Palos Heights is a small western suburb of Chicago with a population of 12,000 and a land area of less than 4 square miles.
Often confused with its larger neighbor, Palos Hills, the smaller town is nearly 20 years older and has the interesting history of being originally developed as quarter-acre “farm-ettes” to encourage new residents to pursue small-time agriculture. This experiment didn’t last long and Palos Heights soon became a more traditional suburb.
Palos Heights didn’t, however, follow the path of most American suburbs as it experienced no significant population boom in the period immediately following World War II that saw the growth of suburbia across the U.S. The midst of that period found Palos Heights with only 1,200 homes of the current 4,500 and real growth didn’t take place until the 1970s when more than 1,000 homes were built.
Today, homeowners in Palos Heights commute to Chicago for their jobs and enjoy the recreational opportunities afforded by Lake Katherine, an 85-acre park and nature preserve. Like their counterparts in nearby Oak Lawn and Evergreen Park, though, they are also discovering problems with their homes as they age and many have discovered basement foundation cracks.
Most foundations in Palos Heights are constructed of poured concrete; some are built out of concrete blocks. Either of these types of foundations can crack and the cracks can be either structural or non-structural.
Structural Cracks are generally wider, more than 1/8”, and are typically found in a definite pattern. In a poured concrete wall, there will usually be one vertical crack in the middle and two angled cracks across the upper corners. Unseen from the inside are vertical cracks in the corners where the damaged wall has broken away from the adjoining walls.
In a concrete block wall, the cracks run through mortar joints in a stair-step pattern and typically surround a bowed or inwardly bulging section in the center of the wall.
The presence of these cracks indicates damage to the wall and instability of the foundation.
Non-structural Cracks are typically less than 1/8” wide and do not follow a pattern. Cracks in poured concrete will usually be more or less vertical and may seep water. In a concrete block wall, the cracks will also follow the mortar joints but probably won’t be seen as admitting seepage because of the hollow construction of the block.
Non-structural cracks in poured concrete are best repaired by injecting them with expanding polyurethane that seals the cracks and remains flexible when cured to prohibit re-cracking from minor foundation movement. Seepage from cracks in block walls can be managed with interior drain tile or stopped from outside with an exterior waterproofing membrane.
Repairing a structural crack is not necessarily difficult but it requires a great deal of knowledge and skill to ensure that the foundation is stabilized. Walls with structural cracks have moved, or rotated, inward and if they are left unrepaired will separate from the aboveground structure and no longer support it.
Depending on the amount of rotation, the damaged wall may be repaired with carbon fiber. If the wall has moved less than 2 inches, then carbon fiber strips can be epoxied to the wall to prevent any further movement, leaving the foundation stabilized.
If the wall has moved more than 2 inches, low-profile channel steel, anchored at top and bottom, will be used to stop the wall’s inward rotation.
Carbon fiber is the less costly method, making it advantageous for Palos Heights homeowners to discover and repair basement foundation cracks sooner rather than later. Neither method requires maintenance and both repairs can be covered by a standard stud wall if the basement is to be finished.
Regardless of the timing or material, a Palos Heights homeowner who discovers basement foundation cracks will need the advice and assistance of a qualified foundation repair contractor and/or basement waterproofing contractor. At U.S. Waterproofing, our foundation repair team uses engineering data and the latest methods and materials to do permanent, cost-effective repair and our basement waterproofing experts draw on our 57 years of experience keeping basements dry all over Chicagoland. Why not ask for our free advice?
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