6 1/2 months later...my granite seam separating....Why?

beekeeperswifeDecember 1, 2012

Hi gang. I've heard all about new houses that settle. I see that the lovely caulk job I did on my tile has cracked now between the back splash and the counter (a lot). I figured, no big deal, I'll re-caulk.

BUT tonight, I noticed the seam in the granite is separating!

Is this something that is normal? Should I call the builder or the granite fabricator? I'm on very good terms with the fabricator, but they are 1.5-2 hours from here, so it's not a quick fix. They are a very reputable company and the seam was indeed done right. But should the house be settling this much?

The counters were installed in early May.


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Change in overall temperature. It likely shrank when it got colder outside (and, on average, in your house).

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 6:42PM
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kevin...what shrank? The granite in my last kitchen stuck together through various seasons. Same with the caulk.

I can slip paper between the 2 pieces of granite! And the counter and tile have about a 1/4" gap in the biggest area.

This is odd.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 6:50PM
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You would say it is related to change it temp and settling of your house. Doesn't take a year or two for new houses to finish settling? I would take a good look around your house and see if there are other issues. Maybe send your fabricators some photos of it.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 7:43PM
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Call your fabricator, and debra had a good idea - send them images. No need to guess if you worked with great people.

My thought would be that the cabinets are the culprit. They may have been hastily shimmed for level and are now settling under the weight of the stone, but who knows? They will. And they may fix it for free if you contact them quickly.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 7:51PM
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Bee, I am not much of a help with the granite, but I can offer you what happens with our counters.

We built this current house, now living in it 5 years. We have the cheap builders formica, along with the dated 4 inch backsplash. The area where the splash is caulked on the wall has separated numerous times. I've had it recaulked, but it always seperates. I am guessing that it is part house settling, part change of temp.

We do have granite on an outdoor kitchen. That seam has split open also, but that is exposed to snow and the elements. And the installers were not the best. Lets just say it is a company that I will NEVER again use.

I would hope that indoor granite would not have the same issues. I'm sorry to hear your troubles!

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 8:01PM
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I don't think its normal.It seems more likely to be your builder or cabinet installer's issue as presumably something under the granite has moved to cause the separation.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 8:21PM
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Everyone you worked with has been stellar it seems, so I'd contact all three of them: GC, Dutchwood, and the Fabricator. It's best to get everyone involved now so they can remedy it and also understand when it started happening just in case it continues.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 8:34PM
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Definitely not normal. I don't know about new houses and settling, but I can tell you that we did a full house renovation in central Washington state- desert weather, really cold winters and hot summers. My granite did not budge, you could practically dance on it. No separation in between the granite and backsplash either. I would definitely call the installers and the builder as well.

So sorry about your troubles! Hope it will solve quickly and painlessly.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 8:38PM
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I just know that the grout at the very top of my backsplash abutting the cabinets now has a small separation that didn't used to be there. Like you, it was installed in the warm weather a few months ago. Now, it's cold, and that's when it happened. Now, my house is nearly 200 years old, so it's not the best insulated thing, but that's what I could think of.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 8:49PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Construction material (wood) is full of moisture. Part of "drying in" a house is to turn on the heat and start to pull the moisture out of the framing, the subfloor, the drywall, the flooring, and every other thing that's full of water. That wood full of water has swelled larger than it is when it's dry. When it dries out and loses the moisture, it shrinks. When wood shrinks, the fasteners loosen a bit, and everything settles a bit. That's when a house can have thing start to be out of plumb, or out of level. That's what's happened here. Things have dried out and settled. And shifted. That can pull apart even a properly seamed granite. Especially if it's around a corner, which is subject from settling in multiple directions.

If you had to use compacted soil to build on, that can also lead to settling of a home as well. Compacted gravel fill is much better at not settling.

So, many things can be the cause. Fixing it may involve some shimming and epoxy and isn't a huge deal. But, do expect the drying out of the home to continue through the heating season. And when summer comes around, if you don't use air, the wood will expand again. So, I'd wait until some time in mid spring to have this fixed as that will be a time of median humidity and enough time will have passed so as to allow a lot of the construction moisture to be done with.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 9:15PM
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Hey Bee
No separating of the seam at our house. We are having a lot of settling (lots of cracks in crown molding in corners that have to be fixed and one big crack down the wall and across the sealing) but no problems with the granite.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 9:17PM
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Bee my DH was in the excavating business for many years and is very knowledgeable of site prep. Was your original house site level or was excavation required to level? Was extra dirt used to fill the lot? Was proper foundation prepared? These are the types of questions he would ask. Now, if it is a situation of whole house settling, you would see other indications, similar to what beagles has experienced. Check all your mitered trims for minute separation, baseboard pulling slightly from walls, hairline cracks anywhere in sheetrock or tile work. Also check for any slight wrinkling of the sheetrock where it meets the ceiling. That is usually the first sign of whole house settling.

