As a structural engineering company based in Wendover, Buckinghamshire, we have had a number of calls from concerned customers. They had noticed new cracks appearing in their homes and wondered if they should be concerned.
The Impact of a Dry Summer
This summer was particularly dry across the South East, so we weren’t surprised to hear that cracks were appearing. Whilst we may love a spell of warm weather, a prolonged dry spell will cause the subsoil to contract. This results in small shifts in the foundations of a property. Cracks can be particularly evident if the property was built on a clay subsoil, which is the case across areas of London and the South East.
Through the summer, you probably noticed that your lawn received insufficient moisture and cracks appeared in the soil. Now we’ve had a bit of rain, the grass is growing again and the cracks are closing up. This is happening under the foundations of your home too.
In Wendover, chalk underpins the clay, which helps make it more stable and reduces movement in the property, but small cracks can still appear. With the return of more typical wet weather, evidence of new cracks should stop and existing cracks may close up a little.
Superficial Cracks or Time to Call in the Structural Engineer?
We want to provide customers with reassurance, so here are our points to help you decide whether it is fine to leave things be, fill the cracks, or call in your local structural engineer.
Building with Hairline and Fine Cracks – Grab the Filler
A fine crack, measuring a 1mm or less in width is typically nothing to worry about. In a new home, this is a common aspect of the plaster drying and the property ‘settling in’. If you give it a year, then fill and paint the cracks, the problem is usually resolved.
In buildings of any age, cracks can be caused by the vibrations generated by road traffic and roadworks, as well as weather conditions (as mentioned above). These are often spotted around door and window frames, as these are weaker parts of the building structure. They can also be filled and re-painted.
Building with Large Cracks or Sudden Changes – Time for a Structural Survey
If you can poke a finger into a crack, or you notice a sudden change in the width or length of a crack, it can indicate a structural issue. Our advice would be to arrange for a structural inspection survey. A fully qualified structural engineer will look at both internal and external walls to determine the cause. They may also need to dig down to view the foundations. Following diagnosis, they will provide appropriate remedial advice on how to sure-up the property.
Discolouration around a crack can sometimes be a sign of a water leak but could also be a sign of water ingress in the location of a crack. Locating and fully repairing any leak will be necessary, but it is also important to ascertain that there is not a structural issue causing or exacerbating the damage. If in doubt it is always better to call on the services of a professional structural engineer to assess the area of damage.
Buckinghamshire Structural Engineers
If you are looking to arrange a structural inspection survey, Wendover based RWA has an established team of structural engineers. We’ve been located in Buckinghamshire for 25 years and always offer a professional, yet personal service. Give us a call on 01296 642924.
We’ve recently celebrated our 25th Anniversary in business; you can read more about that here.