The basics of foundation preservation include:

  • Grade soil away from the foundation
  • Install a sump pump with battery back up
  • Clean gutters

Of course, regular inspection is a priority.  Even with these preventive measures, cracks can form.  Understanding what can happen is a critical element in foundation management.

Causes of Foundation Damage in Ottawa

There are a number of factors that can contribute to foundation problems:

  • Loose soil
  • Overly wet or overly dry ground
  • Inadequate drainage
  • Poor construction
  • Earthquakes or other shifting
  • Temperature changes
  • Flooding

No matter how proactive you may be, including waterproofing and plumbing repairs, cracks can be formed in the foundation.


Cracks are generally categorized into three main types:

  • Shrinkage – This is found in houses with poured concrete.
  • Horizontal – Soil or water pressure will cause this type of crack.
  • Settlement – All houses settle over time.  The size and location of any cracks will determine how severe the damage is or can be.

Some alteration in the structure is not necessarily serious.  There are some changes you should look for that will indicate a more grave issue.

  • Bowing walls
  • Misaligned doors and windows
  • Sloping floors
  • Drywall cracks
  • Ceramic tile and brickwork cracks

Watching for Cracks

Both poured concrete and block foundations can develop cracks since each of these will shrink as they dry.

Careful and regular observation is one way to catch problems before they become too big to handle, including financially.  Start with each 90 degree corner.  This is the first place cracks will begin to show.  Use a ruler and accurately measure the width and keep a record.  If the crack begins to widen at one end, this could be an indication of the beginning of trouble.  If you find cracks of ½ inch or wider, have an engineer come in to inspect the area.

Horizontal cracks at the bed joint of a concrete block or brick wall is the sign of a major breakdown.  The soil behind the wall is pressing the wall into a point where it will bend, eventually to break.  This is a condition that requires immediate attention.  First you will need to identify the cause of the horizontal crack and have that repaired before addressing the crack itself.

Vertical cracks can be equally as dangerous.  Cracks that are wider at the top generally means the foundation is dropping and the center is heaving.  Cracks wider at the bottom is usually means the opposite, or a heaving foundation and dropping center.  In either case, call in a structural engineer to evaluate the situation.

Not all Cracks are Equal

Some cracks are simply not serious.  While not aesthetically pleasing, they won’t hurt if left untreated.  Angular cracks can form on the top foot or so of brick walls that are laid directly onto concrete foundations.  During the summer the bricks will expand with the heat and push the outer foundation corners.  This will cause angular cracks.  These will probably recur each summer.

Cracks can occur above windows, doors, and archways in the upper levels of the house.  This is only due to settling and are relief joints.  The size can vary with temperature changes.  This can be controlled using a dehumidifier in the summer and humidifier in the winter.

Basements in Ottawa can often develop hairline cracks.  This is another instance where it is appearance related.  Unless they become ½ wide or wider, there should be no concern.  They usually begin at a 90 degree offset corners and will extend to the corner of the room.  It should stop growing after about a year and you can then fill it with hydraulic cement or urethane caulk.

If you have any questions or concerns about your foundation or any cracks in your home, feel free to contact us.  We will arrange to have one of our professionals contact you and arrange a time for an inspection and discussion.