Another method of monitoring the width of a stair-step crack is to stick a piece of tape across the crack. Cut the tape with a razorblade at the crack location. Check to see if the thin cut gets wider throughout the monitoring period. Crack monitoring devices are also available in stores.
If the crack doesn’t appear to reach a steady state or any lateral movement is noted, it’s highly recommended to contact a specialist immediately. A specialist can determine the cause of the crack. Lateral movement is characterized by a bulging of the wall as shown below.
If it is determined that the crack does not represent a serious problem and it is at a steady state, it can be repaired easily. Remove any loose mortar around the crack and sweep away all dust and debris. Fill the gap with premixed mortar which is available at any home hardware store. Narrower cracks can be widened slightly to make it easier to fill by chipping away some of the surrounding mortar. Following the repair on the interior wall, the exterior wall should be repaired as well; this type of crack usually occurs in mirror on the exterior foundation face.
Since the crack will likely be below the ground elevation, not much repair can be done on the outside wall without digging down beside the wall to expose the crack. This can be a considerable and costly task.
To prevent water from accumulating around the foundation walls and worsening the situation, here are a few things that can be done: ensure the landscaping around the house is sloped away from the foundation walls so that the rain and snow-melt do not drain towards the walls, ensure gutters are cleaned often and make sure downspouts are directed away from the house
Parts 2 of this series will discuss the remaining types of cracks: Settlement Cracks, Vertical Cracks and Horizontal Cracks. Additional details are available upon request.
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