Home inspection findings by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck, Professional Real Estate Inspector TREC# 9073

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Does a Crack Mean a Foundation Problem?

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Is your attic filled to the brim with all of your old stuff? Are people working up there? New equipment? After three re-inspections of homes, I was considering how what happens in the attic effects our home.

Sitting in my living room, thinking about what I had just read, I look over the walls and ceilings, noticing cracks. I know of one problem with my foundation ( the left side is slightly lower due to moisture in the ground), but these cracks were new, and they had nothing to do with my foundation. I wondered what another home inspector would state if they saw those cracks. If the inspector was paying attention, he would make a statement concerning movement. In a way,movement is the culprit; however, I know the specific cause, and it was my weight.
   To improve my home, I had been working in the attic late spring and early summer. The cracks corresponded to positions that I had taken when repairing ducts or installing equipment. Could another home inspector figure out the source of the cracks? Maybe with consideration, but the determination of movement is generally correct. These cracks would not continue to expand, since my work is done. Other movement factors may effect these cracks, but since the source has been removed (my weight), the cracks are likely to remain as they are. The other fault which I noticed due to my efforts were nail pops.  If I make repairs, the cracks will not come back.
    This month has seen more re-inspections than new inspections. Re-inspections often happen before the homeowners move into their new home. Seeing problems is easier; however, an occupied home is not so bad.  One owner did not realize that they had to light their water heater, so they thought I had not noticed that the water heater was not working. In fact, a few owners are not prepared for their new home. I did observe new problems in the homes due to bringing in belongings. Attics are being used as storage space, and extra weight up there causes the same problem as my weight did, but the cracks can continue, because of the constant weight. Attics should not be deemed storage spaces really. Pests can use your boxes as homes. The boxes and stored goods will dry out in the attic, making good kindling for fires. Finally, the weight of the goods and your weight going to up there to get the stored good will help cause issues.
    In another case, the older appliances in the attic were  replaced. Appliances like water heaters and the components of the HVAC system are installed in new homes before the wall coverings go up. When replacing appliances, workers have to go through the home to the attic opening. Once in the attic, they are handling this weight. This process will cause its own cracks in wall coverings. We also seem to go with bigger appliances. This is not always necessary, but technicians make more money.
    I think that we have trained buyers to look for cracks, and to associate them with the foundation. There is so much dross across the web, yet the web is better informing consumers. Even though homeowners may not think about everything that needs to be done when moving into the home, they are asking better questions about safety issues or about possible issues. Cracks may mean any number of things, and they can be caused by different things, so the foundation is not always the culprit.

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5 Responses to “Does a Crack Mean a Foundation Problem?”

  1. Carl winters Says:

    Frank – I happened on your blogs. This is some excellent information and “thought provoker”.

  2. Thanks Carl. I am glad that you think so. I hope everything is going well for you and Ceil.

    For any other reader here, you should check out Carl’s site, if you need a home inspection in the Hill Country, but his “About Us”page has a link to his home inspection blog, which is a good read.

  3. Lauren Says:

    Hi Frank,

    Great information, we will all keep Carl’s name on file for the futue.



  4. Gale Says:

    I’m not sure that I agree with your assessment of attics as inappropriate for storage. An encapsulated attic should be appropriate for storage, as pests and extreme moisture (or lack thereof) conditions would be eliminated. And while I wouldn’t recommend storing a piano or a crate of bowling balls up there, it’s perfectly acceptable for light to moderate-weight storage.

  5. Although a sealed attic that has become a conditioned space would be suitable for storage since it ha become like another room in the house, we still have to be concerned about storing goods on top of insulation. This reduces the efficiency of this insulation. Most attics however are not encapsulated or sealed as if they are a separate room. You are right that I should have described what I was describing better. If there is mechanical equipment in this space, I would still be wary of storage in this space, just as I do not want to store a great deal by a gas water heater.

© Frank Schulte-Ladbeck Professional Home Inspector Houston, Texas
Frank Theodor Schulte-Ladbeck
home inspector, TREC# 9073
Houston , Texas , 77063 United States

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