Now that we're heading towards Winter and colder temperatures, a good home maintenance project for all homeowners out there is to find -- and most importantly, seal! -- all cracks in your home so that you can more efficiently and effectively keep your home warm and dry in the upcoming months. Cracks can show up outside on your home's foundation or driveway/sidewalks and also on the interior of your home on the walls and ceiling.
Foundation cracks are common, and all houses have at least a few that occur as the concrete shrinks and settles during the building process. Hairline cracks that show up at the mortar between concrete blocks are generally not serious. The same is true for cracks that occur in an L-shaped section of a foundation (i.e., as a foundation steps down to follow a hillside). These typically show up as the concrete shrinks when curing and do not represent a structural problem. Larger cracks can occur due to shrinking and expanding that happens with moisture and temperature changes, but they can also be indicative of a more serious issue with your foundation, so it's best to err on the side of caution and consult a structural engineer if your foundation shows lots of large cracks.
Now, for the fun part -- how can you properly seal all of the cracks in your
foundation?! For most cracks, a concrete vinyl patch (found at your local home improvement store) is your best bet. Your first step is to clean the crack and the area around it really well. Next, you'll mix the vinyl patch material with water or latex until it reaches the consistency of a thin paste, spray the crack with water, and fill the crack with the patching material using a trowel. Finally, you can smooth the surface out with your trowel until the crack is no longer visible. Larger cracks (greater than 1/4" wide) that don't represent a structural foundation issue can be filled with a latex or polyurethane caulk.
The process for filling in cracks in your driveway is very similar. Although these are typically just a cosmetic issue, they are a bit of an eyesore and do bother some
homeowners. Small cracks that are smaller than 1/2" can be filled with a driveway crack filler -- again, found at your local home improvement store. Larger cracks will require the use of a driveway patch and a trowel. Once you have repaired all cracks in your driveway and in your home's foundation, it's time to start on cracks that you see on the interior of your home. Cracks that you see in the walls of your home -- especially those found over windows and doors -- can have many causes, but the most common is simply the settling of your home and foundation over time. If this is the case, an easy fix is to re-tape the cracks and then splash a coat of paint on top. Thin, straight cracks on the walls are often the result of a bad taping job. If the walls were not properly taped when you house was built, the tape can begin to pull away from wall and create a small, straight crack. In this situation, it is sometimes possible to fix a small crack by squirting a small bit of glue behind it and pressing until it adheres to the wall and mud behind it. Another option is to re-tape the seams where the cracks appear. This is a more permanent fix and will prevent the problem from cropping up again in the future. Larger, diagonal, jagged cracks generally indicate a larger problem and warrant a call to a structural engineer.
With a little bit of home maintenance knowledge and TLC, you'll have your home's cracks filled and sealed in no time. Not only will this improve your home's appearance; it will also increase the efficiency of your home and leave you warmer -- and drier -- all Winter long!