Slab Cracks common in 20 year old homes?

Hello all,

This is my first post, and I just recently joined this forum because of what I’m about to tell you. I am a first time homebuyer and am just learning about home inspections and such. If you have a moment, please read my story and make any comments you wish. Forgive me for how lengthy this post is.

Monday, my wife and I had a walk-through with our home inspector. He was very professional and showed us what he had found that needed repair. Well, as I was doing my own inspection, I noticed a ridge in the carpet of the master bedroom that went from one end of the room to the other (sorry, I have no pics and will try to get some). I stood on the ridge and could feel something underneath, some unevenness. When I brought this to the attention of the inspector, he told me it was a slab crack and that this was very common for 20 year old homes. He told me that the footings (or whatever they’re called) around the outside of the home were not cracked, so that was what is important. I also noticed that along the same line as the slab crack, there was a crack up the wall to the ceiling, which had been freshly painted, but was very noticeable.

This slab crack bothered me. Both my realtor and my home inspector told me that this was common and since the footings weren’t cracked, it wasn’t a problem. However, in my mind, since there was a definite ridge…in other words, one side of the slab crack was at a different elevation than the other, this was a huge concern to me. If I could feel this crack through the carpet and the padding, then it must be very significant!

Wednesday I called a structural engineer that was recommended to me and had him come by and analyze the slab crack. He also found tile cracking in the kitchen that also seemed to follow a line, indicating a possible slab crack or some structural instability underneath the tile. Since the tile appeared to be fairly new, it was obvious that this wasn’t shifting that was due to the initial settling of the house in the first year.

The structural engineer also found that there was water leaking somewhere in the house. He turned off all the water in the house and made sure no faucets were leaking and observed that the water meter was still turning. He shut off the valve to the house and the meter stopped. Then he turned off the valve in the back of the house to the sprinkler system and hot tub and the meter still turned, thereby narrowing down the leak to somewhere in the house.

This water leak along with other water settling hazards that the engineer pointed out to me are potentially the cause of this structural instability. My wife and I decided not to buy this house due to these findings.

My questions/statements are:

  1. Why did my original home inspector not notice AT LEAST the wall crack in the master? Why didn’t he notice the tile cracks and tiles lifting at the corners in the kitchen?
  2. Shouldn’t the owners have disclosed this? My realtor verified that they were aware of this crack when they carpeted the master.
  3. It irritates me that not only did my inspector not find these cracks, but when I pointed them out, he acted like it was no big deal…“this is common for houses of 20 years”
  4. My realtor acts as though this is no big deal
  5. Was this a big deal? Are we going to find slab cracks in MOST of the 20 year old homes we look at?



  1. I don’t know
  2. Yes if the crack is as you described it should have been disclosed IMO.
  3. Cracks in concrete slabs are common, however cracks of the magnitude you have described are not that common.
  4. Your Realtor wasn’t acting, you give them too much credit.:wink:
  5. If it was a big deal to you, then yes, it is a bid deal.

Welcome back Brian, how was vacation?

Not bad

Whos that guy with your wife? lol

That woman is someones wife? OH MY :twisted:

Welcome back Brian and hope you enjoyed yourself.

And judging from that picture with the native woman, it seems you have pretty good taste. :wink:

Looking good.

Marcel :slight_smile: :wink:

Now that Seth’s thread has been hijacked, let’s see if we can get it back to answering Seth’s concerns.

The cracks should bother you, Seth. A ridge is not common, even in 20-year-old homes. Using the analogy that your home inspector did, apparently it would be okay if a sinkhole developed underneath the center of the house, and the center of the house gave way but the perimeter wall/footings remained. I don’t think so.

If the cracks in the floor lined up quite well with the crack in the wall, I’d say you have some serious issues.

Additionally, depending on where the slab crack was, water, gas, and sewer pipes could be pulling apart and leaking, which your engineer might have found:

If there is a leak in the slab, it can be many thousands of dollars to repair. For example, my Domestic Partner’s mom’s boyfriend just had a slab leak repaired, in the exact center of his house since that’s where the kitchen and a bathroom are located. $13,000. Forturnately, his insurance company picked up all except his $75 deductible.

Personally, I think that you and your wife, as first-time home buyers, made the right decision concerning what had gone on with the seller’s lack of disclosure and the statements that you reported from your Realtor and your home inspector.


  1. He should have. He should have.
  2. Yes, they should have.
  3. It would have irritated me, too.
  4. Ask your Realtor if s/he would buy the house?
  5. Yes, it was a big deal. Yes, you will find slab cracks inmost of the 20-year-old homes that you look at, but not to the extend that you have described. Concrete will eventually crack, early if the concrete mixture was poor, too little rebar was used or placed improperly, or if the concrete was poured improperly. I am an interest in a pool company in the Houston area and we have a 10-year guarantee against cracks in the pools we build. But after 10 years, and your house is at 20, all bets are off.


Must home inspectors reading that are likely thinking “Shudda’ caught it… boy… I sure hope I woudda’ caught it….”

Based on your account as I understand it from the written description and without having seen pictures, I’m not particularly surprised that the inspector didn’t discover the slab crack - in a carpeted bedroom room full of furniture that could often be pretty much be a matter of chance (did they happened to step on it, was the lighting just right to shadow it, and so on).

