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These serious cracks form when the foundation moves or some extraordinary force reacts with the masonry. A vertical crack going through brickwork or stone (instead of following the joint lines) is usually a sign of a settlement crack.
Staircase cracks are relatively common. They follow the lines of the mortar beds in a zig-zag, or staircase, pattern. They usually originate from corners of windows and doors because these are the weakest areas of the wall. They typically aren’t as serious as settlement cracks because masonry, when strained too much, is designed to be broken along the joints.
These are the most common type of crack. Almost every building that has stood for an Ottawa winter has some. When moisture gets inside the edges of the brick, it freezes and thaws to create tiny cracks along the bedlines of the brick.