Structural Cracks

Today I performed an inspection on a residential house and I am most certain these are structural cracks as there appears to be stair step cracking. Seller’s Agent is claiming that it is settlement cracks, but I do not believe them for obvious reasons. I recommended a structural engineer.

It may be a slow separation and it appears previous repairs were also attempted in some areas. I am interested in your feedback. Let me know what you think.

What is the wall construction?

It is Block

This is good to keep in your back pocket.


This is a great reference. Thank you! I will utilize this in the future.

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Plenty of previous repairs in those areas, and the upper corner crack appears to run right through the lintel.

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Yeah, I’d be writing that up. The cracks aren’t that large/open but the past repairs indicates an ongoing problem. In all honestly it will probably look the same 20 years from now (assuming no drainage problem, etc.) but for a few hundred dollars as HIs we can’t jump in front of that train. Every foundation contractor in my area would put the fear of god the buyer and want 20K to “stabilize” the house.


That’s what I figured and why I called it. The horizontal crack from top left corner, as seen in this photo, to bottom right corner vertical crack, on the window, was obvious to me there was an issue. The previous repairs only supported my suspicion and assessment. Thank you for the input. I appreciate your response.

Thanks Matt. I appreciate your response. Yup, in our line of work, better safe than sorry.

In my opinion there are no structural cracks, just cracks in drywall, concrete, lumber, etc., which is a symptom or indication something has occurred. It could be from lumber shrinkage, foundation settlement., wind, earthquake, tree falling on the house, etc.

Structural damage is defined as any damage that compromises or affects the core integrity of your home . This includes the foundation, walls, roof and load-bearing walls. When significant damage occurs, the structure itself may be no longer able to support the house. The home may be in danger of collapse. For example the basement wall has two basic functions, transfer the house loading to the soil and act as a propped cantilevered retraining wall to hold back the soil. An 8-foot basement wall that is tipped in 1/2 inch is not a structural problem, just and indication the wall may be under designed or poor exterior grading or poor soil, etc. Once the wall has tipped in where the center of gravity is outside the middle third, then the wall has technically failed to hold back the soil. If you see cracks just describe them as small, large, diagonal, vertical, etc. unless you have all the puzzle pieces to know for sure its due to settlement, termite damage, wood rot, etc. Using the word structural to describe cracks is not appropriate IMO when dealing with non technical people like your clients and agents.


I understand where you are coming from. However, the evidence was also followed through to the adjacent room on the inside. You can see the cracks on the window in the same location as well as the ceiling. Based on the previous repairs and patterns, there is/was definitely an underlying issue. So, I agree that I would have to know for sure, if it was structural, to identify it as such, which is why I identified it as a possible structural issue. Regardless, I believe it is best and safe to let the expert/contractor provide the evaluation. I also believe it is best that the client knows the severity of the issue for sure. It saves both parties any potential issues in the future. Thank you for your feedback and I appreciate your response.

Morning, Antony.
Hope this post finds you well.

There are 10 types of foundation cracks home inspectors should know how to recognize.

Would I consider those wall and foundation cracks structural cracks? At the moment no.
Are they something to be reported? Yes.
From the images you presented us, the cracks appear to be a blend of vertical and diagonal cracks. Not wide enough to consider adverse at the moment.

As well, the cracking appears localized to the garage wall. I would suspect poor heat, lot slope, water and soil. I do not see any downspouts.

List your observations.
Recommend a licensed professional and consultant.
Don’t forget limitations.

  1. Vertical Cracks:
    Vertical cracks in your foundation wall are less serious than horizontal cracks and do not pose a structural threat. They are commonly found in poured foundations running straight up and down your wall. In Ottawa, vertical cracks are one of the most crack types found in basements. They are caused by the foundation settling overtime or the natural concrete curing process.

  2. Diagonal Cracks:
    Like vertical cracks, most diagonal foundation cracks do not pose a serious threat to the structural integrity of your foundation. They are found running a maximum 30 degrees of vertical and caused by the natural curing of the concrete foundation wall or settlement over time.

