After living in a house or apartment for a few years, you might notice cracks developing along the walls. Where do these cracks come from, and why do they arise? Is there any way to prevent them or to fix them?
If you are looking for answers to these questions, you have come to the right place. On homify, we provide you with the answers that you seek. So long as it is a crack and not a structural fault the walls of your house can be restored easily. In this ideabook, we present the causes of cracks on the walls as well as some solutions to fix this problem.
Generally, the walls of houses have a certain type of covering, which helps it to withstand the weather elements such as sun, rain, pollution and humidity. When the wall has been exposed to these elements directly, after a while, the surface will develop cracks.
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However, when assessing a crack in the wall surface, it is important to detect its origin to ensure that it hasn’t arisen due to some deeper damage inside the wall. For instance, a structural crack results from pressure variations within the structure, caused by movements in the foundation or the ground under the building. They can also arise due to the absorption and retention of moisture because of the inferior quality of bonding materials such as cements and plasters, which were used to construct the wall. In fact, the use of sub-standard materials, or the insufficiency of materials during construction, is one of the most common causes of these hidden defects. Another cause is the natural movement of the earth, such as the imperceptible tremors or earthquakes of higher magnitudes.
Usually, hidden defects result in horizontal cracks or sliding faults and are caused due to the insufficient use of materials during the construction. As a result, there is a lack of adhesion between the joints of the wall that causes one part to slide over the other.
Fissures that are almost tree-like with branches are caused by humidity or moisture that isn't fixed immediately. Owing to this, the adhesive as well as the construction materials become damaged.
Stepped faults usually occur in the joints between blocks or bricks in the wall. They form due to diagonal tension between the structure of the wall and the floor, or because of the inferior quality of material used to build the wall. In cases of stronger movements, or insufficient reinforcement and anchoring of the steel in the structure, vertical cracks can form at the corners and in the centre of the wall. These two types of fissures are a warning that you need to take measures to reinforce the structure.
Finally, the cracks that you must worry about the most, because they are dangerous, are diagonal ones. They indicate a strong structural damage for which a minor repair of the coating won’t be sufficient. You will have to consult a structural expert to repair this type of crack permanently.
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For cracks and fissures caused by temperature or climatic factors, the opening should be filled with prepared putty or other special adhesives or industrial sealants. Once you integrate the mixture along the crack with the help of a spatula, and it is filled completely, you need to wait until the mixture dries. After this, the surface can be smoothened with fine-grain sandpaper and painted in the same colour as the rest of the wall.
In the case of cracks caused by the natural movement of the earth or by temperature, very thin lines might appear on the surface. These are almost unnoticeable and occur only in the coating. They can be restored using special paints that work as sealants not only to cover and repair the existing cracks, but also to prevent against future damage.
Remember that every house will have fissures, due to the natural movement of the land and the settling of the structure. The important thing is to detect the type of fissure and take care of it accordingly.
When you have a vertical or stepped crack, it is not enough to fill it with putty. It is advisable to consult a structural engineer to assess whether it is sufficient to seal both sides of the wall or if reinforcement of the columns or wall joints is required.
Since these cracks are caused by hidden defects, which means that the structure or material was insufficient, usually some reinforcement will be needed. A new steel column can be placed for support, or the floor around the foundation can be opened, and more steel integrated to anchor it well to the old structure.
In most cases, building a ring around the wall with steel profiles, can work for reinforcing the load and vertical structure.
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If your house has a diagonal crack that is so big that you can look through it to the other side of the wall, or if pieces of the wall collapse, you need to move out of the house immediately! In such cases, call a structural expert to determine the extent of the damage, not only on the wall, but also on the entire building, as usually, such cracks are symptoms of deeper structural damages in the construction.
If your house is insured against structural damages, it’s time to get an expert opinion on the origin and risk-level of the cracks. Review the fine-print in your contract with the home-builder or seller to see whether you can claim these damages. Builders should have permits and documents with the structural plan that can be referred to find a solution to the problem. You can request access to these documents to find a permanent solution for the cracks. In case there is a fault in the design of the structure, you could get the builder to reimburse the cost of repair, which was caused due to incorrect planning and implementation of the building’s structure.
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