Which Way Does Your Crack Run...

Home Builder with The Roofing Company, Inc.

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Original content by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc. TN Lic#050
Cracks! Some have large ones. Some are small. Some run horizontally while others run vertically. Some are okay while others can be real disastrous. Some are "V" shaped while some are stair stepped. No matter what direction your crack runs or how big or small it is, one thing can be said for certain, all houses have cracks...

While there are many schools of thought out there on how to look at cracks, and interpret them, the purpose on this crack primer is to paint with a broad brush in a general sense of the word how to read and interpret.

Small hairline horizontal or vertical cracks that run through drywall can generally be attributed to poor installation, or expansion/contraction of the siding especially if on an exterior wall that gets a lot of sun exposure. Cracks along vaulted roof lines or trey ceilings is common. These can also be caused by wood shrinkage over time. Get over it, it is going to happen. No house is perfect.

Diagonal cracks and sticky doors can come from the dreaded male wood shrinking phenomenon as it dries. More likely than not though, it is more likely to come from foundation settlement. If the house is fairly new, the possible causes is that the soil was not properly compacted before the foundation was laid. It generally takes anywhere from 5-10 years for a house to "settle in". If the house is older, it is also possible that the house has experienced some wood shrinkage or warpage in the framing materials. Because building methodologies were not what they are today, it is not uncommon to see floor joists "take a set" or become permanently bowed downward over time. You know how gravity works on body parts right? The same holds true for houses. What ever the case, when things start to sag, cracks develop..

Small stair hairline step or stepped cracks in concrete masonry unit walls if small can be considered "normal". These most likely are cause by minor foundation settlement, or mortar shrinkage. It is always best to monitor these for further development. Larger stair steps generally spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E. These are telling you that settlement or in cold weather areas upheaval of some type may be happening. These could be minor, however if the crack is large, 3/16th of an inch or more, further review by a specialist in the appropriate trade should be strongly considered.

Hairline cracks that are vertical or nearly vertical in masonry unit stem walls or poured concrete stem walls are areas that need to be monitored as external pressure of some type is being applied to the walls. Look down the wall, if you see a significant bowing or the crack is gaped, this may be a sign that hydraulic pressure is being applied. If the cracks are wide at the top and narrow or hairline at the bottom, it usually means that one or both ends of the foundation are dropping or rotating downward or the middle of the foundation is rising or heaving. Whichever the case, these are generally bad news and can be a sure sign of problems that need to be further reviewed by a professional in the appropriate trade.

While this primer did not take into consideration all the types of cracks that are out there, as there are many, the purpose was to inform you that cracks can be predictable or spell trouble, depending upon the circumstances. So when it comes to looking at and deciphering the language of cracks, it is best to leave this up to your home inspector. They have probably looked at more cracks than you have...

Wishing all my fellow drips and tweeps a G-r-r-r-reat day... 8-)

If you or someone you know is purchasing a home in Brentwood, Franklin, Nashville, Spring Hill or Thompson's Station in the Davidson or Williamson county area of Middle Tennessee and would like more information about getting a home inspection, give us a call at 615.661.0297. You can visit us online at www.completehomeinspectionsonline.com - Check out our monthly newletter
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© 2009 michael thornton | complete home inspections, inc. | brentwood, tn | 615.661.0297 | www.completehomeinspectionsonline.com

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Comments (4)

Gabrielle Kamahele Rhind
KGC Properties LLC, Tucson Property Management & Real Estate - Tucson, AZ

HI DAVID!  I have the last type of crack in my fence wall.  I kept saying "it looks bad" - now I know for sure. -- Gabrielle

Mar 06, 2009 05:52 AM
Claude Cross
Homes By Cross, Inc. - Charlotte, NC
Charlotte NC Homes For Sale

Fissures and cracks ...Hmmmm. Horizontal surfaces have definitions as well ..but I'm always confused as to when to describe them as cracks..like on driveways. This is why I always reccommend a qualified licensed inspector to assess ramifications.That way I don't try to do somebody else'e job with unqualified answers.

Good post !


Mar 08, 2009 12:30 PM
Regina P. Brown
MBA Broker Consultants - Carlsbad, CA
M.B.A., Broker, Instructor

David, good post on cracks.  Here in CA we do not have brick walls nor do we have many raised foundations, most are on concrete slabs.  So our houses are built differently than the mid-west, the south, and the east.  I do see a lot of foundation cracks because we have a lot of earth movement (aka earthquakes) in this area.  But most people don't see the foundation cracks until they remove the flooring.  Most of the time it doesn't affect the house at all.

Join my new AR group and post your blog at http://activerain.com/groups/virtualoffice

Regina P. Brown

Mar 08, 2009 05:17 PM
Tammy Lankford,
Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668 - Eatonton, GA
Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville

Well that healine caught my eye.  Great reblog, now I'm off to check out the original as you suggested.  Thanks for pointing him out. 

Mar 09, 2009 11:07 AM