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Old 01-28-2010, 01:39 PM   #1
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Solve this!? Walls moving new construction


Hi,
I'm in a cookie-cutter 2 year old home built by a large builder that went bankrupt (go figure!). In Chicago (read cold winters).

I have SIX walls in total, 2 pull away from the back of the cultured marble tops in the bathrooms with a large mirror on the wall, pulls away laterally or side of the countertop, and cabinets.

A picture (if I knew how to do it) would be a thousand words. But in other words, my kitchen countertop and cabinets where they abutt an outside wall have an 1/16-1/8" gap in the wintertime, ripping the paint.
In the summertime everything snaps back. This has happened for two seaons now.

Two bathroom walls, exterior walls again, with a cultured marble top (so I assume it is square) pull away from the back of the countertop backsplash (the whole top is one piece) leaving a gap as well. There is a typical 2x5 mirror the builders throw in many homes, and I can't see any cracks or gaps there.

Any clue what is going on?
The builder (before Ch.7) wanted to caulk it, but I wanted to wait and see.
So seasonally the walls move. Several are mid-span, one is near a corner and one is actually a small wall (3'wide) that is perpendicular to an outside wall.

Thanks,
Berg

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Old 01-28-2010, 02:37 PM   #2
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Solve this!? Walls moving new construction


Could be foundation settlement. Could be soil swelling and shrinking based on the soil's moisture content. Could be freeze/thaw somehow affecting the foundation. Could be poor framing. Only way to know for sure is to hire a structural engineer for a couple hundred bucks to come out and evaluate the situation.

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Old 01-28-2010, 02:50 PM   #3
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Solve this!? Walls moving new construction


There is a lot of expansion and contraction here because summers can be so hot and humid and winters so cold and dry. I encounter doors/frames that work great in the winter and swell so much you cannot close them in the summer. Piano tuners do really well here. One mover refuses to move pianos from Southern climates to Chicago in the winter because they can literally crack going from the humidity to the dryness.

Caulking may be your only hope.
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Old 01-28-2010, 03:01 PM   #4
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Solve this!? Walls moving new construction


I guess I should have specified. Some walls are on the first floor, BUT twice the number of affected walls are on the second floor.

So I appreciate the response, but I really don't think the 8" poured foundation is flexing.

Poor carpentry, well yes. However what would make a wall move, especially in the middle of its span?

There should be nothing affected THAT much by cold weather in the wall, siding, tyvek, plywood, insulation, drywall....

I guess the walls are bowing towards the outside, if that helps.

I will try to post pictures....the one I attempted was our upstairs masterbath behind the sink top. It comes back into alignment in the summer.
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Old 01-28-2010, 03:15 PM   #5
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The cabinets/countertops on first floor.
The one with seam on left is actually an interior wall that borders our "minibar" area...essentially one base and one upper cabinet with a 3' wall floor to ceiling on either side, perpendicular to an outside wall.

The second picture is the bottom of the wall cabinets into a corner of the kitchen.

I have and will live with this, possibly attaching a scribe molding along the cabinets...connected to the wall so it slides over the cabinet/wall seam with the seasons. Unlike the scribe in the first photo (done by builder).

Thanks.
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Old 01-28-2010, 04:44 PM   #6
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Solve this!? Walls moving new construction


Quote:
Originally Posted by bergerdude View Post
So I appreciate the response, but I really don't think the 8" poured foundation is flexing.
You'd be surprised...mine moved 14 inches before I got it fixed. It would be a lot more level in wet weather and it slumped downhill in the drought we had that went from mid 07-mid 09.

The cure was 34 steel piers pressed in till the point of refusal, which was roughly 30 feet.
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Old 01-28-2010, 04:52 PM   #7
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Solve this!? Walls moving new construction


If its a trussed roof - It could also be truss movement with the walls tied directly into the truss bottom chords.
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Old 01-28-2010, 05:50 PM   #8
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The fact that your gaps are seasonal almost certainly rules out foundation settlement, as that would be a permanent (and almost certainly) increasing problem. The seasonality suggests dimensional changes in the wood studs in your wall due to changes in relative humidity within your house. Wood expands perpendicular to the grain (read horizontally for vertical studs) about 1 - 2 percent due almost entirely to changes in moisture content, temperature has little to do with it.

That means that a 3.5 inch wide stud is going to change up to about .05 inches over the course of a year, which sounds like it is enough to explain the gaps that are appearing. The cultured marble probably does not move at all, so effectively the walls are shrinking away from the counter in the winter, and swelling tight in the summer. As to which walls are going to be affected more, that would depend on the moisture content of the studs at the time of installation.
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Old 01-31-2010, 07:03 PM   #9
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If I CAULK won't the caulk look terrible when the wall compresses it in the spring/summertime?

If the walls move due to the lumber changing humidity could I try using a cabinet screw under the sinktop into the studs through the back of the vanity. This would hold the 2x4s tight to the back of the cabinet/vanity.

However, what force do the 2x4s swelling exert? Would they stay tacked in place (I'll do this in summer of course) or will it rip the screws thru the 1/4" plywood back of the vanity come wintertime??

...why only certain 2x4s are affected I don't understand...

Thanks!

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Old 01-31-2010, 08:04 PM   #10
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The force exerted due to dimensional changes in lumber due to humidity variations is enormous, certainly enough to rip out any screws you might put in. Caulk might not look too horrible if it is painted. As to why some studs are affected, different species of wood have different swell ratios, and you may have different wood species in the walls. Also, some of the studs may have been put in green, which would affect their performance. Studs near the middle of a wall are going to have more effect than studs near the end of a wall due to geometric effects.

Designing a house so that seasonal changes in dimensions due to humidity variations do not produce cracks or gaps is a lot harder than it sounds, and is often ignored. Next time you are visiting someone, check out cracks in drywall near doors and windows, see if the hardwood floors have buckled or have gaps, and see if the walls are still plumb. Your problem is not unique, just unfortunately difficult to correct.
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Old 02-01-2010, 09:47 AM   #11
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The pictures (especially this one above), appear to show, not just movement, but possibly "upward" movement of the walls. This is why I mention the "Truss" movement theory.

I have seen it many times. Trusses that move according to the seasonal changes (wood expansion & contraction) = and pull the attached wall(s) with it.
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Old 02-01-2010, 06:06 PM   #12
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I have seen that a many times and it is happening in my 3 yr old home in the kitchen. The cabinets are attached firmly to the studs and the counter tops are attached firmly to the cabinets. So, what is really moving? Even if the studs did shrink the cabinets are screwed firmly to that shrinking stud with only 1/2" drywall between. How could the drywall shrink that much? I have a 1/16" to an 1/8" along one wall. None of the explanations I have heard make any sense to me.

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Old 02-01-2010, 06:11 PM   #13
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Hey, it just hit me. What makes the most sense is the cabinet is shrinking allowing the front to fall slightly while the rear being screwed to the studs near the top keep the rear nearer the original height. This would explain the gap that forms along the back of the counter top. What do you guys think. Any cabinet guys have a thought?

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Old 02-01-2010, 06:27 PM   #14
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Solve this!? Walls moving new construction


I have the same thing on my kitchen counter in Ontario. It never did bother me too much though. No caulking on mine though --- I think yours looks a little worse.
I say - relax, have a beer, be happy, don't worry.

Steve

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Old 02-01-2010, 06:30 PM   #15
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Solve this!? Walls moving new construction


Wall appears to be moving UP. Truss uplift would be a consideration.

http://www.buildingscience.com/docum...truss%20uplift

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