Cracked Wall
February 5, 2005 12:30 PM   Subscribe

Cracked wall question.......[mi]

My house is about 25 years old built on a concrete slab. My wife and I are the second owners and we bought it about 3 years ago.

When we bough the house it was in very good shape. However, we've begun to find cracks in our walls, primarily vertical cracks near corners in a couple of our second floor rooms.

Other than being a little unsightly, is this something we should be worried about?
posted by szg8 to Home & Garden (3 answers total)
Probably not... the house has settled a little, and now the frame is no longer exactly square and plumb. It's also possible that the cracking started years ago, and the previous owners patched them up (just a cosmetic fix) just before selling.

I wouldn't worry unless it gets a lot worse.
posted by Daddio at 12:57 PM on February 5, 2005

Our house is similar. It's a ranch, and when we bought it we didn't notice the cracks. I think they were patched and/or in areas where you just don't think to look (like behind the curtains under a window).

We've had the house seven years now. I remember being really freaked out about it when I first noticed (probably 2-3 years after we moved in). One thing I noticed is that it is seasonal. The cracks are worst during the summer when the ground is very dry here in Texas, and close up in the winter when the ground is wet. I've had cracks about 1/4 inch wide appear in the summer that close up to a hairline crack in winter.

Welcome to slab construction.

If you lose your nerve and convince yourself the house is ready to fall down, you can get a foundation jack company come in and install better footings under the slab that go down deep enough to avoid the shrinking/swelling cycles, but I'm not planning on doing that unless my slab actually cracks.
posted by Doohickie at 3:44 PM on February 5, 2005

One thing to remember about slab movement or foundation settlement, is that: 1) Yes, cracking around penetrations (doors, windows, etc.) in the structure will occur and may seem minor, but 2) It is going to kill your resale value.

If the house is 25 years old, then major slab settlement has long since passed, and it points to underground water conditions changing. Most houses are built slab on grade, with no footings or grade beams to compensate for the ground deflection. This leads to the weakening of the overall stiffness of the structure, and could potentially lead to water leaks in your exterior windows / or the warping of the substrate of your roof (it doesn't matter what roof material you have... i.e. shingles, metal, slate, asphalt, etc. if the substrate goes, then the leaking potential increases)

Most people simply patch the cracks and sell the house, but over the life of the house, the movement will weaken the structure, and will cost a fortune to repair.

If you truly want it fixed, be leery of the "we will fix your settling house" adds. Hire an independent structural engineer who will make an assessment and recommend either a Geotechnical report, which will get to the root of the problem, or will suggest shoring or a sub drainage system to stop the heaving that the water is creating.

The structural engineer is cheap (about 100 dollars or so, for a one time visit....depending on the area), but the fix is going to be costly.

Or just patch away if this is not your dream house.
posted by Benway at 4:40 PM on February 5, 2005

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