Finding cracks in your house can be alarming. In most cases, however, it is a simple case of ‘settlement’ (i.e. as the house settles into place in its environment). That said, subsidence cracks are not quite so benign, so it’s important to know what you’re dealing with when cracks in house walls show up. Usually, a Building Survey or HomeBuyer Survey will be able to detect any potential problems, such as subsidence cracks, before you buy.
What causes cracks on walls?
It is important to note that many houses get cracks in the walls at some point. There are a number of possible causes, including:
- Road traffic vibrations if the property is near a busy road
- Temperature changes and humidity fluctuations in older properties
- Foundations settling (often on new build properties and extensions)
- Lack of supporting lintel on timber window frames which have been replaced with uPVC double glazing
- Hairline cracks can appear on newly plastered walls as they dry
All houses shift slowly over time. Cracks in internal walls of a house are not uncommon. Hairline cracks around doors and windows are usually down to this shifting and ‘settling’, particularly as these tend to be the weakest areas on a wall.
New build properties are notorious for cracks in house walls, and this is often down to the new lumber used to build the house. This lumber has naturally high moisture levels, so as it dries out it can experience slight movement. It takes about a year for this wood to completely dry out, so if you have cracks in a new build property, it is advised that you give it a year before repairing any cracks.
Interestingly, if you have left the house vacant for a few months or more, cracks in the house walls are natural. This is because, when you are living in the property you are controlling the temperature. Without climate control, expansion and contraction of the drywall can occur. Don’t worry though, these cracks can be simply retaped and painted.
When is a crack in a wall serious?
If you spot cracks in a house which are over 25 millimetres wide, it is likely to be a serious problem. They could be subsidence cracks, indicating the house and its foundations are sinking, or they could indicate structural damage. In both these instances, major work will be required to fix the problem.
While cracks in the internal walls of a house are often harmless, indicating one of the issues we talked about above, they can sometimes be a sign of structural movement. If the cracks in a house run diagonally and are jagged, or are vertical and wider at top or bottom, it is time to engage the services of a chartered surveyor to assess the problem.
A big cause for concern is if you can see right through the crack to the outdoors. This is a sure-fire sign of subsidence.
Are structural cracks covered by insurance?
Insurance policies differ, so it is important to check what is and isn’t covered before taking out the policy. Often, a building insurance policy will cover some of the damage caused by subsidence cracks and ground heave but if the subsidence is caused by the materials used in the foundations or if the foundations don’t comply with Building Regulations, you could be out of pocket. Also, naturally occurring cracks due to settling are unlikely to be covered.
A qualified Chartered Surveyor will also be able to provide a fully accurate valuation of the property, to avoid you falling prey to property underinsurance, which – in the event of a serious structural issue – could be very costly.
This is why you should always engage a chartered surveyor before purchasing a property. While not all cracks in walls can be predicted, more serious issues can be identified early on, ensuring you aren’t left with a hefty bill and an unsafe property further down the road.
Whether you are considering a new property purchase or have concerns about cracks in your property, engaging the services of Robinson Elliott Chartered Surveyors is a good course of action.
With extensive experience in all types of property and areas in the South East of England, an assessment and Building Survey or HomeBuyer Report from us is the best way to ensure your property is safe and in a good state of repair for the long term.
Want to find out more? Get in touch with Robinson Elliott Chartered Surveyors today to discuss your concerns or requirements.