Help! Structural Issues Or Is This Normal?!?

mydreamhomeFebruary 27, 2012

This weekend while lounging in my luxurious tub I noticed a terrible looking crack that went from the crown molding to the door frame over the closet door on the bathroom side. Then I discovered another crack running on a jagged diagonal extending from the door frame upward on the closet side of the door. The closet door now rubs as you try to close it at the upper right corner where the diagonal crack is. Then when we came home tonight, our 7 year old puts his stuff away in his room and comes back to announce he wants to play the Wii and by the way there is a crack in his wall! We investigate and indeed there is a crack running on a jagged diagonal extending from the door frame upward on the bedroom side of the doorway leading to his bathroom. I start looking at all the doorways and find another diagonal crack in the wall from our master bedroom into the bathroom & one that runs straight up & down above the laundry doorway similar to the one in the master bath, but not quite as bad.

So is this normal or do I have a big problem on my hands? What else do I need to be looking for? This is a brand new custom built house that was finished end of Sept 2011 and we moved in first of Oct 2011. DH checked in the attic and no sign of any water damage or anything like that. We are calling the builder tomorrow, but I want to make sure I am educated and prepared to have a two-way discussion with him & make sure I'm not missing something he may not want to bring up. The floorplan and pics of cracks are posted below. Thanks for any help we can get!

Floor Plan:

Master Bath:

Master Closet:

Master Bedroom:

Zach's Bedroom:


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Are they interior walls, exterior walls, or both? What is the house made of? Approximate geographical location? I wouldn't like seeing all of those cracks in new construction. It seems like something is moving.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 6:06AM
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Ditto. The diagonal cracks above the doors indicate something is moving to me too. Maybe foundation settling/sinking? I would be very concerned too. I would want a foundation engineer to inspect to confirm whatever the builder tells you the problem is.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 8:09AM
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The house is brick, standard wood stick built on-site framing, stick built attic/roof, TJIs used in floors and ceiling, & 22 piers under the house. The cracks are all appearing on interior walls--just did a perimeter walk and no cracking that I can see on the outside. All 3 diagonal cracks lean toward the center of the house. We are located on the western side of central NC. I do have the structural drawings if they would help. Here is the floor plan with the doorways marked where the cracks are.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 9:17AM
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Sounds like settling and since you're on piers with footings, look there first for your culprit. I'm not a builder or structural expert, but here are lots of questions for you to think about.

Can you get within your crawl space? I'd meticulously check each pier with a flashlight and also the joist system. I saw a photo from the "How's your build" thread and see that you've got brick veneer over the outside of your cinderblock foundation wall so that might be masking any cracks on your outer wall. Get under there and crawl around! :)

Did you take plenty of photos of the joists and piers during construction?

How do the cracks correlate to your pier system and joists?

Did an engineer ever look at the loads/blueprints before you built?

What do you know about the footings..... how deep, how were they reinforced and was any soil study ever done?

You might want a structural engineer to look at it asap. Good luck, I'm sure you are just sick over this..... I'm so sorry!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 11:23AM
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My house has some cracks like that, but it occurred only after another section of the house was jacked up to correct a problem that had pre-existed. We were planning on re-doing the affected areas anyway, so we weren't too concerned. I would say that something underneath is not right.

I hear what everyone is saying about the footings. Have you checked the span in your basement between the support columns? I doubt that is the cause of the number of cracks you have, but it might be worth checking.

Good Luck, and keep us posted.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 7:22PM
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I am so sorry to read about the cracks in your new home. Not having any knowledge only gut instinct, I would insist on a structural engineer to inspect the house REGARDLESS of what the builder says at your meeting.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 8:02PM
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mydreamhome - very sorry to hear about that. How unsettling and upsetting that must be. I would agree with the others that you should consult with an engineer regardless of your discussion with the builder. You might want to call your insurance agent as well.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 8:18AM
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Cracks that are not open do not mean much.

Cracks that are open indicate shifting of support members.

Tight cracks can be caused by material itself and minor movement (wind loads, snow loads, etc.).

Permanent movement causes cracks that remain open.

Problems with doors racking can be anything from drying out of structural wood, settling, or framing defects.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 11:25AM
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Update--DH got under the house last night with his flashlight and level and inspected all the piers, foundation walls & TJIs. No cracks that he could see on any of the piers, foundation or TJIs. When he put the level under where the cracking is occurring, he said it was slightly out of level--may be 1/8". DH said he thinks its just the house settling, but we are still having the builder come out. Don't worry, I plan to have a structural engineer check it out too. Our county requires you to have the plans engineered & signed off on with the engineer's stamp on it before you can build & that is what the inspector uses to ensure that it's done to specs.

brickeye-Thanks so much for chiming in. I was hoping you and Renovator8--and even macv if he ever just cruises by anymore-- would take a look. How would you classify the cracks I have based on what you outlined above and the info & pics above?

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 2:02PM
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Aggravating but very likely not significant, especially as you can't find any cracking in structural support.

From the Construction Performance Guidelines of TARION, the mandatory government warranty programme that I build under:

Acceptable Performance/Condition
Interior drywall shall be installed to minimize cracking of joints, corners and corner beads.

One-Year - Work and Materials Cracks resulting from normal shrinkage of materials due to drying after construction are excluded from the statutory warranty.

Only warranted cracks shall be repaired and refinished to match original builder-applied finish as closely as possible.

Cracks are not unusual in drywall compound at joints, particularly at corners. Most cracks are a result of normal shrinkage and are generally not warranted. The repair of normal shrinkage cracks is at the builder's discretion and sanding and repainting is not required. Builder's specific policies with respect to drywall repair will vary. These repairs are best left until the framing has settled." (Emphasis added.)

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 6:08PM
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Thanks, Worthy. That helps alot. When should we expect that the framing has settled enough to do the repairs?

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 9:29PM
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I'd probably wait a few months to repair in order to monitor the cracks, in case they widen. Framing, even so-called kiln dried, shrinks and warps; everything settles.

Those cracks are worse than I'd expect on a new home; not unusual for a 40-50 year old one. I'd certainly put it on record to the builder and have him check that out-of-level framing.

Even the permitted deflection of steel beams over time will create unsightly cracks in surface finishes without affecting structural integrity.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 10:06PM
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mydreamhome, definitely have a structural engineer come out to look at it! i wish we had done this sooner on my build. Our structural engineer has been able to come up with some creative fixes to our (many) problems that will not cost as much as tearing things apart and redo-ing. Good luck!!

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 10:28PM
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I live near you and we are also having issues in our slightly less than 1 year old house! Perhaps it is our wonderful county dirt! We have alot of cracking, but not on the walls-just about every trim piece, corner, etc.

This is in addition to other problems, so it is disheartening. I am hoping yours and mine are just "normal" settling....

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 7:35PM
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jeannc--So sorry to hear you are having similar problems. Hopefully we will both be able to get some answers.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 9:53PM
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