Vertical crack with leak in cinder block foundation wall


I am new to this message board and looking for some advice. I am looking at purchasing a home and in taking photos of the home I realized that in the basement there is a noticeable crack in the cinder block foundation. I definitely plan to have a proper inspection of the home, but was hoping to get some insight and a second opinion.

The crack appears to be slightly wider near the top than bottom, it spans several feet, but doesnt appear to go to the top of the wall. There appears to be staining near the bottom of the crack as if water has leaked through.

The house is on a hill and the side of the house left of the crack in the photo is on the downslope of a hill.

The home was built in 1925 and is located in New Jersey.

Thank you for any help you can offer, photo attached.

Start with a proper home inspection. I can’t begin to come to any conclusions based on one photo, plus a typical consultation on foundation cracks involves a discussion of the client’s own tolerance of the potential future scenarios (maintenance, monitoring, etc). It could have happened 5 years ago, or during construction 86 years ago. One photo won’t tell the story.

And to top if off, there is such a thing as allowable settlement, and standards exist whereby cracks are graded in severity according to their physical characteristics. And some structures are more tolerant to settlement than others.

Here are some good resources for foundation cracks:
Forensic Geotechnical and Foundation Engineering, Day
Geotechnical and Foundation Engineering: Design and Construction, Day

With that said, my general comment here is that you should communicate your concerns to the inspector or engineer that you hire. Have a discussion and communicate your position and concerns, along the lines of one or more of the following (and this isn’t a complete list):

  1. I don’t want to buy something that ends up sliding down the hill.
  2. I can live with cracks, as long as it doesn’t end up progressing into a train wreck.
  3. I can’t live in a house with cracks.
  4. I see the cracks, why are they there, and I want you to tell me if this is going to be a problem, and how much will that problem cost.

The unfortunate side of this is that no one will have 100% of the information. It will be an assessment of conditions at the time of the inspection. And information on the level of compaction of the soil, design of the footer, quality of materials and methods, etc, won’t be completely known.

Good response Darren.
Also a crack in that location could simply have been caused by weakening the wall switching from 12" blocks to 8" blocks and the window above.
Full evaluation of the exterior foundation and landscape would be in order to speculate what caused it.
The crack could have evolved early in the first year of construction also.
Too many variables to the cause of the crack and from just a picture as was said.
Then of course, I am not a big advocate on block foundations, unless properly built. :mrgreen::wink:

Is that a radon mitigation vent in the left of the picture?

All concrete cracks … but different cracks mean different things

If it’s really a concern hire a home inspector that is also a structural engineer who can do an evaluation … it will usually cost more, but may be worth it to you.

That it does Robert. :slight_smile:

Thank you for your responses, I have an inspector going in there tomorrow. The home is exactly what I wanted, but now along with the active underground oil tank, this crack and leak makes me a bit weary of it …

Marcel, with regards to your mention of radon mitigation vent, is that something positive or negative? Apologies for my ignorance, much of this is a new world to me :o

Thank you all again

Had the inspection today… The inspector noted the crack and leak/moisture on the bottom of the crack.He also noted that the left side of the house, which sits on a steep downslope has settled down lower than the right side, you can see this in the photos below, which has made the house lean slightly. He mentioned that the crack was painted over and the paint did not look fresh and has not cracked which may imply that it is not recent.

He also noted that one of the main beams has dropped off the foundation and has sagged down (same side of the house on the downslope. Please take a look at the below photos I took. Any feedback/comments are very welcome… The inspector recommended sealing the crack from the outside to prevent moisture from entering and recommended putting a support pole to add support for the sagging beam.

Wall on left is on the downslope, note the tilt in the wall at the junction of the crack:

Here is the main beam that sags down, the right in this picture corresponds to the left in previous (the wall with crack is where i took the photo from)

Beam where it meets the foundation wall, it is not supporting on the foundation:

Thank you all!

I see some angular displacement of the foundation in the photos, with what appears to be a displaced beam (apparently due to the angular displacement of the foundation). I’m certainly not going to say everything is hunky dory, but it’s a good example of an 86 year old wood frame structure’s tolerance to foundation movement.

There are buildings in Europe that look like funhouses, with much worse issues, that have been standing for centuries. One of my favorites is a place called the Crooked House Pub, near Birmingham, UK. Way back when, they dug a coal mine under the town, and the building started sliding into it. 150 years later, it’s still standing (but at a pretty good tilt). However, it took some mitigation work to save it. I’m not saying at all that this is the future of the home you’re looking at. I am saying that mitigation of pretty bad situations is possible.

It sounds like you truly like the home. My advice to you is to find out as much as you can regarding the foundation issue and the surrounding soils. Get as complete a picture as you can, one that you totally understand and trust. Pop for an engineer to look at it. Then get a good idea of what the cost would be to mitigate it, and work that into your decision making. Talk to the neighbors. They probably have issues as well. Go to the town and check permit records. Maybe work has already been done (it certainly looks like something has been done). Also keep in mind that you can mitigate it now, and if it’s not done properly, you might have to return to the issue at some point.

If the home was built in 1925, most where stone or brick foundations. The pictures appears to be an addition, perhaps two with the improper block stack. Here in KC, concrete blocks were not used for foundations until WWII.

That crack is a warning to have an evaluation done.
In my opinion CMI Cement Masonry Units where not meant for underground foundation placement. They do not provide the same amount of protection as a monolithic pour of concrete.
That being said.
Under certain conditions CMU’s can last a long time.
A proper barrier in place and proper drainage.
Footing dainage.
Dimple board for foundations.
Geo fabric as a barrier before land or back-fill.
Maintenance. Drainage checked tri-yearly by a drainage professional.

I see a lateral load and or uplift .
Suspect Uplift.
Recommend a structural engineer or foundation specialist to report on the issue…

It seems to be leaking or wicking moisture. ( paint scaling )
The crack is uniform not at the butt joints or masonry and straight up and down. ( that is my observation )
It looks like it has had a repair.
I suspect lift.
The CMU’s size change may be where the unit ( foundation ) is exposed to the land, at grade.
Ether way, changing from one size to another should not allow for load bearing deferential to crack in that manner. It would put horizontal pressure to lean outwards on the footer slightly if not centered. ( my opinion )( no evidence )
Vertical cracks in CMI’s can be caucused by load, lift and settlement.
The top being wider will mean lift.
If the bottom is wider then settlement maybe the cause.
With horizontal ( side loading ) la tendency for serpentine cracking and bulging inward, being a basement. Staggered to one side and carry for xx number of feet at first.

• Foundation wall cracks that are of uniform width – As this implies that the footing is broken, this poses a major risk that cannot be ignored and must be dealt with as soon as possible.
Foundation cracks mean different thing and you must be a seasoned inspector to know what is happening, or trained in foundation repair.