Whether you are buying a home, are a current homeowner, or own a commercial property, knowing what telltale signs of structural damage look like will help you ask the right questions or present your case to a qualified contractor in an educated manner.
How to Identify Structural Damage
There are a few important clues to look for when first seeking to identify structural damage that will help you to formulate an action plan. The following indicators are potential issues that should be noted, but a qualified contractor can confirm your findings.
- Cracks in walls, sheetrock, or floors
- Leaning or slanted walls
- Doors and windows that stick or won’t open/close at all
- A drooping or sunken rooftop
- Uneven floors
If you suspect that you have structural damage and want to do an even more in-depth inspection, you may want to grab a flashlight and check for loose bolts or poorly aligned joints in your crawlspaces. Look for significantly sized cracks that widen at the top and slenderize as they move towards the bottom. If your home is backed into a hillside, horizontal cracks could indicate that your home is sliding or being pushed off of its footings. Cracked drywall, in general, does not necessarily mean that you have a structural issue. The magnitude, frequency, placing, and consistency of cracks tells the full story of the health of your structural foundation.
Structural damage may also be caused by a bug infestation problem or decay. Crumbling joists can be seen by poking your head through a dropped-ceiling panel and using a screwdriver to test the wood. If you observe decaying wood or an infestation, this could be a sign of a potentially severe issue.
Even though your property may have structural damage, it’s not necessarily completely uninhabitable. A professional contractor can help you to assess the magnitude of any damage that you may have incurred. If you observe extensive damage that begins to impact plumbing, floors, roofing, or any electrical functions of your structure, then you should schedule a consultation with a contractor as soon as possible. Severe structural damage includes elements such as:
- Walls, partitions, or other vertical supports which have split, lean, or buckle
- Deteriorated, crumbling, falling, or loose plaster
- Clearly rotting interior or exterior parts of the structure
- Obviously sunken floors or roofing
The Main Cause of Structural Damage
A settling foundation or faulty construction are leading causes of structural damage, but erosion natural disasters and infestation can also play a significant part in accelerating attrition. There are also a whole host of other factors that can cause structural damage such as damp subfloors, timber rot, crumbling concrete, and exposed gaps caused by ill-fitting doors and windows.
Soil conditions can contribute to structural damage and can be either more or less of an issue depending on where you live. Sand, coastal areas, and high clay content are the biggest offenders when it comes to causing structural damage. Clay is challenging to deal with because of the vast margin that it expands and shrinks when it’s wet versus dry. This causes a significant amount of movement and directing rainwater away from structures that are built on this soil type may help to slow potential damage.
Repairing Structural Damage
If your structure is genuinely in need of repairs, contractors may have to set up scaffolding and an active work site for an extended period of time to correct damage in multiple areas. Luckily, if the issue lies within your foundation, your entire structure will not have to be torn down, and there are many ways to repair a sunken concrete foundation.
Two standard practices that are now being used are slabjacking or hydraulic jacking. When utilizing the slabjacking technique, grout is pumped beneath a slab or beam to elevate the structure to its original height. The hydraulic jacking or piering method uses steel posts in places where the soil may be unstable to support concrete slabs.
Before deciding on the best process to use, contractors must pinpoint the root cause of structural damage and do a thorough inspection of all interior and exterior components.