Are small cracks in cement considered 'normal'

nanner10April 16, 2010

We bought a, just finished, new home a year and a half ago in Massachusetts. The builder says that hairline cracks in the foundation and the garage floor are normal and not covered under warranty.

Mass code calls for a one year warranty period and I pointed the garages issues out prior to that expiration date. We did not see the cellar cracks until this winter, I am not sure if they were there until just after the warranty period lapsed.

In the (mostly below grade) cellar there are small cracks from the bottom corners of several of the windows that reach to the floor.

In the 3 car garage there is a somewhat wider crack that goes across (pretty much centered in the middle of the floor) all three bays. The crack zig-zags a little bit and in some places it looks like pieces might pop out eventually

Also there are small cracks in the garage foundation walls in several places. They are visible inside and some are visible outside. Those walls are the typical foot or so high.

Obviously there is some settling but how much is considered normal and acceptable??

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!!

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Most of us are not familiar with Mass. building regulations.

Did you document your complaint at the time. In other words do you have proof you pointed it out to the builder and/or insurance agent?

In any event I would pay to have a certified inspector look at your house and give you a written evaluation. Some of those cracks, especially in the basement and garage, do not seem small to me. I would consider small to be hairline not what you've described. An outside professional opinion could go a long way toward changing the initial ruling. It's definately worth a try and a small price to pay if it gets some relief from the builder or insurance co.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 2:38PM
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In general, builders will tell customers that nearly any concern is 'normal and not covered by warranty.' If they can keep you unconcerned long enough, and lull you into not keeping good documentation, the warranty runs out, and if you persist they may say they were not notified of the problem during the warranty period.

Been there, done that, but in another state.

You'll need to find out what your state requires of builders as far as a warranty of their work, plus what the statute of limitations are for construction defects. The two things can be entirely different. You will need to have a competent, unbiased, structural engineer look at suspected foundation failure most likely, because home inspectors do not necessarily have the education and license to advise on engineering issues.

Document everything. Hopefully you have a paper trail showing you notified the builder of this concern before any important deadlines ran out. If you have proof you attempted to start a warranty claim or concern, in time, it can be very important.

Many lawyers will tell you that there's not enough money in your case, even if it's a valid case, so they won't help. If you find a lawyer who will help, and who's good at his/her job, you're ahead of where we were. We had over 30 lawyers tell us that we'd probably win but never collect, so they would not get involved. We just had to learn for ourselves what to do. Several years later we settled the case. But it was about all I had time or energy to deal with during those years. So it is possible to fight and win and even collect, but if it's not "worth it" to a law firm you will find yourself going it alone as far as legal help.

I strongly recommend you use the info available on two consumer organization's sites: and This is really the only kind of place I got the info I needed to help myself.

Good luck, I hope that it IS only minor, but you have to be sure, and that will require spending some cash on at least an inspection by someone qualified in foundation failure. Then go from there but be sure to document everything no matter what.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 9:23PM
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Large cracks in a basement wall are not normal. However, small cracks can appear in walls made of cement block due to settling. Hairline cracks in basement floors and garage floors are common by 5 years after the pour. The garage floor is more susceptable to cracking than a basement floor because it sees greater temperature changes. Street salt dripings from vehicles can be very damaging to garage floors. Garage floors should be sealed before vehicles driven in winter are parked on it. One caveat: Too much sealant may cause a floor to become slippery, an unsafe condition.

If a crack in a basement wall is due to pressure on the outside of the wall, that could signal further trouble. The pressure may come from settling backfill, large rocks in the backfill pressing against the wall, or fluid. If the footing drains are missing or not working, water pressure against a wall can be considerable and troublesome.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2010 at 3:57AM
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