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Thread: Slab cracks

  1. #1
    Richard Roshak's Avatar
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    Default Slab cracks

    40 year old split level home with a crack in the concrete floor which runs from one side of the home to the other. Crack is not offset, no water penetration, looks like it cracked 20+ years ago. From time to time I see these cracks in slab home, but never from front to back. Any concerns here and what would you write.
    Rich

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    Default Re: Slab cracks

    Richard
    How do you know it cracked 20 years ago? Regardless, I'd recommend evaluation by and engineer as concrete slab cracks more often then not lead to litigation and guess who the first one named is?

    Jerry McCarthy
    Building Code/ Construction Consultant

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    Default Re: Slab cracks

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry McCarthy View Post
    Richard
    How do you know it cracked 20 years ago? Regardless, I'd recommend evaluation by and engineer as concrete slab cracks more often then not lead to litigation and guess who the first one named is?

    Richard,

    Concrete does two things: 1) it gets hard; 2) it cracks.

    People do two things in this day and age: 1) get anxious over buying a house which they know is going to lose value over the next year or so; 2) sue other people to get that money back.

    WC Jerry is saying you do not want to be 2) in the latter.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: Slab cracks

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry McCarthy View Post
    Richard
    How do you know it cracked 20 years ago? Regardless, I'd recommend evaluation by and engineer as concrete slab cracks more often then not lead to litigation and guess who the first one named is?
    I rarely see concrete that has not cracked. I suspect that if I looked hard enough, I could find cracks in any concrete slab or perimeter foundation. Deferring to an engineer for every crack would be, in my opinion, unreasonable. I realize that at some point we have to make some sort of judgment call and decide whether or not to recommend an engineer, and the long cracks that you have described may well be a reasonable call. Now I am likely improperly inferring something into Jerry Mc's reply, but I would be reluctant to blanket defer all concrete to an engineer for the everyday cracks that I see. I believe that this would weaken, rather than strengthen a report.

    As an example, I have seen reports that state "further inspection recommended" after every line item. A report like this reads to me as an attempt to prevent lawsuits ("Well, I told you to have it inspected again"). When everything is deferred, the report becomes useless.

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    Default Re: Slab cracks

    I agree with Gunnar.... what I look for is vertical displacement and/or opening of a crack in a floor. Of course, with any crack your 'radar' goes up a bit and you look a little harder for causes and other problems. Short of those, I don't mention it. If I called for an engineer for every crack like your picture, I'd never work.

    Having a healthy respect for cracking cemet is good... just don't go nuts.


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Slab cracks

    I look for a carck in every home i inspect i just want one small crack. then i make a note of it in the report. i will make this type of a note in my report. minor carck noted in the ? no indication of structural damage was indicated. Any further information required. The owner/buyer should employ a contractor to advise as necessary.

    no harm in a note. over blowing something is not good any one.

    but do make all the notes you can and take a photo of everything i will take over 100 photos of every home i inspect. i may only put 10 in a report but i save every one. just a bit of advise from an old timer.

    Best

    Ron


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    Default Re: Slab cracks

    If the home has a concrete or block foundation with footings and this is a basement floor it is not a structural problem. There would be no need for an engineer's review.

    You might advise the client that such cracks often occur during the initial drying of the concrete and or settlement of base fill material. Generally they pose no major problem and do not effect the foundation structure.

    You might also recommend that they seal the cracks with a urethane caulk or other suitable filler to prevent water entry, radon gas entry & insect access.

    If the home has a monolithic structural slab and cracks are observed, you might recommend further review by an engineer. (these type slabs types are not permited in our state where deep frost occurs.)


  8. #8
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    Default Re: Slab cracks

    Like Jerry said: concrete dries, concrete cracks. Although you can't say for sure how long ago it cracked, you can certainly tell if it is a fresh crack or not by the discoloration and amount of debris collected in it. You can also tell if there is movement by the width and / or displacement of the crack.

