Masonry Chicago, IL: How to Avoid Unwanted Cracking
Since early in most modern civilization, using blocks to build impressive structures has been the go-to standard for both strength and efficiency in construction. They were easy to lay, cheap to make, and anyone with even the smallest level of skill could erect a monolith.
The great pyramids of Giza, the Colosseum in Rome, and even the ancient Mayan temples, all built by unskilled labor, but they also have one other thing in common, and that is they still stand to this day. What sets them apart, is not the hands that built them, but the details that allow them to continue to stand without deteriorating.
If you want your masonry walls to avoid deterioration and cracking, here is what you have to know:
- Settlement cracking is reasonably common, and is caused by the weight of the wall itself bearing down on the lower bricks. It can be fixed with minor cosmetic repairs, or replacement of the damaged bricks.
- Subsidence cracks are due to earth washed away or removed under the foundation of the building. Most often, fixing this situation is costly and difficult.
- Expansion cracks are caused when temperature or moisture allow the wall to expand and retract causing fissures, usually above door or window areas. They are fixable with a simple mastic or sealastic compound injected into the crack
- Ground heave cracks are the opposite of subsidence cracks, caused when the ground below a wall expands. This usually happens with clay below the foundation. To prevent the furtherance of cracking and structural degradation, removing the clay soil is the only viable course.
There are other factors that can cause a wall to crack, but the common thread leads back to how it was installed, and where. If in an area that gets both very hot and very cold, cracks are almost a guarantee. Adding the appropriate expansion materials will help, but a knowledge of how to fix these cracks is paramount, lest your masonry crumble.