It’s exciting to inspect a potential new home, particularly if it has a lot going for it. But you’ve noticed some cracks in the walls. They don’t look concerning, but you wonder if it’s something you should worry about.
Could there be a bigger problem, or is it’s something you can ignore? You wonder if you should call someone or if you’re being too pedantic about a few hairline cracks in the rendered walls. Don’t panic because we will answer your questions in this blog post so you can make the best decision.
The causes of cracks in walls and ceilings
First, let’s look at the cracks in walls and ceilings causes. It’s important to understand the reasons for cracks when you intend to purchase a property.
Building cracks often appear as the property gets older, but newer homes can have them. Normal wear and tear can result in cracks in the flooring, walls, and ceiling, but other factors can contribute.
Common causes of cracks include:
- Moisture buildup from humidity
- Plumbing problems
- Structural issues such as weak walls or floors
- Improper installation of flooring or drywall
- The use of the wrong types of nails
- Foundation movement
- Ceilings that are too heavy
- Storm damage
Termite damage, foundation settlement, and plumbing problems are some of the most common causes we see.
Termites eat wood to survive, so cracks will appear in the ceilings and walls if there is a termite infestation. These cracks are usually found on wood beams or boards near ground level or the beams between the roof rafters.
Suppose the property is built on unstable soil or soil with poor drainage. In that case, cracks can appear over time due to foundation settlement. In the areas we service including Brisbane, Ipswich, Gold Coast and Logan, the climate can also fluctuate with long periods with no rain, which causes the ground to shrink. However, the ground expands again with the return of heavy rain, and this expansion and contraction can cause cracking. Whether you’re buying in Woodridge, Southport or Ipswich CBD, it’s a good idea to get a professional soil test.
Plumbing problems can strike from all angles, internally and externally. For example, when gutters are blocked and don’t flow freely, the water can back up, damaging the integrity of the property’s structure. Leaking pipes and sprinklers can also be a problem because they cause soil saturation and erosion around the home. Leaking pipes can also cause issues within the home walls, often without being noticed.
As you can see, there are many potential causes, yet this is not an exhaustive list. Some of these causes are more serious than others. The best way to determine the causes of cracks is to have an expert building inspector go through every part of the property.
When should you worry about cracks in walls?
There are plenty of reasons why cracks are present, but which ones cause concern?
The width of the crack is one of the first things to assess. A hairline crack is not usually a cause for concern. The Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) says that hairline cracks that do not need repair, or cracked walls less than 5mm wide and that are easily filled, are acceptable and in line with the Standard. These issues are considered a maintenance issue and should be dealt with accordingly. Cracks over 5mm wide that require whole or partial replacement of the wall, noticeably bulging walls, and windows/doors which stick and distort, don’t meet the Standard.
Another concern is the location of the crack. If you have cracks above the door frame or a crack that extends diagonally from the door’s corner, this is more worrying than a crack around the window frame. This could be another sign of shifting foundations or damage.
We mentioned diagonal cracks in the former paragraph, another worrying indication. If a crack runs up and down, it could simply be shrinkage cracking. However, diagonal cracks can often indicate something more worrying.
The best thing to do is get in touch with a building inspector
If in doubt, the best thing to do is get in touch with a building inspector who can assess the issue for you. A building inspector will assess the crack carefully to determine what the underlying cause is and whether or not it’s cosmetic or something more serious. If you have questions to ask your building inspector, this is also an opportune time.
A building inspection report will prompt you to arrange a structural engineer to inspect the house to determine what work needs to be undertaken. You can either negotiate the purchase price or withdraw your interest when you have an accurate cost. Just imagine not having the property checked, ignoring the cracks only to experience serious structural problems in the future. You’ll lose your money and your patience.
Never underestimate a wall crack
You don’t have to be an expert to know about cracks in walls and when to worry about buying a property with them. Don’t be afraid to take a thorough look at the property yourself. Look for patterns that appear in one area of the home, like the living room or the back half of the house. Check these clusters more than any individual crack you might find. Check for crack patterns or movement patterns such as doors opening and closing on their own; these can also be warning signs.
Even if you notice these patterns, there’s probably not much more you can do. Getting in touch with a building inspector is a priority. They will assess the issue and provide you with a thorough understanding of the cause of the crack, how concerning it is, and what action you need to take.