Have you noticed that your basement (or lowest level) floor is showing evidence of cracks? If so, you’re probably feeling a bit concerned. After all, a broken or damaged basement floor could be a sign of a serious issue. But don’t panic just yet. Whether you have a foundation problem or not depends on what caused the cracks in the first place.
To educate you on this common homeowner concern, let’s take a look at the reasons that cracks can form in a basement floor.
Cracks Can Arise from Several Causes
Since signs of foundation damage and signs of lesser issues can be similar in their early stages, it’s good to have your home checked out to assess what’s happening and why. Here are the most common causes for cracks in your basement floor.
1. Loosely Laid Soil
Before your foundation is laid, the house construction crew digs a hole into the soil. That space must be properly prepared to ensure the foundation is as strong and stable as it can be—which includes the process of making the soil in the hole firm before the concrete is poured. If that soil isn’t compacted enough, it will result in a weakened concrete slab.
2. Erosion Due to a Leak
When your plumbing is leaky, it can result in water sneaking into places where it shouldn’t be. This is always bad news for concrete because the extra moisture can seep into even small cracks and make those cracks bigger. The leaking water can also penetrate beneath the concrete to the soil underneath, eroding it away and making the foundation slab move more than it should, causing even more significant cracking.
3. Poor Drainage
When your landscaping isn’t set up to drain rainwater and irrigation safely away from your home, problems are bound to result. Poor drainage has several causes, such as broken gutters, downspouts not aimed away from the house, sprinklers pointed toward exterior walls, or improper grading (your land should slope down and away from the house). These issues can lead to water pooling around your foundation and getting into your basement, leading to cracks in the basement floor.
4. Uneven Settling
As the soil around and beneath your home shifts due to temperature changes and seasonal weather, your home “settles” (or moves slightly). Normal settling doesn’t put your home at structural risk because it’s so minimal. But if your home has a weakened concrete slab or if the soil around it is eroding at a fast pace, settling can be more significant—and the abnormal amount of movement can make your basement floor or foundation crack.
5. Mistakes During the Concrete Pour
If the team that pours a home’s concrete slab isn’t attentive to their job, errors can occur that affect the quality of the slab. Many of these issues are actually cosmetic rather than structural. For example, if the concrete is a bit too wet when it’s poured, then its top layer will likely flake during the drying process. This is unattractive and can mimic the look of a break, but it doesn’t put your foundation at risk.
Types of Cracks You Might See in Your Basement Floor
As a result of these issues, a variety of cracks may appear. When you’re checking your home, here’s what to keep an eye out for—and what these different types of cracks may mean.
Cracks Caused by Heaving
Heaving is the process of concrete breaking and rising up because the soil beneath the slab is expanding and pushing upward. This is a common problem in areas with clay soil, such as Oklahoma. If your concrete basement floor is pushed upward and also has cracks, it’s time for an inspection.
Cracks with Sunken Concrete
When soil shifts and settles, concrete can sink and drop lower than it was intended to. If the movement in the soil is intense, cracks may occur, leading to a floor that’s both unlevel and broken. This creates a tripping hazard, and the issue can get worse if it’s not addressed.
For up to a year after a home is first built, elements like concrete flooring can shift and settle. And this normal, minimal movement may sometimes cause super-thin, hairline cracks in a basement floor. These tiny cracks are usually superficial and are not necessarily a sign of structural damage.
Spalling or Flaking Concrete
As we already mentioned, concrete can look unsightly if the original mix is too wet or not blended properly when it’s poured. This can lead to surface issues like spalling (flaking). Since this can make the surface of the floor look bumpy, you might think it means a crack has occurred. But if your issue is spalling, any “damage” is just on the surface. The concrete beneath it is likely just fine.
Put Your Mind at Ease with a Basement and Home Foundation Inspection
The best way to identify and properly address true foundation issues is to have your house inspected by a professional structural team that knows what to look for. At Edens Structural Solutions, we only do work if it needs to be done. We’ll evaluate your basement cracks and give you honest feedback on whether or not you need foundational repairs—so you can feel confident in your Tulsa area home’s safety.
Reach out to us for a free consultation, and learn more about our concrete slab repair system.