So, you’ve bought a new construction home. It’s clean and new and you are proud to call it your own. Then, you start to notice a few cracks like perhaps a stair-step crack that breaks a brick, block or solid concrete, horizontal cracks, wide cracks (the thickness of your fingernail or greater) or a pattern of cracks starting on one side of a corner and picking up on the other side.
A new house will settle. As far as cracks inside your home, you will have some fine stress cracks in your walls. This usually occurs around doors, doorways and sometimes small ones will appear in the ceilings.
Where to turn for help when you notice foundation cracks?
You should first contact your builder. If you notice a problem within the first year, your builder will have their warranty manager come out to evaluate it. It is their job to bring in a foundation repair company to perform any foundation repairs necessary.
Your new home should be covered by a structural warranty purchased by the builder, in some cases up to 10 years for national builders. Find out who’s covering your home’s structural warranty and contact them with your concerns. Warranties stay with the house, not the owners.
Document with pictures what is going on with your foundation so that you can create a history of it over time. Inspect your home at least annually.
- Walk around the outside of the house if you can, looking for cracks in the concrete, stone or brick foundation. (With some homes, shrubbery or a cement board skirting around the foundation make this impossible.)
- If there’s a basement, check the inner walls for evidence of leaks or seeping water, especially where walls meet the floor.
- A crack that is wider at the top is a clue that one part of the house is staying still while another is pulling away.
- A crack whose surface is uneven can be a sign that the house is shifting. Rub your hand over it to tell if one edge is higher.
- Be alert with hillside homes where earth movement can cause a foundation to slide. Conscientious builders perform a soil test before they start to learn how solid the earth is beneath the building.
- Pay special attention to homes in a flood plain. Saturation and drying or freezing and thawing can stress the foundation.
Most settlement cracks are the result of short-term settlement. Ongoing settlement is unlikely and uncommon. Since it is very difficult to identify ongoing settlement from a one-time visit to the home, documentation of annual inspections can be to your benefit when submitting a structural warranty claim.