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by Andrew Bailey, CEO, surveylink france

A client once asked, "If there are cracks in the walls, can the property still be classed as being structurally sound?"

Cracks in walls can be caused by a number of things such as sheer age, spread of the roof, stress between the elements (parts) of a building or movement (subsidence or heave) caused by poor foundations, soil compaction or changing water content in the ground brought about by climate change, new buildings nearby or trees.

The seriousness of a crack depends upon as many factors, such as its position in the building, its age, shape and size. 


Cracking at the bottoms of walls are generally caused by subsidence in the foundations, requiring underpinning and/or partial re-building.

Those at the top of walls are usually brought about by the poor design of the roof allowing it to ‘flatten’ and spread.  Repairs, steel restraining ties inserted through the property or alterations and strengthening of the roof timbers are probably needed.

The cracks in the more central areas of the walls can be brought about by overloading the structure - generally or locally - over time.  Sometimes just filling is deemed adequate where the damage is seen as old and slight, whilst at the other end of the scale the cracking may be a consequence of extensive movement in the property or failure of another primary or secondary structural element (part) and require a series of measures such as renewal, repairs, partial re-building and underpinning.     

Whether the cracks were evident before purchase or became so afterwards, you need to get them checked out by a professional - ideally by a surveyor who has been trained to detect and analyse defects in buildings - who will provide a number of remedial options with an idea of final costs, and will carry ultimate responsibility via his Indemnity Insurances.  Very often a local builder is called in for free advice but will generally suggest just one cause and one solution relevant to his experience and expertise hoping to get the work, but often provides insurance for only one or two years. 

Cracks, however, although worrying, have to be ongoing and serious before the property is seen as approaching the category of being "structurally unsound", and then the cause and its effects are usually obvious.  Nevertheless, arrestation of the cause needs to be implemented as soon as possible to prevent associated damage from rain or further movement.