structural damage
Posted in: Home Improvement

Structural Damage? How to Spot It and Who to Call

Structural damage are two words that most homeowners dread. Structural damage is defined as any damage to a home that jeopardizes the core integrity of the house. There are various things that can cause structural damage. These include insect infestations, natural disasters or weather damage, poor construction or even just normal deterioration over time. This type of damage can occur to the foundation, walls, roof and load-bearing walls. You want to have structural damage repaired as soon as possible in order to avert serious ramifications. Therefore, it is important to know the signs of structural damage so that you can identify the issue early if possible.

There are signs you can look for on the exterior and interior of the home in order to identify structural damage. This is a short list of some of the most commons sign.

Exterior

  1. Cracks in foundation walls: One of the most obvious signs of extreme settling are large vertical cracks in the foundation that are wider at the top. Horizontal cracks can be indicative of the home sliding off its footing. Small hairline cracks are not typically signs of structural damage.
  2. Cracks in brick, stonework and mortar joints: Commonly seen in stairs that will go up in a diagonal pattern. Also look out for vertical or horizontal cracks in any type of brick or stonework around your home.
  3. Porch pulling away from the home: If you notice your porch, patio, or stairs pulling away from the home, don’t ignore. As this is a sign that your home’s foundation is settling in the opposite direction.
  4. Gaps in window and door frames: This will typically occur on only one side and is another sign of abnormal settling of the home.
  5. Chimney damage: Inspect your chimney occasionally to ensure there are no cracks or other signs of damage. Often, signs of structural damage can show up around your chimney before other areas of the home.
  6. External concrete settling: While not a sure sign there are structural issues, if slabs of concrete in the driveway appear to be shifting or not fitting together correctly, it can be an indicator that soil under the home is starting to wash away.

Interior

  1. Bowed walls: Although they may be hard to spot initially, be aware if your walls are curving inward. Because this issue usually shows up in the basement first, it is a good idea to inspect the walls of your basement periodically if you have one.
  2. Gaps between the wall and floor: This happens when one side of the house starts to sink faster than the other. The walls will warp and cause cracks between the wall and floor.
  3. Wall cracks: Whether they appear in your drywall or the walls of your basement, take note if you notice any horizontal or vertical cracks in your walls. You will be tempted to do a quick cosmetic repair, however, these can be signs that your house is improperly settling.
  4. Nail pops: While unattractive, nail pops can be indicative of more serious problems. These can manifest as small bulges in the wall or more dramatic cracks where the whole nail has pushed through the wall.
  5. Uneven floors: Aside from being an unattractive annoyance, uneven or tilting floors can also be a sign of house settling issues.
  6. Windows and doors not working properly: If you notice that your windows or doors are sticking, or even if things like cabinet doors are swinging open randomly, these can be symptoms of foundation issues.

If you do notice any of these issues while looking around your home, don’t panic yet. These signs do not always indicate an issue with the structural integrity of the home. You will want to have your home inspected by a licensed contractor or structural engineer. This is different than a normal home inspection. Home inspectors are only required to report what they observe and not give detailed analysis. A licensed contractor or structural engineer will be able to give you a thorough assessment that includes load-bearing calculations. Once the home assessment has been completed, they will be able to recommend what steps you need to take to repair your home.