Crack Check?

Where do those pesky building cracks and bulges come from? There are many factors, and combinations of factors.corner door

There’s no exact method for determining how serious a crack is without hiring an expert to examine the situation.  Naturally,  you’ll need  to analyze the crack and surrounding area to determine whether it’s a surface blemish or a more significant issue.  Houses and buildings, additions and remodels,  tend to settle over the first few years after construction, so some minor wall cracks are common. However, gaping cracks, separation and diagonal and horizontal crack lines might be signs that the issues are more severe.

Crack Shapes:

The shape of the crack often determines the reason it occurred. If the crack is vertical, and starts near the apex where the wall and ceiling meet, it might be a sign that it was created when the foundation settled after construction. Vertical cracks that run the same direction as drywall, generally making them less serious. If the crack is horizontal or runs at a jagged 45-degree angle, it might mean there’s a more serious problem such as foundation shifting or water damage. Surface-blemish cracks can often be repaired with drywall spackle, sanding tools and a fresh coat of paint. More severe cracks usually require professional help to determine the exact cause and might include some reconstruction or remediation to prevent further damage.


A stair-step crack looks like a flight of stairs and runs in both vertical and horizontal directions across the wall. The continuous crack pattern usually follows the joints between cinder blocks caused by soil settling beneath the foundation wall. The only sure way to tell if the issue is serious is to hire an an engineer to perform soil tests and core drill tests to determine what repairs are needed. The soil can be softer than anticipated, the design may be inadequate for the soil conditions and load it is supposed to support, or shifting underground water patterns can be at play-literally undermining the foundation after construction.

Other signs:

Another way to test the seriousness of a wall crack is to open and close doors and windows and evaluate whether the doors or windows stick. If so, ensure the sticking isn’t a result of paint, faulty hardware or cracked wood. If you determine there’s nothing obstructing the swinging motion of the door, it might be a sign of a moderate to severe foundation change, often resulting in wall cracks.

door gapSticky doors and windows could indicate that the frame has been twisted by a shifting house. If you notice a visible gap at the top of a sticky door where it meets the door frame and you see light shining through, that might also signal a serious settlement problem, often resulting in jagged, horizontal cracks on nearby walls or corners of the wall-opening. Often the floor too will  display evidence of distress with bulging or cracks.

Stairs & openings:

Because stairs and floor openings are essentially holes , the reinforcement around the hole has to be strong enough and continuous . Frequent ceiling crack emerge at the corners of the ceilings that indicate that the connections may have started to loosen or that the framing is undersized. This can be the result of poor craftsmanship or poor design- forensic evaluation has to be performed to determine the reason in most cases.

Study the wall area surrounding the crack and look for nail heads or screw heads that might be visible on the surface of the wall. The nail or screw might not have damaged the drywall, but it has likely pulled away from the wooden stud beneath. This phenomenon is often known as “nail pops” or “nail popping” and might be a sign of structural problems. Nail pops are frequently associated with more serious wall cracks and often signal significant drywall shear movement- but can also signify that the wood framing was not fully dried and ready to be used for construction.


Wait- why are you discussing drainage here?  Because when water moves around a building it affects the soil, which in turn results in how the foundation settles- or does not. Picture this for example- after a foundation is built-the soil has to be placed back in layers and compacted in order to be stable. Picture the mid summer late Friday afternoon, and Lenny the contractor’s, urge to start the weekend early.   He just dumped the soil back against the foundation and never COMPACTED it.

What happens next, is that the dumped soil next the building settles over the years and creates a basin where water gathers, puddles and slowly makes the soil spongy and invalidates the foundations design and construction.

09 03 09 023We work with a good team of structural engineers and other consultants who we can refer to you if you have any questions or concerns.  Sleep well, get that crack checked out, call now 914 980 5532, ask for Steve.