Many scenarios come to mind when thinking about potential at home safety problems: a dead tree limb that might fall in the yard, smoke detectors that may not function correctly, a slippery walkway may cause a fall, or perhaps faulty wiring that might start a fire. What about a crack in the basement floor, or a crack in a concrete driveway or a crack in the sidewalk-do these merit concern? Believe it or not, cracks in concrete -even small ones-can sometimes lead to major safety problems.

Concrete Slab Cracks

It’s a fair assumption that a crack in a concrete slab will only get larger rather than smaller. It’s also possible for cracks to be accompanied by concrete slab shifting-the cause of the major safety issues. If soil movement or settlement causes one section of a slab to sink below another, it can also create an irregular ridge in the place of a once flat, smooth surface. Such a ridge in a sidewalk or driveway is a hazard to foot and bicycle traffic. Sooner or later, someone will trip, stumble and fall because of this unanticipated obstacle. Want to know the real kicker? This can all be prevented.

How Water Makes Things Worse

A cracked slab located in a basement or crawl space is means for much more concern. Such spaces are known for allowing water and radon gas to pass through, which means a crack, can be the likely cause or additional problem.

Say water does enter, now there’s potential for mold growth-but it must first come into contact with organic material like wood, cardboard, paper or cloth.

Radon gas on the other hand, is a known carcinogen. It’s also the leading cause of lung cancer amongst nonsmokers. Since radon gas comes from the soil, any crack in a foundation slab can provide a pathway for this radioactive gas to enter into your house.

When the Crack Doesn’t Cause a Safety Issue

Safety isn’t an issue when a crack in concrete remains too narrow to admit a credit card, and it isn’t being accompanied by any displacement. But, a sure sign of danger is when concrete not only cracks but also settles or shifts, causing the surfaces to no longer align. This means that soil movement is affecting the stability of the slab.

The Wrong Solution

Although homeowners are often tempted to go for the quick fix -using patching mortar to fill the crack and bridge the slight elevation change-this “handyman solution” won’t hold up for long. The soil is certain to settle and shift further over time. When this soil movement occurs, the crack will reopen, the patching material will break apart and the homeowner will face the same problem again.

The Proper Solution

If you see cracks accompanied by displacement or if you suspect that cracked masonry may be caused by soil settlement or soil pressure, the best strategy is to contact an experienced foundation repair contractor. An experienced full-service foundation repair contractor will have the skill and equipment to evaluate foundation cracks and displacement as well as the soil conditions that are causing foundation damage. The earlier that foundation damage is repaired, the less extensive and expensive the repair work is likely to be.

By Ruby

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