Cracks in exterior structure

Hello everyone and thank you in advance for any help, I am currently going through the training class to become a licensed home inspector. I have personally dealt with the issue of cracking in stucco while trying to sell a house here in Florida and had two completely different responses from inspectors. I want to make sure when I do a inspection I can confidently identify for my customer cosmetic and structural cracking.

In Florida I had step cracks on my stucco that went down the side of the house that was 13 years old. They were hairline but visible. I had a buyer who had a home inspection and the inspector said absolute structural issue and house is not structurally sound. Now I never had issues with windows not opening slider worked smoothly and doors operated correctly all located in the vicinity of the cracking. Also there was no cracks in the interior sealing etc…

The next buyer I had the inspector said the cracks were normal expansion an contraction with settlement of the house and was not an issue.

As a future inspector I want to do everything possible to ensure my client can confidently purchase this house and enjoy it for a lifetime. As experienced inspectors can you recommend any inspection procedures or experiences or just any advice on how you inspect, determine, and report cracks on exteriors of homes. I have realized that exterior cracking in stucco here in Florida is happening on multitudes of homes. I just want to make sure I am giving my future clients the best possible information.

Thank you in advance I appreciate everyone’s knowledge and help.


Your experiences gives you an accurate assessment as to what exactly this profession is all about- even being in licensed state. :smiley:
You want to give your clients the best info possible? IMO, that comes with years of hands-on experience.
In the meantime or forevermore, refer to specific individuals that are experienced and trained in their specific profession/trade (especially when it comes to cracks and/or potential structural issues.)
Another option, in your specific case, you could always study/train to become a structural and/or geotechnical engineer.

Although I agree with what Mr. Frederick said, I would add this:

Any time I see cracks in stucco, I am going to recommend the client have a specialist take a look. Cracks mean moisture can get in, and moisture behind stucco can lead to real problems. Even in a large market like ours, there are not many such specialists, so you may want to put together a list for future reference.

If a home truly has structural issues, they will typically manifest themselves in the home’s interior as well as the exterior. It does not make sense that structural movement would only affect the exterior.

Hi John, I am a rookie so take my thoughts with a grain of salt. With that said, I have performed somewhere around 400 inspections in Tampa Bay. Of those, maybe a dozen properties didnt have some sort of settlement cracking of various degrees. I was taught the “rule of thumb” cracks wider than a dime’s thickness OR cracks that have been repaired and have continued to crack are the concerns. We must also consider are there similar cracks in a 90 degree wall indicating one corner may be moving? Similar interior cracking around doors, windows, floors or ceilings? Do neighboring properties show similar indications? Is there a hill, swale, lake, rentention ditch, or pond nearby?

I dont think there is a one size fits all answer on this topic and we must look at the totality of evidence available and make suggestions based on that and our building sciences training. Because of the liability involved almost all of my settlement comments end with recommending having a licensed general contractor or foundation specialist evaluate further. Often, in my walk through I’ll explain why I think it may be or isnt a significant issue but the report typically recommends to have a GC or foundation specialist evaluate further because I am simply not qualified to make that call.

I hope this is helpful!

What I did not see in this thread (it is early in the morning so I might still be half asleep) is what material the structure is built from, block, framed, poured wall. How much surface area on the wall(s) in question with the cracks. Parged masonry wall with long vertical cracks in the finish indicates movement of foundation, however, those cracks would appear as stepped on block and somewhat random on poured walls. So I am assuming these are framed walls. Most likely cracks described are from lack of expansion joints, possible poor substrate attachment to framing, substrate that was installed without overlap. From my experience, foundation issues are almost always manifested visually with some type of horizontal defect.