  3. Structural Foundation Crack:
    These types of cracks are extremely serious as they pose a risk to the structural integrity of your home. Sure sign of a structural deficiency are horizontal cracks, and cracks wider than a 1/4 inch. Structural foundation cracks are normally the result of movement, whether it’s caused by temperature changes, soil pressure or soil shrinkage.

Hope that helps.


Thank you Robert, I appreciate your response. The previous repair to the step-cracking is what concerned me as I know these can be severe in basements. Here in Florida we get lots of rain that can affect soil conditions, etc. Those cracks obviously must be repaired regardless as moisture intrusion will likely occur preventing further damage. There are no gutters on this home. It could be that corner of the house may be gradually sinking, I don’t know for sure, but I like to err on the side of caution. Would you agree that it was right to refer the engineer to further inspect it? Though it may not be a severe case, if it is structural, is it wise to take that chance? I am only picking everyone’s brain. lol. What we learn only makes us better inspectors. I am open to professional criticism and I will take all of this information and take it into account for future inspections. I really appreciate your responses.

Morning, Antony.
Typically/usually/normally or normally, usually, typically, when I am confronted with a localized area, of a foundation, or garage slab, which appears to be the case in your situation, I recommend a licensed foundation repair contactor to “further evaluate and repair any foundation concerns.”
When foundation defeats are more adverse, I refer a licensed foundation installation and service repair contractor with inhouse structural engineer, but that just me, myself and I…

I concur with Mr. Randy Mayo. It appears the foundation cracks are from prior settlement issues and have refrained from further settlement, for the moment. That’s not to say further settlement will not occur. As well as recommending further evaluation and repairs from a licensed professional, I would recommend gutters be installed on the eaves as well.
Hope that helps.

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Understood. Thank you Robert.

Just a thought but since this seems to be a recurring problem, the question that comes to mind is if there is pyrite in the area. No previous mention of pyrite test by seller? Just a thought

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Please elaborate.

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I found this, but I have never known it to be an issue in my area (or anywhere else for that matter, a first for me)


When in doubt call it out


That is similar to the official definition found in the Florida statutes, “Structural damage” requires “damage that impairs the structural integrity of the building.” I have no idea if the other 49 states and Canadian provinces have official definitions that are similar, but structural damage remains subjective. Any of us who have done this for a while have seen structural engineers disagree (which is no surprise, but goes to the dilemma that us poor home inspectors face.) As most of us are not PEs, we have to tread carefully. I agree with Randy’s assessment, but as a non-PE home inspector, I would probably comment to my client that “While this doesn’t look like a big structural problem that could lead to the house falling down, there are more cracks than I like to see and since some have been repaired and returned, there may be some active settling,” and write up something like, “Many cracks with minimum gapping and indications of continuing settling, might indicate a problem with the foundation. Further evaluation by a structural engineer is recommended.” And move ownership of these cracks from myself to the client and a PE if the client brings one in. PEs often prescribe stabilization for foundations that they are not in danger of failing, but may continue to move/settle without some action.
Two weeks ago, I inspected a house with a badly broken-up garage slab. Since, the slab was independent of the foundation, I simply noted it as a heavy duty cosmetic condition. The appraiser saw it differently and is requiring evaluation by a structural engineer. I don’t think I will be reversed, but look forward to see what a PE will say.
And yesterday, I had a house with stair-stepped cracks on both the corners of the brick veneer on the back of the house. The cracks were gapped less than 1/8" on a 37 year-old house. I told the young woman buying her first house, “Cracks like this fall under the very broad umbrella of structural, but not all cracks require structural remediation. These cracks look like they have been here a long time and are the result of ordinary settling that happens to most houses around here. I think there is high likelihood that 30 years from now, they will look pretty much like this, if there are no changes to drainage or other landscaping changes that could affect the foundation. So, I don’t see a structural problem here, but you can always get a structural engineer’s opinion. I recommend cosmetic repair like filling the cracks with mortar and tuck-pointing the missing mortar that we see in the brick walls.” In the report, I simply documented the cracks and recommended cosmetic repairs.

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