    As for calling for further evaluation by an S/E, further inspections and such, it is my theory that the client hired you to inspect the property and report your findings. Adding constant verbiage for further inspections tells me you:
    a) have no confidence in your ability to inspect
    b) are too paranoid about potential lawsuits to do your job
    c) want to get paid for doing a job without actually giving the client what
    they paid for
    or
    d) really don't know what you're doing

    People know they hired a " home inspector" not an "engineer", give them what they paid for...no less. Adding numerous disclaimers not only makes the inspector look like they don't know what their doing, but it makes all inspectors look bed.
    Sorry if I busted anyones balls, that's just my viewpoint.


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    Default Re: Slab cracks

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Zborowski View Post
    You can also tell if there is movement by the width and / or displacement of the crack.
    That is the critical part that the HI needs to understand.

    That and where the crack is located, as well as the direction of the crack:
    - if there is a long narrow concrete slab, it will crack at its center, 1/3 or 1/4 points, depending on the long/narrow ratio, among other things.

    An inside corner of equal slabs will typically crack diagonally from the corner, however, an inside corner of a small slab off a large slab may crack across the small slab.

    However ...

    As for calling for further evaluation by an S/E, further inspections and such, it is my theory that the client hired you to inspect the property and report your findings. Adding constant verbiage for further inspections tells me you:
    a) have no confidence in your ability to inspect
    b) are too paranoid about potential lawsuits to do your job
    c) want to get paid for doing a job without actually giving the client what
    they paid for
    or
    d) really don't know what you're doing

    People know they hired a " home inspector" not an "engineer", give them what they paid for...no less. Adding numerous disclaimers not only makes the inspector look like they don't know what their doing, but it makes all inspectors look bed.
    Sorry if I busted anyones balls, that's just my viewpoint.
    You missed the point that WC Jerry was pointing out.

    "as concrete slab cracks more often then not lead to litigation and guess who the first one named is?"

    As the market changes and housing prices continue to fall, the buyer will own a home worth less than when they bought it (until the market hits bottom and turns around - at which time not many people will care about the smaller things as much).

    When their home is worth less, they start looking for people to sue to 'get their money back'.

    These times are different than older times, also, WC Jerry is in CA, and 'over there' the earth shakes now and then, which makes people more aware of cracks.

    I would always point out the cracks, explain the likely reason they cracked, and if there was some chance in my mind that the crack would continue, I would recommend a structural engineer, or, if my client wanted to know 'for sure', recommend the structural engineer.

    Most clients, though, I found understood enough about what I was explaining to know that there was no way I could know what "caused" the crack or "would it continue" cracking - it is what it is, and if there is no separation and now differential mis-alignment, and it was 'in a logical location cracking in the logical direction', no problem.

    Most cracks I found were 'no problem', some I had concerns about and recommended a structural engineer, some my clients were concerned about and wanted a structural engineer 'for their comfort level'. You need to be able to read your clients and establish and control your clients expectations of what you can do.

    Not all cracks are 'no problem'.

    Not all slab cracks are 'call the structural engineer'.

    ALL cracks 'are a potential for a lawsuit' by your client.

    Especially in earthquake areas.

    PLUS, I believe if is "all in how you write it up", and that applies to everything.

    Do you go for 'further evaluation' on everything? Jim is correct, you appear to be a Bozo The Clown and do not know what you are doing.

    There is no need to write 'further evaluation' for anything (we've discussed this to death, except that it will not die, too many schools saying to CYA by calling for 'further evaluation'), no, you write up what you see, then, depending on what it is (in this case cracking) you write it up where your concerns are clear, and call for 'have structural engineer design appropriate repairs'.

    That tells your client that YOU THINK 'something' needs to be done. The 'appropriate repairs' may be no repair, and if the structural engineer wants to sign and seal that, so be it.

    Just calling for 'further evaluation' by structural engineer makes it look like 'I have no idea what I am doing here' ... is that the image you want to present to your client?

    WC Jerry said "I'd recommend evaluation" ... that is where I disagree with him - no need for further evaluation, YOU DID THE EVALUATION: state what you saw, what you think, and why, then call for 'structural engineer to design appropriate repairs' if you suspect any problem.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  10. #10
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    Default Re: Slab cracks

    Cracks are just that, cracks. It depends on the observations throughout the rest of the home, drywall cracks, doors out of square, slopes in the floors, grading and drainage at the exterior. Also if there are no floor coverings how many cracks are running thru the foundation.

