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Cracks in basement wall

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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2009 5:04 pm GMT    Post subject: Cracks in basement wall Reply with quote

I am looking around to buy a house. I found one that is built in 1991. We liked everything about it. But, I noticed 3 vertical cracks in the basement wall. Are such cracks usual or is it something we have to worry about?

I appreciate your responses.
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Joined: 15 Feb 2007
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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2009 6:11 pm GMT    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you're serious about the place, have an inspector take a look. I think some cracks are "OK" or normal (may result from the building settling). Other cracks may indicate a problem, such as water damage.

I wouldn't know how to tell the difference, and it sounds like you don't know either. So a professional opinion would be worthwhile.
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PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2009 4:27 am GMT    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm paranoid about cracks but the property is old enough that it may have proven itself ok by now. I think I read somewhere that it is ok if it is less than 1/2" thick.
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john p

Joined: 10 Mar 2006
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PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2009 2:48 pm GMT    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cracks in concrete are due to two basic things: shrinkage, and settlement.

The cracks you see on the ground of a desert are shrinkage cracks. If they don't keep the concrete wet or the mixture is not perfect you get some cracks when the concrete is drying. This is sort of common. You don't want to see a ton of them, however.

The cracks that are associated with settlement are ones that need to be looked at more closely. All buildings settle, and if you look at any old house in say Newton you'll see cracks galore; many have stone foundations. It is funny because when people buy an older house they'll see these settlement cracks as sort of "character", but if you get a hairline crack in a 18 year old building people get alarmed.

I have a settlement crack in my basement. I know it is a settlement crack because where the septic line exits the house in the basement wall , the crack goes through that wall penetration (where the pipe went out). Just outside the house we have a brick patio and there are some sinking bricks there. Also in the back corner of the yard where the septic tank is we have a depression in the lawn. Basically, the guy who dug the hole for the septic did not COMPACT the dirt properly and the grade settled over time. The settlement is due to a differential of the "undisturbed soil" or natural grade with the "disturbed" soil, or fill that filled the excavation holes. Now, when the grade settled in the brick area it became a place for water to puddle. WATER causes most settlement. Often times you will see a rain leader (down spout) depositing lots of water in a corner and that soil gets soft.

Keep in mind that the earth moves. The top four feet in Massachusetts are what we call the "frost line". We have our foundations go beneath this level because there is less differential in the freeze thaw property changes.

The other thing about that construction era is that certain properties used "developer grade" materials. You might see across the board quality issues on things like faucets, windows, etc. Developer grade fixtures tend to have shorter lifecycles. My house is built very well from a shell and bones standpoint but doesn't have fancy finishes like granite or super expensive faucets and light fixtures. I wanted to get the best box on the best site and I figured I'd upgrade countertops and lights little by gradual. If you detect a certain grade of finishes you can use that in your negotiations. Things are trade offs, for example, the best lots were developed during certain decades in certain towns so you might get a newer house with better fixtures, but not the best lot. Certain towns have a sweet spot of finishes and construction.

What was mean that I did was whenever I didn't like a house, I used to tell my wife that I thought that snakes were going to get into the basement because of the holes in the foundation walls or floor. That worked like a charm.
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