If you don't see these type of issues, it is more than likely an issue with the cabinets, i.e. shrinking/curing of the wood or improper shimming.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 9:58PM
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Hi Bee, do u think it could be from hurricane Sandy? we have cracks in our family room ceiling that we never had before the storm, our house is 8 years old so the settlement is over, and I know the cracks are from the storm. Possibility.. good luck!

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 10:01AM
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I wonder where my post went...I did post a response. I'll try again.

Thanks for all the information. I will be calling all involved tomorrow. A lot of the suggestions make sense. I should tell you that we are not built on ground that was "built up". And we have Superior Walls for our foundation. And this area is indeed over the Superior Wall, not the back part that was just framed.

I just don't want the tile to be damaged during the repair process of this.

And I'm guessing that the genius who failed to hook up the humidifier should be coming around to get the water line run to it so we can get some humid air up here!

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 1:24PM
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Here in NC our house moves a good bit depending on how dry or wet it is. (SERIOUS clay soil here.) I know that in TX folks were having real trouble with the drought and were having to water their foundations because the ground was shrinking so much...perhaps the opposite is happening to y'all?

Good luck, Bee!

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 4:24PM
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I have nothing to offer in the way of advice, just wanted to add my good wishes for a positive outcome.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 7:22PM
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1st; the granite didn't shrink. thats ridiculous.

seam failures on new homes are not frequent but they are also not uncommon. A good fabricator will come back and redo the seam for anywhere up to 2 years free of charge as long as you let him schedule it when his crew is in your area.

the seam failure is invariably the result of some factor external to the granite. Once granite tops are properly shimmed and seamed there is no stress on the seams and therefore no reason for a seam to fail. when a seam does fail it's almost always because of stress induced by settling of the cabinets. Occasionally we'll see a seam failure because of sagging corbels.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 12:40AM
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Well, I spoke with the builder this am. This fellow is a former site-superivisor who did such a thorough job (thus taking him a little longer to finish his jobs) that he was essentially demoted to being a guy who does the warranty repair work. Anyhow....he gave me the scoop. The 2x10 floor joists are not being dried as well as they should be at the mill. He is seeing this in a lot of houses and he has even called the supplier and voiced his concern.

He said probably that along with the fact that we still don't have our humidifier hooked up (which was supposed to be done by now!) accelerated the rate of the wood drying and shrinking. He said he is very surprised about the granite separating. He said he is glad it didn't break...uh, yeah, me too!

So, we are going to hopefully get the humidifier hooked up right away, and maybe it will slow it down a little bit. He thinks once we get into the coldest part of the season and the heat is really running a lot it will get it all the way dried out and then we can fix the stone.

I'm off to call the granite people and see if there is anything I should do to the seam temporarily to prevent stuff from running down it!

Thanks again for all the help.


    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 10:15AM
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Well, seems like there's a good plan. Since we are talking a few months to fix it, with good reason, I'd start a log of who you spoke with and when. I don't think you will need it, but never hurts.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 10:42AM
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yep, keep a log.

and as you talk to different people I wouldn't tell 'em what this guy said. Too easy for them to just agree with him to get you off their back. I'd want to hear what they think caused it.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 9:05PM
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Bee, sorry to hear about your granite troubles. Years ago we had a 6 month old house that had the furnace go on while we were out of town. It was an unusually warm spring and the furnace should not have gone on and it certainly should have shut off but it didn't. When a neighbor came to check on things she couldn't even touch the door knob on the outside. She called the fire department and when they came they said it was the hottest house they had ever been in that wasn't on fire. Needless to say our house became "kiln dried" that week. If we had had granite, I'm sure our seams would have separated. As it was our Formica countertops warped, seats on dining room chairs split open, the fridg overheated and shut down spoiling all the contents, candles melted, plants died etc, etc. Our builder said it probably would have taken 10 years to get all the lumber in our house as dry as the furnace mishap made it in one week. So weird things happen. Hope nothing else shifts or moves in your house.
I did read on some websites that seam shifting and separating does happen. There was same discussion of it on the granite blog linked below

Here is a link that might be useful: Granite seams

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 10:43PM
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