    If I believe it is a grading and drainage issue I state such. If there are no other findings throughout the home I state my observations and give an opinion.

    In the state of Texas our standards state that we have to give an opinion. If any part appears to warrant further evaluation I have absolutely no misgivings to recommend further evaluation.

    As far as a crack running from front to back the homes foundation (slab has been doing some moving over time. As far as all concrete cracking I have seen 40 year old homes with no cracks in the slab. Something caused it and it would be your professional responsibility to try and diagnose and to give an opinion. It could be that you see a drainage concern outside, or not. I will make an opinion that there does not appear to be serious concerns other than that crack but for the clients piece of mind they could at least get a foundation analysis where measurements are taken throughout the home and they will find where high and low spots are, what the total movement is and give recommendations as to what possible fixes are needed if any. In our area they can get a free foundation analysis so it is not just passing the hat and adding more expense to the client and most of the time I do this with only a couple of exceptions the foundation companies will usually say that there has been minor movement but nothing significant and there may just be drainage issues that need addressing.

    On a second note there are homes where I will recommend plumbers, electricians, HVAC techs, foundation analysis, roofer and such because the home warrants me to do so due to my findings.

    On that note again, if you find anything of concern and in further evaluation and repair in any field to not suggest further evaluation and repair would be dead wrong and would be hanging your backside out to dry and not be the right thing for your client.

    That is what you are there for. The only thing that is questionable in my opinion about suggesting further evaluation and repair is the foundation/slab. This comes from extensive experience in the art of inspection and hopefully experience in the building trades. List the concerns that you find in the slab. Tell them that no concerns other than that crack were found at this time (doors, drywall etc) but they should monitor this concern over time for possible further movement. In that case if there is further movement (that you have no idea if there will be) you are covered because you have suggested that there may be further movement and they should monitor it.


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    Default Re: Slab cracks

    Hey guys, perhaps I didn’t go far enough with the reasons for my recommending deferral? Cracks in slab foundations are visual evidence that requires interpretation by the inspector. If the home is located on a hillside, aka; a cut & fill building site, or in an area of known fill such as Foster City or Redwood Shores along the San Francisco bay then there’s usually two core reasons for slab cracks. 1. Movement due to unbalanced settlement and 2. Moisture intrusion penetrating the vapor barrier beneath the slab and attacking the steel rebar resulting in spalling.

    If the home is located near any salt water areas such as our bay, or the land fill was obtained from such a body of salt water, the high content of salinity wrecks havoc with anything metal.
    This almost always ends up in litigation and we need to look at the total picture before recommending further evaluation by “qualified people.” I’m in total agreement that too many inspectors put far too many deferrals in their inspection reports, which in turn makes their report nothing more then a pile of waste paper.


    Jerry McCarthy
    Building Code/ Construction Consultant

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Slab cracks

    Look W.C. Jerry and I are out hear in Calif. hes South bay and Im north bay. you find a crack in something even if its normal cracking you make a note of in in your report or you just pick up a rental property along with some other cost. If its a big crack then it needs a SE. If its just little thing thyen just make a note about it move on.

    Now if Obama get in then... L.O.L.


    Best

    Ron


  13. #13
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    Default Re: Slab cracks

    Jerry's absolutely correct, in some cases it IS prudent to call for further evaluation by a higher certificated person. I just don't think it's in the best intererst of the industry to defer everything you see. Direction of crack, like stairstep, hairline floor crack, etc. all have varying indications. Thats where our training comes into play.
    OK ......Jerry's right.....the subject won't die.


  14. #14
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    Default Re: Slab cracks

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Zborowski View Post
    Jerry's absolutely correct, in some cases it IS prudent to call for further evaluation by a higher certificated person. I just don't think it's in the best interest of the industry to defer everything you see. Direction of crack, like stair step, hairline floor crack, etc. all have varying indications. Thats where our training comes into play.
    OK ......Jerry's right.....the subject won't die.
    I know I should not continue this because some folks have an extremely strong opinion in this matter.

