Question from Newbie re: break in corner of poured concrete foundation

Hi folks,

First, thanks to all in advance for taking the time to respond to this question. I am brand new to the forum, and hope that I am posting this question in the right area. Anyway, here it goes…

We own a two-story, 25-year old saltbox colonial on a poured concrete foundation (with full basement). Last fall, a fairly large ‘chunk’ of concrete fell off of the rear corner of our foundation (looked lie a pie wedge, with the largest area being approximately 4-5 inches long, 2-3 inches deep). I found it laying on the ground while gardening. Fast forward several few months, and it appears that the same thing is now occurring in the opposite corner of the house, to the front of the property (though, not quite as big as the other break). So, I had a ‘moment,’ :shock: then decided to call a structural engineer to have a look. He tells me this is not a structural issue and not to be concerned. Great, but here’s the but…I continue to see evidence of some further breakage in one of the areas.

Not sure what, if anything, to do at this juncture. If I had 50K kicking around to fix foundation issues, no big deal. Unfortunately, that is not the case. I know in talking to other contractors who have been to the house, several building shortcuts were taken (always nice to find that out after purchasing a home). I am hoping the foundation was not one of those shortcuts.

Looking to the experts on the forum for advice and possible solutions.

Again, thanks in advance!

You already had an engineer look at it, so thats good. Concrete edges, particularly at corners, can be weak. It shouldn’t be a big deal for a foundation contractor to chip out and patch those areas. And have him sound out the other corners while he is there.

Thank you very much, Robert. My concern was/is that nothing is now ‘holding up’ that edge of the house (since the break is at the very top of the foundation). I’m just wondering how much of these corners can break away before it becomes a real structural issue???

I want to do what is right for the house, and also what is honest. We do want to sell the house eventually and I do not want someone else to inherit a problem.

Thanks, again.

Like Robert said, have a reputable Foundation Contractor make needed repairs and inspect the integrity of the overall foundation system.

Thanks to both of you. Can you recommend a resource(s) for me to locate an honest, reputable foundation repair contractor? We are located in Massachusetts. Short of looking for one in the yellow pages, I would not know where to begin.


Read this previous post:

That’s in Members Only Randy.

Maybe David can help you, contact him.

I am doing something I said I would not.
You have to be a bit more descriptive.
Any foundation cracks around that area?
Any cracks period?
Downspouts at those corners?
Get back to me if you are answering yes to any of these questions.
For your downspouts-** Run extensions 8 to 10 feet away from the home.**
I have seen and repaired what you are describing.
Pie shaped wedged that have fallen away from foundations.

It can be settlement displacing itself over a weakened parts of the foundation. The exterior or outer corners.
The displacement of the home is focused over the weakest part of the foundation, the outside corner that has or is not perfectly leveled when the pour was completed.
Make sure your land slopes away from the foundation. They say 1" inch for 6 ’ of run I say more. I like 2" inches for ten feet of run.
I bet you have your downspouts at the corners.

Hi Robert,

Thanks for taking the time to reply to my post. To answer your questions:

Any foundation cracks around that area? Not in that area.
Any cracks period? Yes, a 1/4 inch vertical crack on the opposite side of the house.
Downspouts at those corners? Yes, a downspout in two corners, with a five-foot extension. One corner with a break does not have a downspout located there. For a period of years (15 +) there were no gutters or downspouts on the house. We installed them after we moved in (10 yrs ago).

There is also concrete that is broken away in two other corners of the foundation (one is pie shaped, the other is not). Only one corner of the house has no evidence of breakage or damage.

Get back to me if you are answering yes to any of these questions.
For your downspouts-** Run extensions 8 to 10 feet away from the home.**

Hi Robert,

This reply may post in duplicate, so I apologize if that happens. Thank you very much for responding to my post. Responses to your questions are below:

Any foundation cracks around that area? Not in the area of the largest break.
Any cracks period? Yes, one. A 1/4 inch vertical crack in the foundation wall, opposite side of the house.
Downspouts at those corners? Yes, at two of the corners, with a five-foot extension. (I don’t know if this is important, but for 15+ years, the home had no gutters. Gutters were installed shortly after we moved in to the home, 10 years ago.) There are three corners in total with a concrete break. Two are at the very corner of the foundation. One is not quite on the corner, but close to, along the top of the foundation edge. The fourth edge does not appear to have any breaks or cracks. I see no other evidence of concrete breaks or spalling. Some efflorescense (sp?) in the basement.

