What is the Difference between Structural and Non-Structural Cracks in my home?

It can be disconcerting when you suddenly notice a crack in your wall, your first thought will probably be something like “has that always been there?” Or perhaps, “How long has that been like it?”

Whatever your reaction, one thing is certain, you need to find out quickly if it’s a structural issue or not. A non-structural crack can be dealt with at your leisure, but a structural crack must be dealt with quickly before it causes much bigger issues.

Identifying Structural Cracks

A structural crack can go in any direction, vertical, horizontal, or even zigzag. But, structural cracks are generally wider than 3mm and will extend across a large section of your home. For example, a vertical crack will go across at least two of the levels on your home.

The reason for this is that structural cracks are generally caused by the soil under the house moving, also known as subsidence. This means that the foundations in one section shift downward slightly, and part of the house moves with it.

The first movement will show as a small crack, quite possible tracing the line of the blockwork in your home. As movement continues the crack will get larger and potentially even open up part of your house. Of course, that’s in extreme situations.

A good way of testing the structural integrity of your home and whether you have a structural crack or not is to have magnetic particle inspection done.

If you have structural issues you’ll also see matching cracks inside the home and you’ll notice that doors in the affected area becoming more difficult to close, windows can also be affected.

Structural cracks need to be dealt with quickly. That means getting a professional in to assess the crack and the cause. Only once you know what has caused it can you take steps to remedy the situation and prevent it from happening again.

You should note that repairing structural cracks can be a lot of work and maybe disruptive o your normal life. You’ll have to consider temporarily moving out.

Non-Structural Cracks

These are generally smaller than structural cracks and may not follow an obvious pattern. Non-structural cracks are usually caused by building materials drying out.

For example, plaster dries slowly, if it dries too quickly or has too much sun it can lose moisture and shrink, creating cracks. In fact, they are a number of conditions that cause non-structural cracks, most of them relate to imperfect building techniques and materials.

These are not dangerous and don’t need to be addressed. It is a good idea to monitor them to make sure they don’t get any bigger over time. Repair is usually as simple as adding extra material to pack the crack. But, if it is structural, it will quickly reappear even after you filled the crack.

Even a non-structural crack can develop into a structural crack, that’s why it’s important to monitor it and take action if it gets worse.

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