Two story single family home wood framed, with engineered members (LVLSs and PSLs, trusses, iJoists), brick veneer. Homeowner called for a residential home re-inspection as it is approaching one year since homeowner closed on new construction. Some parts of the home warranty by the builder expire after one year. The homeowner did have an engineer (PE) do framing and crawl space inspection 15 months ago during construction, and then an inspection by a licensed inspector just prior to closing in late August 2017. During the one-year re-inspection July 2018, some cracking of the mortar for brick veneer found. All cracks found in roughly in a 20 feet wide area on the 2nd floor rear home over an extended roof line. Below, on the 1st floor, there is a small breakfast room that extends off the kitchen further then the main rear brick veneer wall of the home. The breakfast room is about 15 wide and protrudes about 8 feet beyond the main rear line of the home. A wood engineered LVL spans the roof of the breakfast room on the 1st floor which supports load for the 2nd floor where there is a large master bathroom above that has a small toilet room, as well as the brick veneer for the exterior. Undoubtedly, the LVL also supports the brick veneer for the rear portion of the home that is above the 1st floor breakfast room.
All the cracks are through mortar. The widest crack is about 3/8"wide coming off a 2nd floor window for the master bathroom, lower left corner, stair-stepping a couple feet out to the corner of the home. All the home is brick veneer. This stairstep crack is visible with the naked eye looking up from the ground. There are skinnier cracks running along the mortar joint from the top right corner of this same window, hard to see with naked eye, that runs horizontal. Another is coming off the next window further to the center of the rear of the home for the same master bathroom – top left-corner – off a small window for the toilet room of the master bathroom.
Homeowner is highly conscientious. He made an initial report to the builder. He then called a friend who is a AMB, CDT, CGP, LEED AP BD+C (building scientist) to come look at the cracks. The building scientist said that the cracks are not of major nor catastrophic concern. He said that the wood that this brick veneer sits upon above the breakfast room, likely dried and shrunk a tiny amount over one year. A rough estimate of roughly 4,000 pounds of brick veneer above the breakfast room below, and the tiniest shrinkage caused some cracking in the very brittle mortar. The building scientist has contacts with structural engineers. Had one come out with the goal being that this PE would write a letter to keep on file for when the home is eventually sold one day. This PE came out. The PE believes there is one small section of missing blocking on the exterior wall of the crawl space that may have caused the cracking. This PE did not feel as if the cracking would continue nor would be catastrophic or cause any serious concern. He is going to write a letter to recommend this one small area of blocking be added in the crawl space to ensure that no additional cracking occurs, but, that if this small area in the crawl is not blocked, it is still not likely that the cracking will continue.
That’s not all.
The first PE who did the framing and crawl space inspection 15 months prior just recently called the homeowner back; as the HO had contacted him first, but was out of the country doing assignment work with his engineering firm. To make a long story less long, this PE, when told of the cracking, and shared pictures, also came back out to see for himself. This PE disagreed that some missing blocking was the cause. He stipulated that if missing blocking was the concern there would be bowed floors, cracked interior walls, sticking windows, sagging crown molding, or something going on the interior of the home. None of this is happening. The inside of the home remains in pristine condition. There is no evidence of anything adverse happening on the interior of the home. This PE stipulates that the LVL that spans the breakfast room may have deflected slightly causing the brick veneer above to crack. He suggested the HO get from the builder the load calculations for that LVL, or if he can’t, get the framing plans to see what type of LVL was used to do the calculation himself. He said once this is done, he can write a letter one of two ways: one, if the LVL was sized properly, it may have deflected a tiny amount in the middle, causing the cracking in the 2nd floor brick veneer above but basically not to worry about it and use some Mor-Flexx flexible mortar to shore up the cracks. Or, if the LVL calculates as undersized, suggest additional improvements. In either case, this PE also believes there won’t be some sort of catastrophic nor serious failure.
So the HO is kind of in a what to do at this point mode?
While all three professionals that have looked at the cracking all agree that nothing serious nor catastrophic will occur. All three have variances of opinion as to what the cause is, making it potentially more challenging to discuss with the builder. Builders tend to like to have conclusive evidence before taking action that requires more work or more money than something simple.
Any thoughts are greatly appreciated.