Question by Guest_9691936: I've noticed some [serious?] cracks in my walls. Who do I call to see if they are serious? House was built in '84 I moved in 2000. Cracks seem to be growing the last year or so.
Answered by Meranda: Hi, this is Meranda with Angie's List.
You can log in at www.angi.com and search for "structural engineer" to find someone in your area who can independently assess the situation. They should be able to determine if this is a serious problem or a cosmetic problem, and if it's an issue make a recommendation/plan to fix it.
While your mileage may vary, I had a similar situation in my own home this spring. We noticed several new drywall cracks that appeared to be developinfg or growing around our 20-year-old home. We hired a structural engineer — $300 for an assessment — and he concluded the home was structurally sound, and the cracks likely were just settling and seemed to appear one after another because the crazy weather and humidity changes over the winter. It was worth that price to sleep better at night not worried my home was falling down. He recommended we find a drywall guy to fix it — way cheaper than the scenarios I'd been imagining in my head.
If you need help finding someone, you can also always email or call in a request for our member services team at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-888-944-5478 on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 8:15 p.m. and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern time.
Answered by LCD: If you want to post a couple of photos (using the Answer This Question button under your question) you might be able to get some opinions on the likely cause and degree of seriousness of this from the contributors here.
Answered by ContractorDon: It depends on what type of cracks you are talking about. Horizonal cracks are generally the worst, it shows there is lateral pressure against the wall either to undersized wall or soil conditions. Vertical cracks or stepped cracks up the wall are usually due to poor compaction of the soil under the house. There are regions of the country that have had severe drought conditions and the water table has dropped so much that houses are sinking. As the house was moved 14 years ago this might be a thing to look into if the cracks are a new problem. As per your post does not say where you are you should see if others have this problem. Even though this does not effect my area I like to follow news about structural problems and solutions to them and I read they have a way of supporting houses with helical coils driven in next to the foundation of the house.
I would think if you posted more info as to the type of cracks and when it started you may get a few other ideas from others that help out here. I think LCD might have some good ideas but you do need to give more info than just the fact you think they are serious. You would be best off posting an answer below to keep the thread in one spot.
Answered by Guest_9691936: Here are 2 of the cracks
Answered by LCD: You were so fast getting back with the excellent closeup photos, that I am going to be spoiled and ask that you do a few more - from across the room, at the same targets but showing say about triple the wall area and from floor to ceiling, to confirm or deny a hunch I have - and also of any other equally noticeable cracks you have.
Please also note what floor these are on and how many floors house has, if you have a full basement or crawlspace or slab on grade construction, what part of the country you are in, if you know if you are on expansive soils or not, and if you have had high water or flooding in the past year.
Also, the brown painted wall - did you fill the right 2 legs of that crack, or has it been filled for awhile ?
One last thing - do you have any diagonal cracks (other than the little ends showing by the openings) in your drywall anywhere, or buckling/crumpled siding ?
Answered by Guest_9691936: House is a single story (no basemnet our crawl space) house in Orange County, CA. No flooding. Honestly not sure of the foundation.
the painted wall was filled about 4.5 years ago when the kitchen was remodeled.
No diagonal cracks and no other major cracks. Have a few smaller ones.
I'm starting to get a bit nervous :)
Answered by ContractorDon: I assumed that you were talking about cracks in your foundation wall and that is why it is bad to assume. And that is also why I asked for more info. Again I may be assuming but I think you are saying you are on a slab foundation.
If you are on a slab and you do not see any cracks in the flooring it may just be that with time the house has settled on to the slab. It may have been changes in the weather have dried out the wood framing. Even if it is a wood framed floor over a crawl space it could also be this, especially if the cracks are say in the center of the house and have a wood girder under the location of the cracks. If the wood was not dry that the girder can shrink almost 1/2 an inch over time.
You also say the house was moved and that opens up a whole rash of other possibilities. The foundation the house was moved from may not have been level and then if the house is put on one that is the house over time will conform to it's new base. Or if the new foundation slab or crawl space was not level the same thing could be happening.
I think you would be best off having a Structural Engineer come to the house for a few hundred dollars to check this out and put your mind at ease.
Answered by LCD: Don interpreted you as saying the 1984 house was moved in 2000 - in which case his comments are right on the mark as always.
I interpreted it as being a 1984 house, and you move into it in 2000, but that it is in original location. If you do not have a crawl space or basement, then you are on a slab foundation on grade.
Since the cracks seem to be be growing and are diagonal at door frames, the normal cause for this is differential settlement, usually caused by slab settlement or by creep or sagging in supporting beams or posts.
The kitchen (darker brown paint) one looks fairly typical of settlement at the right of the doorway, relative to the doorway. The doorway in the hall is odder - because the crack goes right up from the doorframe to the ceiling and across the ceiling, it looks to me like there is no header over the doorway - which would be against code, and if the hall wall(s) are load-bearing could be causing the attic trusses/joists to sag down on the doorframe, causing the crack up the wall and into the ceiling drywall.
IF this were a typical California post and beam crawlspace house, I would be looking for settlement, dryrot, ground squirrel undermining or termites damaging the supporting posts or beams under the floor. Since it sounds like a slab floor (if you have no basement or crawlspace), then could be slab settlement, or improperly framed doorways, or some other source you could only determine by an on-site visit. (BTW a crawlspace might have an outside entrance door, typically if furnace is down there - or might only have an access hatch in a closet floor or through the exterior foundation wall which you might not know about. If you have a crawlspace, you will have concrete or block foundation walls rising out of the ground to typically 2-3 feet above ground to where the house framing (and siding or stucco or whatever) begins, and would have screened openings through the foundation wall for ventilation. If a slab foundation, your house is built on a concrete slab that site at ground level, so you would see only the edge of a 4-16 inch thick concrete slab edge, with the framing directly on top of that.
One other possibility, especially if all your substantial cracks line up in a more or less straight line across the house (but not necessarily parallel to the house face) is if your house is built partially on fill and partially not, it could be due to slippage or settlement of the fill, causing a slight tilting of one end or side of your house. Obviously, if your house is a hillside or cliffside house this is a more likely cause than otherwise.
Since you say the cracks seem to be growing in a 30 year old house, even though at this point I do not believe they are immediately indicative of anything serious, I agree you should have a structural engineer look at it, as Don suggested.
The first thing I would be looking in an inspection would be the foundation type and the crawlspace supports if any. If slab on grade construction, I would (and you could easily do this too) I would peel back the carpet right below the cracks, pulling it off the carpet tack strips (watch out for many little nails sticking up, which the carpet is pressed down onto to hold it in place) and looking for cracking in the flooring or slab under the carpet. These inspections (whichever is applicable) combined with a walk-around looking for foundation cracking visible from the outside would almost always quickly answer the issue of whether you are looking at a foundation issue. IF not a foundation issue, then likely an interior structural issue which I would address with a stud finder, looking at the spacing of studs and existence or non-existence of proper king and jack studs alongside the doors, and proper header and cripple studs over the door (image of terms here) -
Answered by CG: I'm curious to hear the outcome of your cracks and who you used to evaluate them. I live in Orange County, CA as well and have the same type of cracks throughout my house. Mine have also gotten worse over the last few years.
Answered by mrebop: MISTAKE--TRYING TO FIND AN ANSWER!!
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