Has anyone else experienced this in the Midwest with the heavy winter. Just about every window has a crack coming from the corner on the wall. Anyone dealt with this? I think the previous owner did some bandaids before. Any help is appreciated.
Cracks like that are typically a sign of foundation settling. Here in Kansas City it's actually been really dry (in spite of the winter snows) so a lot of the problems are from the soil drying out and shrinking from the foundation, removing the support from the sides and bottom. Too-wet weather can cause problems too as the soil swells and pushes in on the foundation and up from the bottom. I'd examine the cracks really closely. Probe just inside the crack with a piece of wire and see if it's any wider in the middle of the sheetrock. That could indicate it's a bigger problem that's been patched over. If the crack is bigger than about 1/2" or if doors are sticking I'd have the foundation checked.
I second @Jim Viens post. Another thing to consider is whether you have a monolithic slab foundation. If you have a monolithic slab where you have a two- or three-foot frost depth requirement, then the cold is getting to the soil under the foundation. The soil freezes, expands, and causes the same type of deformation as a settlement issue. This is a big thing to look for while checking the foundation as Jim recommends.
6 out of 10 houses I look at in the Kansas City area have foundation issues of some kind. We have invested in the equipment and materials required to repair most problems before we wholesale a property. South KC is the worst area in my experience
This kind of cracking is very common in areas with clay soils under the foundation. I have seen it in the Dallas, TX area. The changes in water saturation and temperature throughout the year makes the foundation heave and settle, if only by a fraction. Foundation repair with pilings driven into the ground at intervals around the foundation can solve the problem, but if the cracks are only small and superficial and the home is more than 50 years old, it might not make sense to spend the bucks. Foundation repair can cost easily $10K to $40K, depending on size and scope of the work.
At minimum, make sure that the exterior grading and gutter downspouts drain water away from the house. Also, fill the cracks with a flexible, siliconized, paintable caulk, instead of plaster.
Hope that helps!
I knew an inspector once on a house foundation in the basement. The wall had a small crack in it. The inspector said instead of measuring the crack for movement you could just put up a small piece of glass and if the wall moved further over time it would crack.
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