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Cracks in walls – when should you worry?

step cracking to brickwork

This article is for general information only and not intended as advice. Each property has its own set of unique circumstances, and all potential issues with regards to cracking should be investigated by a surveyor on a case by case basis before making any decision.

Buying a property can be an exciting time – but how do you know if the building is in good condition? Let’s take the example of walls that appear to have cracks in them. The untrained eye is unlikely to tell whether this is a minor nuisance requiring redecoration, or a major structural problem with the building.

This is where property surveyors can be worth their weight in gold. At Cosey Homes, our RICS Building Surveys and Specific Structural Inspections are designed to check all visible building elements and provide comprehensive professional advice to enable the homebuyer to make an informed purchase decision. And while minor surface cracks are generally nothing to worry about, cracking that has occurred as a result of structural movement may well turn out to be a huge deal.

Why are there cracks in the wall?

First off, it is worth stating that it is not unusual for houses to experience cracks in the wall. In fact, most properties do at some point. They occur naturally as a result of settlement, such as in the following scenarios:

When do cracks in buildings indicate subsidence?

On the whole, cracks such as the ones mentioned above tend to be superficial, with painting and decorating usually all that is needed to fix them. However, larger cracks could be a sign of major structural movement such as subsidence and heave, and damage to the building’s foundations. This may be caused by:

How wide are the cracks in the wall?

Worried that the cracks in the building might be serious? As a rule of thumb, cracks that are wider than 15mm, or that appear suddenly, could be a cause for concern and should be investigated by a surveyor or structural engineer who will categorise as follows:

Negligible: Hairline cracks under 1mm wide can be easily dealt with by redecorating

Slight: 1 – 5mm wide cracks can be fixed with interior filler or external repointing

Moderate: 5 – 15mm wide cracks may need professional building work

Severe: Large cracks up to 25mm may indicate structural damage and should be inspected by a professional

Very Severe: Cracks wider than 25mm are typically a sign of major structural damage and may need underpinning and rebuilding. Seek professional help at once.

Subsidence cracks usually run diagonally across a wall, and tend to be wider at the top than at the bottom. They are often found around doors and windows. Large vertical cracks can also be a tell-tale sign of structural movement.

If you are at all worried about any crack in the wall of the property you are about to buy, seek professional advice as soon as possible. Contact Cosey Homes for an instant online survey quote or call the team on 0330 053 5823.