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When Should I Be Worried About Cracks as a Home Owner?

Updated: Feb 25

Cracks in a home can be a sign of serious structural issues or just a cosmetic problem. It is important to know which cracks are harmless and which ones require immediate attention. I discuss the various cracks that homeowners should be concerned about and take necessary action.


Types of Cracks


Vertical Cracks: Vertical cracks are the most common type of crack found in homes. They usually run straight up and down and are caused by the normal settling of the house. These cracks are usually less than 1/8 inch wide and are not a cause for concern.


Shrinkage Cracks
Shrinkage Cracks

The cracks observed in this image appear to be shrinkage cracks. They are not major structural concerns. Brookstone Inspection Services Ltd would usually recommend regular monitoring and crack sealing since they may allow water to penetrate even though there's no significant movement or displacement of the concrete, meaning that the foundation surfaces around the cracks are in the same plane. 



Vertical Cracks
Vertical Cracks


The homeowner should be concerned with this type of vertical crack shown in this image that is widening outside the home and may indicate that the wall is rotating outwards.





As part of Brookstone Residential Home Inspection, and when you request an home inspection edmonton package, our inspectors would assess the extent of the crack and determine whether a qualified structural engineer or foundation specialist is required depending on the situation.



Horizontal Cracks: Horizontal cracks are more serious than vertical cracks. They are usually caused by pressure from the soil outside the foundation.


Horizontal Cracks

The pressure could be from tree roots, wet soil or frost action. These cracks can be a sign of a serious structural issue and should be inspected by a qualified professional or contractor.


Horizontal Cracks due to Tree Roots
Horizontal Cracks due to Tree Roots

As part of your Home Inspection Edmonton package, we check for defects in your foundation wall and make appropriate recommendations


Stair-Step Cracks: Stair-step cracks are usually found in brick walls.


Stair-Step Cracks
Stair-Step Cracks


They are called stair-step cracks because they look like a set of stairs. The settling of the foundation usually causes these cracks and is not a cause for concern unless they are wider than 1/4 inch.





As part of Home Inspection Edmonton package, we check for the possible causes of the defects, which could be due to expansive soil, lack of brick ties or issues with your foundation wall and make appropriate recommendations which may involve a foundation repair contractor or structural engineer. 



Diagonal Cracks: Diagonal cracks are usually caused by differential settling of the foundation. These cracks are usually wider at the top than at the bottom and are a sign of a serious structural issue.


Diagonal Cracks
Diagonal Cracks

Diagonal cracks in a poured concrete foundation that are fairly uniform in width or are hairline-type are caused by shrinkage and, though they may allow water entry, are not considered structural defects. Hairline cracks in a basement's concrete floor are not considered a serious structural defect.


Hairline shrinkage cracks are not typically caused by major settlement, yet they can still be a cause for concern if there are indications of water intrusion through the hairline crack.


Cracks in Drywall: Drywall cracks are usually one of the first signs of structural issues that a homeowner might notice.


Cracks in Drywall
Cracks in Drywall

Cracks in drywall are usually caused by the normal settling of the house. These cracks are usually less than 1/8 inch wide and are not a cause for concern if they do not widen over time.


Also, these cracks tend to develop on the weakest parts of a wall, usually above doors or windows and are often accompanied by other cosmetic defects, such as sloping floors, cracked doorways, and cracked tile or hardwood floor finishes.


They can sometimes be indicative of problems as minor as seasonal humidity changes or as major as severe foundation settlement, including cracks in the foundation or framing deterioration due to rot or wood-destroying insects.


As part of your Home Inspection Edmonton package , we check for the underlying cause of these cracks and make appropriate recommendations, including short-term solutions like cosmetic crack repairs or long term option that involves permanently stabilizing or reinforcing the supporting structural elements.



When to be Concerned


Homeowners should be concerned about cracks that are wider than 1/4 inch. These cracks can be a sign of a serious structural issue and should be inspected by a qualified professional. Homeowners should also be concerned about cracks that are getting wider over time. This can be a sign of an ongoing problem that needs to be addressed.


Cracks in a home can be a sign of serious structural issues or just a cosmetic problem. It is important to know which cracks are harmless and which ones require immediate attention. 


If you are concerned about cracks in your home, it is best to have them inspected by a professional. Schedule a Residential Home Inspection today to protect your most valuable investment (your home).




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