As a homeowner, routine house inspections may seem like another daunting task to add to your schedule. But the time spent in these inspections is worth it in terms of alerting you to potential structural issues before they evolve into major maintenance or repair issues.
Generally speaking, homeowners spend 1% to 4% of their home’s value on maintenance costs. For a $250,000 household, this shakes out to around $2500-$10000 annually.
If you have HO3 insurance, your dwelling coverage may pay for some of these costs. Check with your insurance provider to determine what’s covered or whether investing in a more extensive coverage may be necessary.
But keep in mind that homeowners insurance does not cover damage costs due to neglect. For that reason, it’s a good idea to keep up a regular DIY home inspection regimen and identify signs of structural damage that require prompt attention.
Ahead, discover five signs that often indicate serious structural issues that require immediate attention!
Sticking Doors and Windows
In most cases, the sticking issue of your windows and doors may be due to improper installation or sagging hinges. But it may also be a telltale of a more complex problem, mainly house settling. Settling is when the house sinks gradually over time. House settling mostly happens when the soil beneath the foundation compacts under the weight of the house or shifts as a result of environmental loss, such as moisture loss or landslide.
House settlement is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about if it’s minor and uniform; that is, all corners of the house have settled evenly.
However, it becomes a concern when only one part of the house drops or shifts. Some common signs of excessive and uneven house settling include;
- Sloping floors
- Sticking windows and doors
- Sunken foundation
- Uneven foundation
- Cracks in the foundation, drywall, stucco
- A wavy or sagging roof
If you notice any of these signs, urgent foundation repair may be necessary. Contact an expert to assess the foundation’s condition and address possible issues before it’s too late.
Hairline ceiling cracks, fine, straight cracks and spiderweb cracks in the ceiling are nothing but an eyesore. In most cases, these cracks are due to human error, and their appearance can be ignored or minimized using paint touch up.
But other cracks are indicative of a serious structural problem beyond what the eye can see. It all comes down to three things: the type, size and location of the ceiling cracks.
Here are the most common types of ceiling cracks that often indicate compromised structural integrity:
- Spiderweb cracks thicker than 1/16th of an inch are often a result of foundation settling.
- A big, continuous crack that cuts across the ceiling and continues down the wall.
- Large, deep cracks along with a bowing ceiling. These may be due to excessive settling or water damage and almost certainly require a professional inspection.
- Multiple small cracks could also indicate a serious structural problem.
- Yellow, brown, or discolored cracks are signs of water leakage. While they don’t indicate serious structural issues, large yellow, brown or discolored cracks may lead to spalling, rotten drywall and mold growth if not dealt with promptly.
Wavy or Sagging Roof
The roof is the one part of your house that takes the most beating from the elements, particularly the sun, rain and snow. Most roofs are designed to remain sturdy and completely level.
But over the years, the roof may start sagging due to aging, water damage, excess weight from elements, such as snow and ice and deterioration of materials. A damaged or settling foundation is another reason your roof may start to droop.
Generally speaking, a slight sagging does not mean that the roof is about to collapse on your family. However, it’s a surefire indicator of a developing structural problem. If you live in a storm-prone area or a region that receives heavy rainfall or ice during winter, you can’t afford to put off roof repairs.
While a slightly sagging roof does not pose an immediate danger, it’s evident that its structural integrity is compromised. A relatively minor problem might spread to cause serious structural issues to your home with time.
Bouncy and Spongy Floors
A slightly spongy and bouncy floor is often not a cause for concern. Even a well-designed, code-compliant wood floor will still give under your weight to act as a sort of a shock absorber.
But too much flex to the extent that lampshades rattle as you move across the floors is not a good thing. This is something to beware of, especially when buying your first home because it’s often a warning sign of a lurking structural problem.
Spongy floors are often common in old houses, ranging from termite damage to compromised joists. But it might also happen in a modern house built to code minimums.
If ignored, a spongy floor due to damaged wood beams may cause the entire floor to collapse, leading to expensive repairs. So, if you think something is wrong with your floor, you’d be wise to have an expert examine its condition and fix any problem before it gets out of hand.
Bowing and Rotating Walls
Bowing and rotating walls are another sign of structural damage that property owners should know. While they mean different things, both point towards structural failure and need to be addressed quickly.
When a basement or retaining wall bows, it curves or leans inward. Various factors may cause bowing walls, including frozen soil that is starting to expand, expansive soil and hydrostatic pressure.
On the other hand, wall rotation happens when the exterior edge of the foundation sinks deeper into the soil while its dry inside edge pulls up. Common signs of rotating walls include foundation cracks, damage to a finished basement’s drywall and ceiling and overhanging brick.
In most cases, bowing and rotating wall issues are common after prolonged rains. Depending on the extent of damage, these issues may be fixed using wall anchors and bracing systems. If the walls have moved far from their original position, the contractor may resort to excavation and advanced pressure relief systems.
Keep in mind that a wall that’s bowing inward more than 50% of its thickness is considered unredeemable and has to be demolished. That being said, never ignore any signs of wall movement, no matter how small. The longer these structural issues go unchecked, the more expensive they become to fix.