction they head in. We will also talk about what these cracks mean or how/why they are there.

1. Thin Concrete Floor Cracks In The Middle of a Room

This is your classic “pulling up the carpet” scenario. You are replacing carpet and are horrified to suddenly see cracks running through the concrete floor surface. These are thin cracks with no separation to each side of them. There could be more than one in different spots in the middle of your floors.

Should You Worry?

Let’s answer this question with another question. Were you worried about your foundation before you took up the carpet? If you weren’t worried before, then you shouldn’t be worried now. 

thin cracks in slab floor foundation

Why or Why Not?

The reason you should not be worried about thin cracks running through the surface of your concrete floors is that it’s typical for concrete to crack as it dries. They call these “shrinkage cracks” and it’s very common and especially true the larger the slab of concrete is. 

This is one of the many reasons we use floor coverings like carpet, tile, and wood: to cover these little imperfections with something nicer.

If you didn’t have any foundation worries before you found these cracks, nothing has changed except the fact that you now know your concrete floor is not perfect in appearance.

2. Floor Cracks that Thin Out/Disappear Towards the Edges of the Home

Maybe you have a crack in the middle of the floor but it kind of “goes away” when you get closer to the outer walls (perimeter) of your house. This kind of crack also might be more commonly visible on an outside porch surface rather than inside the home.

Slab floor cracks that thin out or disappear before reaching the edge of the home mean that the sides of the home where the main support beams* are located are not affected.

slab foundations

*They put deeper supports under your home around the edges and other key locations. The concrete “beam” goes farther into the ground than the rest of the slab. A beam depth could be 2 to 4 feet deep, while the rest of the concrete surface is about 3 to 4 inches thick.

Side note: I find the “beam” word to be confusing for “non-construction-minded” people (which is most of us). 

When I think of a beam, I think most people are imagining a big iron beam or maybe a solid wooden beam. But in the case of a slab foundation, the beam is a deeper/thicker continuous section of concrete that can hold and support more weight where the home needs it. 

Ok, terminology rant over. You may now resume your regularly scheduled discussion on cracks in concrete . . . 

Should You Worry?

You should not worry about cracks that thin out towards the perimeter beam of your home. This means your main support beams are not cracked. Just the thinner parts of concrete have some of these imperfections or shrinkage cracks. 

Why or Why Not?

You should not worry about cracks that dissipate towards the edges of the home for the same reasons as not to worry about any thin cracks in your slab floor. They are not very likely to be structural issues, they are cosmetic.

3. Floor Cracks that are Wide and Displaced (raised on one side)

These floor cracks are going to have some space in between them on your concrete floor either inside the home or in a garage area. Not only is there space between them, but one side is higher in elevation than the other side and the floor surface is no longer completely smooth and flat.

Should You Worry?

separated cracks in concrete floor

Maybe. These kinds of wider and displaced floor cracks can be a problem . . . but not always. You would need to gather more information and look for other possible signs of foundation problems before worrying about these kinds of cracks.

Why or Why Not?

Sometimes this kind of crack is a sign of poor initial construction and installation. So it could be just poor workmanship but not really an indicator of foundation problems.

Other times, this kind of wider/displaced crack can indicate foundation movement i.e. settlement in your home. Not all foundation settlement turns to *foundation problem* territory either. We will discuss this in more detail later in the article.

But let’s finish talking about all the different kinds of cracks first, mkay?

4. Vertical Cracks On the Outside Beam

These are not in the floors, but in what looks like the bottom of the walls on the outside of your house. These are those pesky beams that I was talking about earlier. This is the concrete at the base of your home near the ground. Not your siding or your brick, but the concrete below that.

Some people notice cracks going vertically (up and down) or nearly vertically on the concrete beam. This will be seen by standing outside in your yard.

cracks in foundation

Should You Worry?

Perhaps. Vertical cracks can indicate that the beam has experienced some stress, but it is not a guarantee that settlement has occurred. You would have to be seeing other signs of foundation issues for this kind of crack to be a factor. Vertical cracks are not particularly worrisome without other indicators.

Why or Why Not?

Vertical cracks on the outside beam might be more of an indicator of shrinkage or expansion cracking and are not a problem all by themselves. They are not displaying that anything has moved from its original position with your home or foundation. 

If you have no other issues other than this kind of vertical crack, you should not be concerned about foundation problems at this time.

5. Diagonal Cracks on the Outside Beam

Diagonal cracks on the outside beam near the ground will not be going up and down but will be heading to the side gradually. These can look just like the vertical cracks in width but they are just moving in a diagonal direction instead.

Should You Worry?

Maybe. This is an indicator that some foundation settlement might be happening in your home. But it depends on if other signs of foundation movement are present and how much of a problem they are for you.

diagonal cracks in your foundation

Why or Why Not?

You would need to be having other symptoms of foundation settlement as well. Do all the doors in your home lock and latch properly? Do you have any diagonal cracks in the walls nearest to this beam crack? Do you have any stair-step cracking in your brick mortar nearby? How about any trim boards separating from inside or outside walls?

If you have other signs of foundation settlement, you might want to explore your feelings about how your home is performing for you. Do these symptoms irritate, bother, and worry you? Or are you like, “Eh, it’s just little stuff.”

6. Horizontal Cracks on the Outside Beam

Cracks running parallel to the ground along part of an entire beam look pretty bad. They are usually about in the middle between the ground and the siding, or at a fairly consistent distance between one or the other. 

Should You Worry?

