A Guide to Repairing the Crack in Your House Foundation
Over time, foundations can shift and crack as the earth settles. Poor engineering or building techniques can also lead to cracking. The issue is most prevalent in older homes, due to improved modern building codes, but it’s not unheard of in new homes.
A few tiny cracks are usually not a big deal – they often indicate normal settling and simply call for monitoring to make sure things don’t get worse. But cracks larger than 1/4-inch or an abundance of cracks usually indicate a problem that needs attention. Other common signs of trouble include:
- A stair-step crack that breaks solid concrete or brick, indicating there are powerful forces at work
- A crack that wraps around a corner
- Cracks that allow water into the home
- A large concentration of cracks in a small area or one one side of the house
- Horizontal or wide cracks
- A vertical crack that is wider at the top than the bottom
You should also be wary if you live on a hillside or in a flood-prone area and notice cracks.
What to Do About the Problem
If you notice any of the red flags above, hire a structural, civil or geotechnical engineer for analysis. Look for an engineer or engineering firm that specializes in foundations. Engineers can determine the extent of your structural and foundation problems, recommend a solution, refer you to foundation repair contractors and oversee the repair project (if needed).
Never go straight to a foundation repair contractor for an evaluation. A contractor has something to gain from identifying foundation problems; an engineer usually does not. Most contractors are honest, but don’t chance it.
The type of repair necessary will depend on the extent of the problem. Sometimes no action is needed (just regular monitoring). If the cracks are not as serious as you thought, sometimes a DIY epoxy fill is enough. If a contractor is required, fixes range from installing a new drainage system to reinforcing or replacing the foundation.
Cost to Repair a Cracked Foundation
The cost to repair a cracked foundation varies widely based upon the type of repair. The average cost nationwide is somewhere between $5,000 and $7,000, but you could end up paying much less or significantly more.
- A DIY epoxy fill might cost you $50 in supplies.
- Installing a drainage system to address soil instability could cost $1,500 to $3,000. Building a retaining wall to address the same problem might cost $1,000 to $10,000.
- Lifting a slipping foundation into place starts at about $3,000 to $5,000, but costs can be higher for complex jobs.
- A new foundation can cost $10,000 or more.
- Installing steel posts to support a sinking foundation starts at about $20,000. If the house needs to be jacked up, add at least another $10,000.
- The most complex and difficult jobs can top $50,000 – even reaching $100,000.
Choosing a Contractor
A structural engineer will be able to recommend trusted foundation repair contractors in your area, but it’s always good to do some homework on your own. Here are some tips for choosing the best contractor for the job:
- Make sure the company is insured. Asked to see a current insurance certificate.
- Look for a company that uses its own employees to do the work, not contract labor.
- Make sure the company provides on-site supervisors to oversee the work crew.
- Always ask for references – and check them.
- Find out how long the company has been in business. A company that opened for business two months ago may not be your best bet.
- Ask for a warranty. Any reputable company should guarantee its work.