One of the more common items I run into during the course of a home inspection is drywall and plaster cracks. I’m starting this discussion to seek input of how others handle these concerns. As I live in an area where things move around a bit… and soils are expansive, it’s definitely an item to keep abreast of.
The reason I decided to post this is on of uniformity as I had spoke to an associate of mine the other day and his take was that if there are more than 1 or 2 areas of cracking in the home… that’s it, it’s going in a report for a structural engineer. Some of that type of thinking is too much CYA stuff, but I do understand where he is coming from. But, to a point, I disagree and would like to think I can try to put the pieces together and make a needed recommendation when warranted. At the same time, it’s one of the items that, along with moisture have a huge potentiality for liability, but you don’t need to needlessly alarm every client just to CYA.
Here’s a couple examples, and I’m hoping others will chime in as well:
If upon arrival to the inspection, I may find a crack in a drywalled ceiling seam running perpendicular to the framing that is split… all the way down. You ladder up and the ceiling is flat, really no signs of deflection, and really not much else. I generally recommend repair to the crack and monitor for cracks opening again etc. If the home is under warranty, a call to the builder is recommended as well.
Now where I get a bit more concerned and is usually a straight forward matter are signs of expansive soils, couple with cracks at corners on interior and the exterior of the home. Sometimes the cracks transfer directly through the visible stem wall of the foundation (I’m in slab-on-grade country here), I will see cracks in multiple areas.
- If grade is deficient, this is of primary concern and should be immediately addressed. Whether a recommendation for a specialist for the foundation is warranted will bear whether or not I see direct damage to the foundation. It may simply be a soils problem, not a foundation or structural problem.
- If grade is positive away from the home, and I can confirm damage or movement to the foundation or slab, I’ll recommend review of a PE.
On a raised foundation, IMO, discerning these cracks is much easier. I can usually see a pattern of cracks around doors and windows and maybe even see out of level floor conditions with my bare peepers
How and what do you do?