Settling

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  #1  
Old 09-24-00, 08:47 AM
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Own a 1951 cape in Southwest Connecticut...

On the upper right hand corner of then entranceway to my kitchen it appears that there's some settling going on.

In other words, within the wall there's a crack goes in a diagonal direction from the upperhand right corner up toward the ceiling.

Any recommendations on patching this crack?

FYI - there's a similar crack on the opposite corner (it is diagonally based and goes in the opposite direction)

The hole thing kinda looks like this (looking through the entranceway):

\ /
\ /
crack---> \ / <---crack
\ /
______________
[ ]
[ ]
wall ---> [ ] <---wall
[ ]
[ ]

(Not drawn to scale
 
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  #2  
Old 09-24-00, 07:28 PM
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Newhomeowner:

Nice drawing. That's the first time I've seen one of those actually turn out the way it was intended.

That's not settling at all. The fact that the house has had 49 years to settle should tell you that.

What that is is frost heave. What happens is that when the ground freezes in the winter it expands as the temperature goes down to -4 degrees Celsius, and then contracts as the temperature goes below that.

That causes the foundation of your house to move up and down with the freezing ground, because the ground is probably frozen to the foundation.

If you have "teleposts" in the middle of your basement, they would have been poured on a separate foundation, and being below the frost line and heated by the house, they won't move up and down as much.

If the teleposts supporting the floors in the house don't move as the ground freezes and thaws, but the foundation does, the result will be that interior plaster walls will crack at their weakest point. Those cracks that you so skillfully drew are at the weakest point on that interior wall, aren't they? The wall is cracking there because the outsides are being lifted while the floor isn't being lifted the same amount.

Unfortunately, there's not a lot you can do about it. There was a web site I was at that advocated burying styrofoam insulation around the house in a horizontal orientation. The idea behind this is to actually insulate the ground below the insulation from the winter above it. Apparantly this works to some degree.

However, patching those walls will not solve the problem because when the ground freezes next winter and thaws next spring the cracks will simply open up at the same place.
 
  #3  
Old 09-25-00, 03:12 AM
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Thank you for the extensive information. Is there a short term fix to this problem? For example, should i just paint over the cracks each year or is there something I could fill them with prior to painting that might alleviate some of the cracks from showing so dramatically?

Thanks again.
 
  #4  
Old 09-25-00, 07:49 PM
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There really isn't a fix that I can recommend. I have heard of painters that will fill the cracks with caulking prior to painting if they're big, or just fill them with paint if they're small. The problem is that the house moves as the ground freezes, so to stop the cracks, you have to stop the house from moving, and that means stopping the ground from freezing, and that means stopping the world from turning.

I guess the best solution is not to invest a lot of time and effort repairing those cracks when they're only going to return in the same place. Also, some people decide they're going to fix the cracks and texture the wall to hide the lousy repair job they did. That only makes things worse because when the crack returns, then they have to figure out how to repair a textured crack. Sorry.
 
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