German-born architect Mies van der Rohe is well known in Chicago as the designer of the International style, “glass box” buildings on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology and for other buildings in the city like IBM Plaza and the Federal Center.
Most of van der Rohe’s work was on large structures – academic buildings, offices and apartments – but he also designed a few private homes, three of which are in the U.S., one of which is in the middle of Elmhurst IL.
The McCormick House was designed as if it were a “slice” taken out of one of van der Rohe’s apartment buildings and was meant as low-cost, utilitarian housing to be built in rows. The one-story structure was originally constructed on Prospect Avenue in 1952 and served as a single family home until it was acquired by the Elmhurst Art Museum in 1992. In 1994, the house was taken apart in sections and moved to the museum campus where it serves today as office and exhibition space.
Of course, most homes in Elmhurst weren’t designed by world renowned architects and haven’t been carted around town in pieces on a flatbed trailer. They may not be architectural landmarks but they are sources of pride for their owners as well as sources of aggravation when maintenance or repair problems crop up. One of these problems is often basement foundation cracks and Elmhurst homeowners are well advised to keep their eye out for them.
Basement foundation cracks fall into two categories: structural and non-structural. The appearance, potential for damage and method of repair are very different but both must be addressed for the safety and stability of the home.
Structural Cracks are usually wider than 1/8” and typically are found in a noticeable pattern. In a poured concrete foundation such as is commonly found in Elmhurst, the pattern will usually appear as one vertical crack in the center of the affected wall and two angled cracks across the top corners. Usually not visible are two vertical cracks on the outside of the wall where it has separated from the adjacent walls.
Non-structural Cracks are typically narrower than 1/8” and don’t show up in a discernible pattern. They are usually more or less vertical and may seep water.
Structural cracks can compromise the stability of the entire home as they indicate that the wall has rotated inward due to settlement or lateral pressure from over-saturated soil. If left unrepaired, the wall will continue its inward movement until it separates from the structure above.
Non-structural cracks in concrete walls are the most common source of wet basements and can admit surprising amounts of water.
Repairing either of these cracks is essential for the health of the home.
Structural cracks are more complex and expensive to repair the more the wall has rotated so Elmhurst homeowners are well advised to act quickly. If the wall has moved less than 2” it can be stabilized permanently by applying super strong carbon fiber strips to the wall with industrial epoxy. Walls that have moved more can be stabilized by installing steel channel bars that are anchored top and bottom. Both methods are unobtrusive and can be covered by a normal stud wall if the basement is to be finished.
Non-structural cracks are best repaired by injecting them with expanding polyurethane that seals the crack all the way to the outside soil. The polyurethane remains flexible when it cures to prevent re-cracking from minor foundation movement.
Structural cracks must be handled by a qualified foundation repair contractor; non-structural cracks are a problem best solved by an experienced basement waterproofing company. At U.S. Waterproofing, our structural team uses engineering data to determine the best and most cost effective structural repairs and we rely on our 57 years of waterproofing experience to recommend the best method of fixing seeping cracks. Why not ask for our free advice?
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