Still, you noticed it. And I am surprised that once you pointed it out the inspector did not recommend further investigation of a slab crack with differential movement of unknown magnitude - especially once it had been determined that there was a crack in the wall directly above the slab damage.

And as an inspector constantly trying to understand how to decrease the likelihood of my own mistakes, my take-away from your experience (again, as I currently understand it) is:

  1. Always listen to the client – these is a difference between being “professional” and being “intimidating”. Every client is extra pair of eyes on the property for 3-4 hours, and will *usually *observe at least some small detail an inspector will miss. Let them know that you understand and appreciate this, and encourage them to bring any concerns to your attention.

  2. Try to observe every property with open eyes and an open mind, and don’t get too caught up in “rules” when evaluating observations. I don’t quite understand the inspectors (apparent) assumption that “if the footings are intact, then a slab crack is of no structural significance”, but apparently whatever “rule” the inspector had been taught or had formulated themselves did not serve either of you well on this occasion.

  3. Try hard to cultivate and maintain a state of mind where you are attempting to “connect the dots” at all times. (“Floor crack… wall crack… hummm…”)

  4. Don’t be afraid to call for further investigation, or defer to a specialist. Some inspectors *hate *to do this (“If I don’t know, what the client is paying me for?”) and no good inspector likes being told by a structural engineer (or whoever) that they have “cried wolf”. But in a case where you can’t see the crack under the carpet, but you can feel evidence of possible differential movement, what else you are you going to do? If “The tacked down carpet needs to be pulled up, and the crack investigated further”, just say so.

One other observation: one limitation of a home inspection is that inspectors (and least experienced ones) don’t do a lot of things they know might provide useful information. For example they don’t operate main water shut off-valves (which could identify leaks) as they know that there is a good chance that such (seldom operated) valves will malfunction when operated. Once you are in possession of the property as the current owner, you are in a position to do (or have done) a lot of things a home inspector can’t during a typical buyer’s inspection.


Great job in having the structural enigineer evaluate the slab cracking. Most buyers would of signed off on the report.

You have saved yourself of having a very large expense and a big headache.

I am glad for you that you were smart enough to consult with the engineer.

Best wishes for you in finding your new home.

Please let us know how it works out.

Again feel very good about what you did to save yourself a big problem.

Will you be using the same realtor & home inspector:mrgreen:

Hmmmmm…sounds like a case of a dishonest homeowner in colusion with a dishonest realtor in colusion with a dishonest home inspector. It think it’s obvious to anyone on this board (at least I HOPE so), that fresh carpet and fresh tile covering up a crack in a foundation raises serious disclosure questions.
My advice: First, get a new realtor. Next inspection, get another inspector, and check his credentials. BTW…choose your own, don’t rely on your realtor’s advice.

No, it doesn’t. Don’t rush to conclusions without doing one’s due diligence. Not all homeowners are home when the fresh carpet and fresh tile are installed, and the whole reason why they had the fresh carpet and fresh tile installed is because the old stuff was carp. It is not uncommon for carpet and the padding to bunch up, forming a ridge. It is not uncommon for cracked tiles to form a ridge as they continue to crack and deteriorate more if not replaced.

For example, Jim (my Domestic Partner and a Realtor with Century 21) has a listing Client who lives in Seattle. The property is vacant and the carpet and tile were in the condition described in my first paragraph. Jim let the carpet/tile guys in and then went over to the office for about an hour. When he returned, the carpet/tile guys had removed all the carpet and tile. There in the kitchen was a big crack in the floor. Jim didn’t know what to do, so he called his Client, who was not available. So he called me and I went over to look at it. Since it was a third-floor condo, the crack posed no structural concerns in my mind, based on my experience, and confirmed a couple of days later by a structural engineer. Jim sent the carpet/tile guys home, refusing to let them put down carpet/tile over the crack without further due diligence. His Client was extremely happy, to say the least.

No one likes to sit around and watch other people work, so it is highly unlikely that a homeowner will sit there and watch every move by the people he has hired to do work. Unfortunately, in today’s world, very few people are cross trained, so a carpet/tile guy does exactly what he is told to do by the boss: “Go out, rip up the old carpet and tile, and install new carpet and tile.” And that’s what they do. It’s unfortunate, but it’s reality.

So, again, don’t rush to conclusions about anything, just do some good detective work and HELP your Clients.



Did you pick the home inspector or did the Realtor
pick him for you through their list?

The answer may tell you why you got screwed.

But, good for you… you hired and Engineer
who told you the truth, that your inspector
should have.

Next time find a hard core, nit picky, dogmatic,
independent, construction experience, honest,
and thorough home inspector.

Not all inspector are the same or all of them
independent of Realtors.

Good question John

Could you tell her how to do that?

I seriously doubt that there are many people in this world who can not tell the difference between bunched up padding and an uneven crack in concrete. If you find such a person, would you please forward to me his/her name, address, and phone number? I have some surplus items I would like to sell them.

Actually, there’s more than we care to imagine. But I’ve found that it is more prevalent in condos than single-family homes. That’s because people, for some strange reason, don’t think about there being a concrete floor in condos. I guess they think there’s only concrete on the first floor as the foundation and that everything else is steel and wood. Not necessarily.