I’m also fairly certain the property is not properly graded. The entire lot is extremely flat. Admittedly, we were young and a bit naive when we purchased the property. We had no indication at the time that anything may be wrong. We trusted what we were told.

Effervescence is the tell tale sign of a wet foundation and more prone to breaking.
Even if your downspouts are 5 feet away with the lot graded reversed pitched you are asking for a costly repair.
Call a plumber or seasoned home inspector that can video your french drain.
Its time to get the kids, kids friends, your friends or a company to grade your land properly.
They say 1" in six’. !" inch rise for 6’ feet of run but its a bit more complicated than that.

It depends on where your home in situated on the land.
You have all the indications of a damp foundation.

They have french drains and basement water problems?

Sometimes french drains that are block cause damp basement and even water infiltration. When there is effervescence you know its time to act…
Here is an inspect last month from land that was sloped in reverse.
I have more photos.
All the downspout and the lands grading caused this problem. Actually no maintenance was the cause.
Now you know why I do not like posting answers to questions that have so many possibility’s.

I will go back and remove that post.

The french drain will tell you a lot about the health of the system Mr.O’connor. ( if you can access it and if there is one ) I have never seen a home without a water drainage or movement system.
I have done this for 12 plus years now. I use to charge $250. dollars. You get a VHS back then and now a DVD or CD.
I do not know what to charge and have yet to implemented it into my inspection packages…
Hard to understand a client on the message board and no photos for hypothesis.

Hi folks,

Just to clarify, we do not have a french drain in our basement. We have a sump pump only. There is efflorescence along the lowest part of the wall in the basement (along several feet). I have also seen evidence of water coming in through a few ties holes (that is what I believe they are called) in the basement. We have had some issues with slight standing water (usually after a period of days with very heavy rain). I asked the SE if this would amount to a structural issuse and he said no. He did recommend putting extensions on our downspouts, and we did do that.

I’m sure the grading of the land is not helping matters. Further, I have no idea if the breakage in the corners of the foundation is water related or not.

I do intend to contact David, as suggested above, to have a foundation repair specialist come to the house. My concern is that we are not rich people and I can only hope that whoever comes to the house is honest about what needs to be done, as opposed to lining pockets. Unfortunately, we have been burned one too many times in the past.

Not all houses are built with drainage systems (exterior foundation drains or interior french drains), and current US construction standards only require foundation drains if there are poor soil conditions. Some designers, including me, believe that installing foundation drains with good soil conditions actually draws water towards foundations. Local construction in your area may differ.

All basements will leak a little. But I just didn’t see any reference to basement water penetration problems or french drains for the original poster.

Thankful Mr. O’Connor for catching my 2 mistakes. I am in Canada. I am using. Montreal preferences which I will make note next time.
Thank you.

This is new and a rarity in Montreal from my knowledge.
Interior basement drainage ( under slab ) from hydrostatic pressure.
It is catching on in the foundation industry this year. Cheaper than full exterior drainage.I see more advertisement.
I wonder about the exterior lateral forced and wet foundation though.
Can discus that on another thread.
I bumped into interior basement drainage 2 years year ago doing a estimate for window sills. ( still doing HI studies at the time although not as intense as the past 20 months.
The inspector conclusions where questionable for the recommendation.
They ripped out 60 thousand dollars worth of 5/4 classic oak panel to find a leak.
My jaw hit the floor.
The home owner used the same agent and inspector all 5 times for all 5 homers in the past 7 years…
PS: all homes had problems. The owner was forthcoming and naive…
My jaw hit the floor.
PS, PS. They have money.:mrgreen:
So does the agent and is well known for selling property.
At it for 25 plus years.
That’s why I am here Mr.O’conner.
Your help helps me and I in-turn I might help someone.
Thanks really.:slight_smile:


Does your foundation corner look like the first two attached photos?

If, so this is caused by expansion of the brick veneer. Brick expands due to heat and/or moisture but the concrete foundation doesn’t expand as much. This difference builds up stress in the concrete foundation because the brick is basically glued to the foundation with mortar. I ran a computer simulation (third picture) which shows the stress build up at the corner of the concrete foundation shown in red. Concrete typically can withstand a large load in compression, for example 3000 psi. However concrete is weak in tension, typically the tension strength is only 10% of the compression strength. So in this example 300 psi, which is why the corner of the foundation is easily broke off by the forces induced by the brick expansion.