    But in saying that. Defer what??? Repairs needed??? Why wouldn't you. If I think an electrician is in order I tell my clients such. Plumber, roofer, why would you not defer it. You are not going to fix it or price it or do a more exhaustive/invasive inspection on it so you have absolutely no recourse than to defer it. It is your job to recommend the right trades person for the repair (or if you think there might me more to the concern, further evaluation). So if that is what you are calling deferring then I am all for deferring anything that needs such.

    I know Jerry says it has been talked to death but as much as I read old threads and posts it just stands as one persons opinion to another. Not justs talked to death. (Not digging at anyone...Just using Jerry as example..it could have been anyone)

    If a concern (and they always will) needs repair and or further evaluation then you are telling them so and whether you actually say the word or not you are deferring it to a particular tradesmen.

    I just don't understand why deferring is looked at as the bad thing to do.

    You are there to find the concerns.

    It is someone elses job to price and repair. Whether you say further evaluation or not further evaluation will be done when the next in line gets there before they actually perform any work. Why is there further evaluation. Because they have to find the component needed and the time involved to price the fix.

    So, further evaluation and pricing and repair is going to take place.

    Just my opinion folks. I would be interested in hearing more myself so talk to death away. It is after all how one forms opinions, is it not? Thought and discussion.


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    Default Re: Slab cracks

    Ted
    No offense meant, nor taken. I’ve said this many times and I’ll repeat it one more and I promise the very last time. I equate home inspectors to “house doctors,” ….. i.e.: a general practioner. Inspectors check the current health of a residential dwelling their client is either is buying or selling, in other words give it a general visual physical. If the patient (the home) has sniffles, a bruised leg, an ingrown toenail, or a hemorrhoid then these are mentioned verbally with suggested advice and also appear in written form within a copy of the inspector’s report..

    However, if there is something more serious such as fluid in the lungs, suspicious organ swelling, passing blood, a bad blood cell count, or any other symptom that the GP detects what does the he/she do? We all know that GPs will recommend further evaluation by a qualified specialist in whatever medical discipline that appears worrisome and/or beyond the expertise of the GP (Inspector).


    Jerry McCarthy
    Building Code/ Construction Consultant

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    Default Re: Slab cracks

    Actually, I find it scarier when things are going the other way: I see what I consider a potentially significant structural problem and either the client isn't taking it seriously or I get push back from the seller in the form of written contradictory advice.

    Had one of those just last week, deteriorating brick garage that in my opinion was CAT food: bulging walls, disconnecting ceiling joists where the walls were being displaced outwards by loads from the gable roof, cracking masonry around the entire perimeter of the structure a foot or two below the top of the wall, doors and window frames rotting out of the walls, a very heavy wood double overhead vehicle door with rusted tracks hanging off the joists by means of improvised attachments, rotting eaves, and climbing plants on the roof and walls so thick that in some places you had to cut them back just to see what was underneath.

    Told the clients the repair would be such a major project that would likely be cost effective to replace the garage instead, seller comes back with estimate from XXXXXX's Home Services" that says:




    So the client is likely wondering "What the heck?"

    All you can do is suggest that they get a proposal from a *real* masonery contractor, and you gotta' feel better when the next piece of e-mail from the client is a CC from an e-mail to their attorney that says:

    "Bob from Brikenheier (one of the major masonry contractors in the area) has already been to the property. I thought they were going to call with a time to go out there today, but he already had a look. I received a voicemail from Jan at that office this morning and subsequently spoke to her too. Her message said "The garage definitely should be rebuilt, but what it should be is torn down and replaced, it needs roofing work, the whole foundation is shot, the walls are shot, the door is shot, everything is shot - can it be repaired? Yes, probably but why spend that money on an old garage when a new one would be cheaper."

    This is in line with Michael's observations and entirely at odds with the seller's quote. Scott and I are inclined to take the neutral advice of an independent inspector and mason... rather than a contractor chosen by the seller's realtor...

    Please advise on what should our next step be."

    At that point, you can be pretty sure that no one will be coming back at you asking why you had not made the condition of the garage completely clear.

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    Default Re: Slab cracks

    Michael
    That garage doesn’t need a doctor, it needs the coroner.