These horizontal cracks on the outside beam can cause a lot of worry for a homeowner or home buyer. They do look like something severe is going on. BUT they really aren’t as bad as they look and you should not worry about foundation issues in particular.

horizontal cracks in foundation beam

Why or Why Not?

Horizontal beam cracks are a poor installation/workmanship issue. They are caused by poor concrete ingredient ratios and/or weather conditions at the time of construction. You should not be worried about the structural integrity of your foundation. 

But you might want to consider other remedies to improve the cosmetic appearance or seal the cracks to prevent water intrusion from rusting out the steel rebar inside the beams.

7. Corner Pop or Cracks On the Outside Corners of Beams

Corner pop is a clever name for a unique condition that happens on the corners of some brick homes. It basically looks like the concrete corner of your house near the ground broke off. Or the corner is cracked and looks like it could break off if you hit it hard enough. Pictures help on this one because it’s hard to explain. 

corner pop in slab foundation

Yikes! Looks like the corner *popped* off your house! —–>

Should You Worry?

This is another one that looks bad but isn’t that bad. If it’s the only thing you are worried about or the only sign you see, then it’s not a big structural concern, but a cosmetic one.

Why or Why Not?

Corner pop happens when brick mortar expands and the concrete beam doesn’t expand as much or in the same way. The opposing forces cause movement on the walls of your home. It concentrates stress on the corner of your house from both sides and pushes the corner off.

This is a workmanship issue and has to do with the brick mortar not being properly separated from the concrete beam. There should be a membrane that separates them and allows for expansion, but if it isn’t all perfectly in place or wasn’t used properly then it causes this particular problem.

You might want to get it fixed to make it look nicer. But if it’s not combined with other issues then it should not be a foundation worry for you.

Which Foundation Cracks Should I Worry About?

Sometimes a crack is just a crack and doesn’t mean much other than a bit of imperfection. You might have noticed a couple of “crack types” that you should keep an eye on and consider taking action if they get worse or continue to bother you.

The ones to check for other symptoms and watch a little more closely are No. 3 – floor cracks that are wide and displaced, and No. 5 – diagonal cracks on the outside beam.

Honestly though, none of these kinds of cracks are ever the biggest telltale sign of foundation issues.

“It’s never the concrete, it’s always the finishes and other true signs that give it away in the homes we end up fixing.”

Craig Tripp, Anchor Foundation Repair Owner, El Presidente, CEO, Foundation Repair Extraordinaire.

And just to calm any fears you might have, don’t worry so much that you feel unsafe even if you do have some of these cracks. In the vast majority of Central Texas homes, it is safe to live in a home that needs foundation repair or has some foundation settlement.

How Can I Handle These Foundation Cracks?

Of course, you don’t just want to know what all these types of cracks mean, you also want to know how to handle them or what to do next. Great question.

Check For Other Foundation-Related Issues

The first thing you should do with any of the cracks is to look for other issues that might indicate a foundation-related problem. If you’re not having any other concerns or not seeing any other signs. Then you are in the clear.

We have a guide that we direct you to momentarily that shows you both real and false signs of foundation issues. Sometimes people see things that they think are foundation-related problems that are not. If you see some true signs along with the cracks, then you will have more to consider in the following sections.

Signs of Foundation Problems

Monitor For Changes

If you do see a few other signs as well as cracks in the foundation, we recommend that you watch for changes for a little while. Do any symptoms improve or get worse if it rains or stays dry? Does anything happen through seasonal changes? 

If this is the very first time you observe any symptoms or signs of possible foundation settlement, rather than rushing to repair right away, we suggest waiting to see if anything develops into a true functionality issue for you. 

Sometimes things improve or don’t progress into bigger problems, so why spend your hard-earned money if you don’t need to?

Repair Cosmetic Things If Desired

Repairing Cosmetic Corner Pop

Cracks that are more cosmetic than structural can be caulked up or sealed if you want. Just remember that caulking and sealing cracks near ground level are likely still accessible to water or bugs below ground or they will find another way to get in. 

Just saying that it’s not a fail-safe solution for keeping undesirables out, but it might make you feel better.

Patching up cosmetic imperfections can improve your home’s appearance and make you feel better about your home too.

Consider Your Feelings Too

Homes are supposed to make us feel happy, safe, warm, dry, clean, and bug-free. If any signs or symptoms make you feel the opposite, even if it’s just a feeling, then your house isn’t doing its job very well. Or if something is just really bothering you and you can’t stop thinking about it, it’s time to get things repaired.

Homeowners tend to reach a “tipping point” where they can’t wait any longer and want to take action now on foundation repair. But it’s not the same point for everyone and there are not always black and white answers, sometimes it’s a gray area. 

We’ve got an article that puts things into perspective on making the decision to move forward with foundation repair that you might want to check out: “Do I Need Foundation Repair or Not? Settlement vs. Problems.”

What Signs Point to a True Foundation Problem?

true signs of foundation issues

Now you know that all foundation cracks don’t mean something big and don’t usually mean anything all by themselves. Several of the cracks are not a problem if they appear alone but could be an issue if they show up in combination with other signs of foundation problems in nearby areas.

Since 1985, Anchor Foundation Repair has been helping homeowners with foundation needs in Bryan, College Station, and surrounding communities like Caldwell and Navasota. We want you to have all the information you need to make informed decisions about foundation repair for your home. We don’t want you in the dark.

We put together a picture guide to show homeowners the real and false signs of foundation problems. Check it out to get a good idea of what true signs to watch out for in your home and the signs that are often confused with foundation issues.