Cracks in Walls: When to Worry

vertical crack in wall

Cracks on your walls can be more than just unsightly; they may also signify potential threats to the safety and structural integrity of your home if left untreated. While some minor cracks are superficial and be easily fixed, others could indicate more serious underlying problems such as structural damage, including subsidence and compromised foundations.

Understanding the various types of cracks and their causes is crucial for homeowners to determine when to take action:

Types of Cracks in Walls

Multiple, Large Cracks: Hairline horizontal cracks or superficial cracks are less concerning compared to multiple, large cracks. If you notice several significant cracks, whether vertically, horizontally, or ‘stepped,’ it often signals a foundation subsidence issue requiring immediate attention. Larger cracks wider than 5mm should always be examined by a professional.

Doors and Window cracks: Difficulty in opening or closing doors and windows could indicate foundation issues. Additionally, hairline cracks around these openings might signal subsidence that requires remediation.

Vertical Cracks: Vertical cracks commonly appear in newly plastered walls as the plaster dries and settles, especially in new properties. Avoid immediate filing or repainting as more cracks may emerge. It’s advisable to wait until the plaster fully dries before taking action. However, if these cracks exceed 25mm, it could indicate a more severe underlying issue requiring immediate attention.

Diagonal Cracks: Diagonal cracks or jagged cracks resembling a staircase pattern on your wall should not be overlooked. These cracks often stem from structural movement and might indicate significant problems. Seeking expert assessment is crucial as they could signal hidden issues requiring immediate attention.

Also read: How to Identify Minor and Major Structural Defects

Window crack

Causes of Cracks in Walls

Understanding this diverse range of factors that can contribute to wall cracks is essential for homeowners.

Construction and Earthworks

Proximity to ongoing construction, heavy machinery, or earthworks, such as road extensions, can cause ground vibrations leading to wall cracking. In areas prone to seismic activity, tremors or earthquakes can cause substantial structural movement, resulting in visible wall cracks.

Soil and Environmental Factors

Extreme changes in climate, including prolonged periods of drought followed by heavy rainfall, can cause clay soil to shrink and expand, exerting pressure on the structure and potentially leading to cracking. Water damage can stem from various sources such as clogged gutters, flooding, garden sprinklers, as well as blocked or leaking pipes. These issues can result in wall cracks and have the potential to saturate or even erode the soil.

Properties built on reactive soils, like clay, can experience substantial movement as these soils expand when moist and contract when dry. Inadequate drainage leading to water accumulation around the property can also contribute to soil instability and subsequent wall cracks.

Vacant Homes

Is your home frequently empty—maybe a vacation spot, rental, or a property that took a while to sell? If so, cracks in walls and ceilings might start showing up. Homes need consistent climate control to keep drywall intact. When left vacant, lack of control leads to drywall cracks. For minor cracks, retape and repaint. But for long-term vacancies, a thorough inspection, including the foundation by a professional, is wise.

Structural Issues and Poor Maintenance

Improperly compacted or settled foundations over time can cause shifts in the structure, leading to visible cracks in walls. Minor settling is common, but significant subsidence can compromise the integrity of the property.Faulty building materials, under-engineered footings, or flawed construction practices may contribute to the emergence of wall cracks.

Termite Damage 

Damage caused by termites, foundation settling, and issues with plumbing represent frequent reasons we encounter.

Termites sustain themselves by consuming wood, leading to visible cracks in ceilings and walls during an infestation. These fissures typically manifest on wooden beams or boards close to ground level, as well as the beams situated amidst roof rafters.

Also read: Three Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Termite Infestation

Natural Causes and Tree Impact

Trees planted too close to the property can exert pressure on the foundation, extracting moisture from the soil and causing it to shrink, potentially leading to cracks. Removing large trees nearby might also destabilise the soil and cause settlement.

Severe storms, high winds, or hail can directly impact the structure, causing damage that may lead to cracks, especially if not promptly addressed.

Will My Building Insurance Cover Cracks?

Small, cosmetic cracks due to property settling or plaster drying are generally not covered by home insurance, classified as ‘wear and tear.’ However, cracks caused by an escape of water might be claimable under the ‘escape of water’ clause.

Subsidence claims could result in increased premiums and difficulty in obtaining future home insurance.

Contact Inspect My Home and Book an Inspection

Ignoring serious cracks can lead to exacerbation of structural issues, potentially decreasing property value and posing safety risks.

Seeking professional guidance from experts like Inspect My Home is recommended to accurately diagnose the cause and severity of cracks. Professional building inspection reports help in determining the appropriate remedial actions to ensure the structural integrity and safety of your property.

Don’t let cracks compromise your home’s safety or value. Contact Inspect My Home today by calling 1300 337 447 for expert guidance on addressing minor cracking before they escalate into larger structural issues.

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