If you notice a crack in your ceiling or wall start to appear it is perfectly understandable that you might start to panic and think the worst, but it doesn’t always mean that your foundation is crumbling, although you would do well to investigate the problem straight away.
Here is a look at some of the common causes of these cracks and when to take what you are seeing as a serious warning.
There is an overview of the different types of cracks and what they are telling you about the state of your property, including a guide on how to interpret the size and direction of these cracks, plus a tip on how to test your windows and doors for confirmation of a problem.
All Buildings Are Subject To The Movement
It is important to keep in your mind the fact that regardless of how old your property is or where it is situated, and irrespective of what materials were used in its construction, all homes are subject to a certain amount of movement.
The weather plays a part in what happens to your property and seasonal temperatures can cause expansion or shrinkage depending on whether you are currently contending with cold or hot temperatures.
Therefore, you must expect a certain amount of cracks to appear in your walls and ceilings as a result of this natural amount of movement. What you do have to be wary of is when those cracks are signs of something more serious like structural damage, or if age is taking its toll on your home.
Are you looking at spider web cracks?
Before you consider the idea that you are going to have to repair your foundation at the first sign of a crack it makes sense to try and gain a bit of knowledge on what the appearance of cracks might signal is going on inside your home.
The size of the crack that has appeared is often a good clue to whether you are dealing with a structural or age-related problem, but there are other characteristics to note alongside the size as well.
Dealing with their appearance first of all. If you see cracks that could be best described as looking like a spider web, these are very often nothing to be too concerned about and are a normal part of settling process your home will experience over the years.
Vertical or horizontal?
In addition to the size of the crack that has appeared you need to examine its shape and which direction it runs to the wall.
If you have a crack that is running vertically and starts close to the apex where your ceiling and wall meet, that could be a sign that it was created shortly after construction when the foundation had time to settle.
If your property is older it might require further investigation to determine the cause. Also, you should try to remember that vertical cracks that are running in the same direction as the drywall are often less serious than first thought.
However, if you have a horizontal crack or one that is running at a 45-degree angle that could be an indication of something a lot more serious, such as potential water damage or evidence that your foundation has shifted severely.
When inspecting the crack for yourself before deciding what to do next, decide if it is horizontal or vertical and what size the crack itself is, as these are factors that will help determine how serious the problem might be and what action needs to be taken next.
Not just the walls and ceilings
As well as looking for the obvious visual signs of an issue with cracks appearing it is also a good idea to test your windows and doors and uses them as a potential guide to the extent of the problem you are facing.
If you find that your windows and doors are sticking more than they did before and there is no obvious other reason for this like faulty hardware or recent painting, it could potentially be an indication of foundation change and that the frame has been twisted by a moderate to severe shift.
The state of your ceiling
Another thing to look out for is whether your ceiling appears to have a bow or dip in it.
If this is happening to your ceiling and is accompanied by cracks to the wall this is often considered a sign of a substantial problem that needs professional attention right away.
Cracks in the ceiling or walls don’t always mean you have a big problem with your property to contend with, but always pay attention to what is going on inside your home and don’t ignore any clues, especially if they are pointing to a potential structural issue.
Elise Burke is a home inspector who likes to help others by posting on the web. Her articles are available on various homeowner and DIY websites.