Stephen King could never write a horror story like the ones we encounter of people buying a house that
“Gets a little water every now and then through that TINY crack in the basement.”
Then all of the sudden you feel like….
The thing that frightens (or at the very least raises the eyebrows of the homebuyer) is that almost all concrete cracks somewhere. When you put something as rigid as concrete in something as moveable as Kansas dirt you’re going to wind up with a few here or there. So how can you know the difference?
Your safest best is to get with a great basement contractor (your agent will know a good one) but here are a few webMD-level recommendations that are worth every penny you pay for them.
1. If it’s a crack less than 1/16″ – stop freaking out. Seal it and take a peek at it when you think about it. That concrete probably just needed to get comfortable after it was poured.
2. If it’s a crack that is vertical you’re probably in good shape but that would depend on how wide it is. The bigger the crack the further that wall has moved. Typically, that’s not much on a basement vertical crack. Once we’re above ground the vertical cracks are a different story for a different blog post. Basements start getting expensive when there’s movement. Water is easier to fix if there’s no movement, you just seal it. If what needs to be sealed keeps getting wider, and longer it’s tough to ignore it long before you find that. But if you’re looking at a house to buy, they don’t let you move in for a while to see if you like it. So how will you know?
3. Most Kansas basements get ugly when they’re cracking horizontally. The reason for that is almost always water around the house making the soil so heavy that it presses on the basement wall causing it to buckle in the middle all the way across in attempt to get out of the way of that pushy dirt. Need an example? Take a piece of paper, stand it on end on a table, then push it on a flat side. Where does it fold, vertically or horizontally? Horizontally, of course! Now, imagine pressing down from the top of that same piece of paper that’s “cracking” in the middle. Not a lot of support, eh? Remember, you’ve got a whole house on that wall that’s cracking horizontally. See where this can turn into a big problem for you?
If you’re a homeowner trying to figure out what to do so that you’re not getting an indoor swimming pool for free every time we get a good Kansas rain going, call a pro. That problem won’t go away without some big repairs. If it’s just the beginning stages, the best thing you can do it to get positive drainage around your house so that water doesn’t pool up. Extensions on your gutter downspouts are a good idea too.
Homebuyers will ALWAYS want to have a home inspection by a professional on a house they’re under contract on. But they can rest at ease knowing that tiny or vertical cracks aren’t likely going to cause them major issues after buying. If you see unaddressed horizontal cracks… well maybe you should look at a few more before you pull the trigger.
Disclaimer for those that are lawyer-happy: I’m a real estate agent not a basement repairman. If you get water in your basement, I didn’t put it there. If you get a crack in your concrete, that wasn’t me either. However, if you need somebody who doesn’t know what they’re talking about, head over to Kansas Basement and Foundation Repair’s site.