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Old 02-14-2010, 10:34 AM   #1
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Potential foundation issues

I am hoping this thread will find someone who specializes in foundation repair, structural engineering, etc. I bought a new home in Oklahoma approximately 1 year ago. About 1-2 months ago I started walking around the house putting together a list of repairs for the builder since the warranty is about to expire (expires February 27th). One of the things I noticed was some cracking in the brick mortar above the garage. The builder came by last week and I pointed out all of my issues. When I showed him the cracks in the brick mortar he said that this cracking was likely cosmetic. Yesterday I was outside again and I noticed additional cracking in both the brick and the brick mortar on the back of my house. I am not sure if this is something I missed during my initial walk through or if this is a problem that has developed in the last several weeks, but these cracks appear to be much more severe than those on the garage. I am going to post pictures of the newer cracks and would appreciate any thoughts you might have. On the inside of the house we have had two tiles that had minor cracks in one of our bathrooms. These tiles were located near the outside edge of the house. We also have a large crack in the drywall in our livingroom, but this appears to be located where our drywall meets a piece or quarter round. I will post pictures of this as well. My main questions are what should I do to ensure that I have covered myself so that I don't get stuck holding the bill on this deal? Since the home is still in the one year warranty period I am assuming the builder will be responsible for fixing the issue. Should I have a structural engineer document the problems and then submit his findings to the builder? If I do hire a structural engineer and he finds problems is the builder obligated to fix them? Thanks for any help you can provide.
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Potential foundation issues-crack-near-top-house.jpg   Potential foundation issues-crack-picture-2.jpg   Potential foundation issues-zoomed-out-view-crack.jpg   Potential foundation issues-crack-picture-3.jpg   Potential foundation issues-drywall-crack.jpg  


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Old 02-14-2010, 10:44 AM   #2
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It's very hard to diagnose something like this from the internet. If you could get a clear picture of the foundation from inside & outside, that may help more.

I don't think the drywall corner bead issue is related.
It appears the mortar used may have been too stong.

I would suggest having these issues taken care of by the builder now before you're left holding the bag. I wouldn't worry so much about the structure of the brick, as it's only a veneer, but it can be a fairly expensive repair to pay for none-the-less.


Last edited by jomama45; 02-14-2010 at 02:01 PM.
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Old 02-14-2010, 10:53 AM   #3
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Thanks. The actual foundation is fairly visible on the outside of the house. The house actually sits quite high off of the ground in most spots. Just visually looking at what I can see of the foundation I have not seen cracks in the foundation itself. If you would like I can post pictures of the foundation near where the cracking in the bricks is occurring.
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Old 02-14-2010, 10:53 AM   #4
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when i see cracks thru brick not just following the mortar line i think stress. either settling or a top load thats not supposed to be there. brick is a veneer not a load carrying element, may be some of the ceiling load is sitting on that corner
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Old 02-14-2010, 12:25 PM   #5
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The legal issue of whether or not the builder is responsible is best suited for an attorney, not a DIY site. As for brick cracking, the previous poster correctly noted that this is almost certainly a veneer brick as opposed to a structural brick, since residential construction rarely uses brick as a structural element.

I investigated about a dozen cases of brick cracking in the Gulf Coast region. Based on my personal experience, and literature review, I believe that the following are common causes of brick and mortar cracking:

1. Foundation settlement. Differential settlement causes stresses on veneer brick that typically shows up in the form of cracking. Foundation settlement diagnosis requires a careful, accurate elevation survey of the foundation, and analysis of foundation cracking and displacement.

2. Use of excessively strong mortar. The ancient Roman mix for mortar was one part sand, one part lime, and one part water. This mix was used up until the early 1900's, and resulted in a soft, pliable mortar that was capable of yielding to stress and self healing of cracks. For a variety of reasons, mortar mixes began to include Portland cement beginning in the early 1900's, and now most mixes use Portland cement, which results in a strong, brittle, easily cracked mix. The problem is that the mortar is stronger than the brick, hence when expansion/contraction occurs due to thermal stress, moisture changes, or displacement of the foundation, the mortar does not want to yield, hence transfers stress to the brick, which can crack.

3. Inadequate brick ties. The brick is connected to the house framing using brick ties. The best ties have the ability to slide, which allows the relatively rigid veneer to move under load. Improperly selected, or improperly installed ties can be very rigid, and may not allow movement of the veneer, resulting in cracking.

4. Inadequate moisture control procedures. Brick is a porous material, so you are going to get moisture penetration through the brick. Proper design allows for this, and includes measures such as weep holes to allow trapped moisture to escape. Improperly designed brick veneer with no provision for moisture escape are likely to result in dimensional changes due to moisture behind the brick, which can result in cracking.

5. Thermal stress. Areas subject to large annual fluctuations in temperature and sunshine are going to move due to thermal stress. This stress must be accommodated through proper brick ties, proper mortar design, and installation of expansion joints as needed. Lack of proper design can result in cracking.

6. Improper brick selection. I have seen houses built using interior brick, which is too porous for exterior use.

There are other causes of cracking, but those six seem to be the most common. In order to know the actual cause of the cracking in your house, you need to hire a local brick expert to perform an investigation and write a report. You are almost certainly going to need such a report when it comes time to discuss repair with the builder.
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Old 02-14-2010, 01:51 PM   #6
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If it were my house, and the cut off date was Feb 27, and the builder tried to blow it off, I'd be on the horn with my lawyer tomorrow morning, asking how do I make sure the claim is made official, how do I document it, etc.

That crack, after a year? Structural or not, I would never accept that.
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Old 02-14-2010, 01:58 PM   #7
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You need to have a PIERING COMPANY look at this. The weight may be causing settling in poor soil.
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Old 02-14-2010, 03:12 PM   #8
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Thanks for that write-up Dan. Very interesting, and certainly factual. I also agree that I would take as many photos of all cracked surfaces to an attorney ASAP. The reason-If the attorney feels that that you may have a case, and the builder's warranty is running out, then the attorney can legally record/file/date the photos from you. You may have to sign a deposition stating you took the photos, they were not "doctored" in any manner, and they were of/within the structure you recently bought--all that legal stuff. As Ben Franklin once said--an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Most of the time. Good Luck, David


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