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Cracking in houses, when do I need to worry?

Australia has been experiencing one of the worst droughts in history, causing more and bigger cracking in houses than has been seen previously.

When you first notice a crack, it might not seem like much. Before too long, that annoying little crack creeps further and widens becoming concerning.

Depending on the size of the crack and where it is, it can indicate different things. However, all cracks need to be taken seriously. It is very common to notice cracking in houses during a building inspection.  Cracks can often be seen in flooring (particularly garage floors that are uncovered), walls, fences, and driveways.

In this blog we will discuss the causes of cracks what they mean for your property.

1)    Cracking in houses and hot, dry weather

Most house cracks are caused because of the ground under the foundation shifting.

This shifting is commonly caused by soil drying out and contracting, which moves the house footing. Often, this movement is uneven, and this is what causes cracks and fissures.

The type of soil your house is built om matters greatly.

Clay soils are slow to absorb water, while sand and loam absorb water quickly.

As such clay soils are more prone to shrinkage due to lack of moisture, so cracks happen more often in houses built on clay.

cracking in houses

An example of a large crack in a brick wall.

2)  Cracking in houses and moist soil

Heavy rainfall and other sources of water can also cause soil to shift.

As soils such as sand and loam are quick to absorb water, they are quick to expand because of rainfall.

This shifting can also cause cracking in houses.

Quick changes from dry and hot weather to cold and damp weather can exacerbate this process and make cracks even worse.

3)     Other effects of water

Heavy rainfall, surface run-off, excessive use of garden sprinklers and leaky downpipes can cause soil to wash away from the foundation of your home, causing your home to shift.

As the house shifts due to changes in the soil, cracks may appear.

cracking in houses

An example of water leakage in a wooden deck. Water leakages around the home can cause cracks in floors and walls.

4)     Trees and shrubs

The roots of trees and shrubs located around your property draw moisture away from the foundations of your home.

The way tree roots draw moisture away from the foundations causes soil shrinkage and therefore, cracks.

Conversely, removing tree roots will cause the soil to reabsorb lost moisture, causing soil to expand and creating movement.

5)     Cracking in houses caused by vibrations

Houses can also move and shift because of nearby ground vibrations caused by nearby construction and heavy traffic.

These vibrations can move the foundation of your home and cause cracks.

6)     Uneven settlement

If a house is built on uneven ground, as it settles this can cause stress on the structure will quickly cause cracks.

Generally, this problem occurs in newly build properties, however it can also occur when a new extension is added to a home.

cracking in houses

An example of a settlement crack in the ceiling of a home.

7)     Cracks as the building ages

As your home ages, it will adjust to environmental conditions which will result in shrinkage and warping, which can cause cracks.

8)     Poor structural design

Structural design can influence the rate at which the house cracks, particularly if the design is poor or has significant faults.

Insufficient bracing and support can cause movement while the concrete is green, resulting in cracks.

The removal or cutting of too much wall framing can also result in sagging and cracking.

Inadequate protective covering against heat on the roof can cause heat to warp the house, particularly if the building has a metal frame.

9)     Cracks in driveways

Driveways often become cracked because heavy vehicles drive on them, day after day.

Over time, this causes the concrete to crack and buckle.

cracking in houses

A crack in a driveway.

10)  House cracks in vacant homes

If you leave a house unoccupied for too long, this can result in cracks in both the ceiling and the walls.

This is because that when people are home, they will always be adjusting the temperature of the building to ensure comfort.

However, when no one is at home, the building can become very hot, very quickly. This extreme temperature can cause cracks.

During particularly hot summers, residents can leave for two weeks and return to find large cracks in the wall.

How to find cracking in houses

If you are concerned about cracks, you can engage a building inspector or engineer for more information.

They can conduct pre-purchase and pre-sale building inspections, dilapidation reports, new construction reports, as well as renovation reports.

Building reports examine faults around in and around the property including cracks.

Dilapidation reports look at the condition of the building prior to renovation work and then examines if any damage because of construction. This is particularly helpful to determine cracks caused by vibrations.

New construction reports examine the quality of newly built homes, including whether any cracks have formed due to settlement or poor construction.

Renovation reports will inform you what parts of your home are structurally safe and which parts should not be touched.

Cracking in houses can become a major issue if left unaddressed, so do not leave it until it is too late.

 

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