How to Identify Minor and Major Structural Defects at Your Property

crack on the outter wall of a house

The best way to identify minor and major structural defects in a property is to get an inspection completed by a professional building inspector.

A building inspection can help assure you that you’re putting your money in the right place and give you peace of mind that there are no safety issues to worry about.

It will effectively assist you in identifying any major or minor defects in the building, and whether or not it will be worth your while.

Building defects need to be found before you purchase

It’s hard to find a property without any defects. Often, there are cosmetic imperfections that arise in any home that’s been lived in!

These things can be easily rectified however when more significant defects arise, it’s important to know whether they too can be easily repaired, if the damage is extensive or whether the structural integrity of the property is in question.

Below we explain the difference between a structural defect, major defect and minor defect, and how to identify them.

What is a structural defect?

Structural defects are defined as “a fault or deviation from the intended structural performance of a building element.” 

These defects are classified as ‘minor’ or ‘major’ defects and can include anything from cracks and wall dents, to more serious electrical or gas issues.

To help you identify minor and major structural defects at your property, below are some of the most commonly found defects in Australian homes.

What is a major structural defect?

A major defect is damage or inconsistency in any of the major components or a major elements of a building.

It is likely to render a facility unusable for its intended purpose, and can even cause destruction or collapse of all or some part of the building.

The defect can result from a defective design, faulty construction, and materials or failure to comply with the National Construction Code.

What are the major structural elements of a building?

A building’s major elements are load-bearing components such as:

  • foundations;
  • footings;
  • floors;
  • walls;
  • beams
  • joints;
  • pads
  • load-bearing floor slab;
  • piles;
  • braces;
  • rafters;
  • plates;
  • columns;
  • roof trusses;
  • fire safety systems;
  • waterproofing.

Examples of major defects:

  • Cracks and damages in the foundation (substructure)
  • Cracks and damages in floors and slabs (superstructure)
  • Cracks and damages in walls (superstructure)

Major structural defect

What constitutes a minor building defect?

Minor defects are small and rather simple damages that can affect how a building looks or functions without compromising the integrity of the structure. These may include blemishes, thin cracks, corrosion, wall dents, general deterioration, and uneven finishes.

A minor defect doesn’t always need to be remedied right away but it is essential to be identified upon inspection so maintenance work can be planned. An inspector must include any minor defects in the report even if they don’t pose a safety risk.

Common structural defects

Knowing how to categorise structural defects will help you make better decisions when purchasing a property. In addition to helping you estimate the cost of future repairs, identifying building defects can help prevent tragedies.

Also read: When To Walk Away From A Property

Exposed gaps between walls (internal and external)

Gaps between walls are commonly caused by sagging floor joints due to the large distance between the supporting pillars or termite infestation. Wall gaps can also be the result of a faulty foundation in which the ground moves and affects the house’s entire structure.

Wall and ceiling cracks

Cracks on the walls and on the ceiling are not always serious but they always merit a closer inspection by a professional. If you start seeing cracks on the walls or ceiling, take note if it gets worse over time.

Uneven floors

This kind of construction flaw varies in severity and doesn’t always require immediate action. Uneven flooring can be the result of improper construction or improper settling of the foundation. A professional contractor’s expertise is needed to resolve the issue. Other possible causes for uneven floors are cracked floor joints, termites, and insufficient sub-floors.

uneven floors - structural defects

Warped ceilings

Multiple cracks, warped and sagging ceilings, or damaged cornices are usually caused by rainwater sitting on the ceiling wall. This can be due to a damaged roof or gutter. This type of structural damage requires immediate attention to prevent further deterioration.

Read more about How Cleaning Your Gutters Can Save You Money

Crumbling concrete

Crumbling concrete (also known as concrete spalling) can be caused by a number of things. However, one of the most common reasons for this structural defect is exposure to moisture.

Exposure to moisture and chemicals (like salts and chloride) can cause a chemical reaction in the concrete. This will cause crystals to grow and expand, and ultimately destroy the bond between the materials.

Often, mortar erosion is seen in the lower portion of the brickwork below the damp coarse or waterproofing membrane. This indicates that further issues need to be identified.

This is similar to concrete cancer which refers to the spreading and worsening of concrete spalling


Timber pests and termites may be small but the damage they can cause in your house can be enormous. They are fond of the wet foundations, damp floors, and moist crawlspaces your house can offer. These conditions may be caused by leaking taps, broken pipes, water tanks, or other plumbing issues.

These critters can destroy any wood elements in the structure, including pillars and walls. Any sign of termite infestation must therefore be taken seriously.

Also read: Does My Home Have Termites?

termite infestation

Have your property professionally inspected

In order to properly assess the damages in a building that you are planning to buy, it’s best to book a professional pre-purchase building inspection to detect any major defects.

A qualified building inspector will be thorough in examining the damages and their detailed building inspection report will provide you with an honest assessment of the property’s condition and value, and can save you thousands of dollars in the long run.

To ensure your property has no structural defects, let Inspect My Home help you with your pre-purchase building inspection. We provide building and pests inspection services in QLD, NSW, and Western Australia.

Call us today at 1300 337 447 or book your inspection online.

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