Why is my new home crack­ing up?

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

wife and I have re­cently moved into a new home, one of 14 on a small devel­op­ment by a small lo­cal builder. I have no­ticed there is a crack more or less in the mid­dle of both in­ter­nal walls of the at­tached garage. The crack starts at the floor and al­ter­nately goes through a line of mor­tar and then through the mid­dle of the Ther­malite blocks to the ceil­ing. It is nar­row, but ap­pears to get wider to­wards the top. The builder said it was com­mon and there was noth­ing to worry about. Should I get a struc­tural en­gi­neer to look at it?

DF, Cheshire

is a fault that cer­tainly needs fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion by a struc­tural en­gi­neer, and it should not be your re­spon­si­bil­ity to ini­ti­ate this mat­ter. Nor­mally I would sug­gest con­tact­ing the de­vel­oper and ask­ing him to in­ves­ti­gate, but you have al­ready done this, and from what you tell me he ap­pears to be wash­ing his hands of it.

“Com­mon” shrink­age cracks or move­ment cracks tend to fol­low the lines of the mor­tar joints, and take a roughly di­ag­o­nal path. Ver­ti­cal cracks that pass straight through whole bricks or blocks are more se­ri­ous. They usu­ally have one of two causes. The first is ex­ces­sive point load­ing (such as where a steel sup­port­ing beam has an in­suf­fi­cient bear­ing to spread its load across the wall be­low). The sec­ond is a fault with the foun­da­tions. Your de­scrip­tion of a crack that gets wider at the top could in­di­cate that the foun­da­tions are set­tling more at the sides than in the mid­dle – this is known as a “bro­ken back” sce­nario.

Un­for­tu­nately, if you buy a new house from the de­vel­oper who built it, you are not cov­ered by the Sale of Goods Act. You have greater con­sumer pro­tec­tion in the UK if you buy a tin of baked beans than if you buy a new house. Which is why I always ad­vise read­ers to pay for a full build­ing sur­vey from a char­tered build­ing sur­veyor or struc­tural en­gi­neer, even when buy­ing a new home.

In your case, you there­fore need to act swiftly to per­suade your de­vel­oper to in­ves­ti­gate and rem­edy the sit­u­a­tion. He might have joined a war­ranty scheme (such as Zurich, Pre­mier or the NHBC), and de­tails of this should be in­cluded in the con­tract doc­u­ments that came with your pur­chase of the house.

How­ever, be warned that most build­ing war­ranty schemes come into play only if the de­vel­oper has ceased trad­ing. Since your builder is ap­par­ently still in busi­ness, you will have to get him to ac­knowl­edge and rec­tify any faults. You may need to in­struct a solic­i­tor.

Gas in­stalled our 330 HE Con­dens­ing boiler about eight years ago, and it has been

An­other fine mess: Prob­lems such as cracks, left, that crop up af­ter build­ing work need to be tack­led im­me­di­ately

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