10 Warning Signs of Structural Settling

Ceiling and wall cracks can be warning signs of structural settling.

Homeowners should routinely inspect the condition of  his or her building’s interior and exterior surfaces for warning signs of structural settling. In Jacksonville and other areas of Florida, foundation settling is a common occurrence. Although minor cracks are not necessarily an indicator of a major problem, if you do find multiple issues, there are good reasons to seek the advice of an experienced structural engineer to determine whether immediate actions may be needed to protect your investment.

Indicators of Possible Structural Damage Due to Settling

  1. Look for cracks where walls meet walls, ceilings, floors, fireplaces, windows or doors. Do any of these surfaces seem to be pulling away from each other?
  2. Raise and lower windows throughout the building to see if the windows are stuck or binding. Do the windows seal and fit squarely within the window frame?
  3. Open and close doors throughout the building to see if doors stick or squeak. Do you see any separation between the door sills and the door frame?
  4. Examine the walls and ceilings in all rooms to determine whether nails or other fasteners appear to be working loose. Do nails appear to be popping out of the sheetrock or other wall boards?
  5. Check any visible foundation concrete at the bottom of interior and exterior walls for cracks or separation.  Do you see cracks in the exposed concrete at the base of the house?
  6. Look at the corners of exterior door and window frames for cracks in paint and caulking. Do the caulked joints appear to be pulling away from the adjoining surfaces?
  7. Examine the relationship of attached structures. Do porches, patios and stairs appear to meet evenly with the primary structure?
  8. Look for signs of external leaks in the ceilings, around fireplaces and where sections of the roof come together. Do you see traces or stains from water leaks or intrusions?
  9. Check walls for signs of warping, bulging or surface cracks. Do you see wallpaper curling or sheetrock seams showing through the paint?
  10. Look for cracks or separation along seams in stucco, brick or concrete exterior walls. Do cracks run from top to bottom or along the diagonal stair-stepping of the masonry’s mortar joints?

Interior and exterior discrepancies may simply be signs of a structure’s normal process of settling. Some problems may not require any immediate action and can be cosmetically repaired without further concern. If you do discover that your building has multiple issues, these could be valid indicators of excessive settling and more serious problems to come. Only a certified structural engineering firm can determine whether your building meets engineering standards. But, the early detection of issues means restoring the integrity of your home can be accomplished at the lowest possible cost.


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