    Jerry McCarthy
    Building Code/ Construction Consultant

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    Default Re: Slab cracks

    I occasionally tell people that I've never killed a deal, though I do occasionally participate in an autopsy.

    Michael Thomas
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  19. #19
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    Default Re: Slab cracks

    Actually West Coast Jerry I was pointing to East Coast Jerry. Not directly but just a statement where he disagreed with you as in the statement below. I pretty much agree with a lot of what he said but>>>>>>>>>


    "WC Jerry said "I'd recommend evaluation" ... that is where I disagree with him - no need for further evaluation, YOU DID THE EVALUATION: state what you saw, what you think, and why, then call for 'structural engineer to design appropriate repairs' if you suspect any problem."

    My answer to that is exactly what he is saying but with an added notation. Anyone who comes after an inspector is going to do their own evaluation of the concern for the repairs needed so to say it needs further evaluation is not saying something that is wrong to say or makes you look bad or inept but is stating a fact on what is going to take place next. In the case of a foundation further evaluation is always needed if in fact it appears to be significant, in your opinion. As I said in my state there are a number of foundation companies that will do just about exactly what an engineer will do, measure and diagnose. Some times they come back with that it is beyond their scope and recommend and engineer anyway if there is way to much going on.

    Needing GFCIs in a kitchen, lets say someone forgot to put them in, in the time frame of when code warranted them to be put in, needs no evaluation just a fix.

    Again, just using that as an example. Not directing bad remarks toward anyone in particular.

    In our area the reason for significant movement is almost always a grading and drainage problem or an under slab leak. This of course being to the expansive clay soils in our area.


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    Default Re: Slab cracks

    There is no need to write 'further evaluation' for anything
    In our State the Board requires that exact wording 'further evaluation' in our reports.

    Mike Schulz License 393
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    Default Re: Slab cracks

    Hi Guys,

    Just my $0.02

    Out here in the Phoenix area, 99.9% of the homes are built on slab, some PTS. So I agree with other inspectors, it's rare to see a slab w/o a crack.

    The small ones, you know the type, nothing that gives you cause for concern "at the time of inspection". I usually write that the crack appears "typical", and that it should be "monitored". I explain that I cannot tell if there will be further settlement or movement. If further cracking occurs, getting wider, etc., than have a qualified SE evaluate further and repair as needed.

    I have only seen a few that I recommended a SE to further evaluate. These usually coincide with cracking drywall, doors that have problems, etc.

    Now, I'm sure this is not what some would do, but I feel comfortable with it. Will it keep me out of court - probably not. I'm sure some of the old timers will tear this post apart - which is also beneficial if we can learn from that.

    thanks guys, I enjoy reading your posts.

    Dave Hill
    Buyers & Sellers Property Inspections LLC
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    Default Re: Slab cracks

    Dave;
    I do the same.
    Unless there is some evidence that the cracks are being caused by ongoing issues and will continue to expand, such as, undermining caused by drainage issues. Or an excessive amount of cracks (I know, what do you consider excessive?) See pictures for a cummulative affect.
    Then the statement made is;
    "Typical cracks were observed at x location. These cracks need to be monitored for future expansion and should such occur, a structural engineer needs to evaluate and recommend repairs."

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    Default Re: Slab cracks

    Ted said:
    "WC Jerry said "I'd recommend evaluation" ... that is where I disagree with him - no need for further evaluation, YOU DID THE EVALUATION: state what you saw, what you think, and why, then call for 'structural engineer to design appropriate repairs' if you suspect any problem."

    In all due respect Ted, and I really mean that, I never employed the written statement "I recommended further evaluation bla, bla, etc." within my reports unless I truly felt my clients would benefit from it and what was apparently going on was beyond my expertise. Cracking concrete slab foundations are a symptom of more than just drying, curing or normal behavior if they increase with age, show differential, allow moisture infiltration and/or produce settlement or heaving to any degree.

    Again, we are generalists and cracking in a concrete floor needs a very close look and with experience an inspector should know when to defer, or else they will be talking to the suits.


    Jerry McCarthy
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    Default Re: Slab cracks

    Dave
    I suggest you lose the word "typical" which will get you into as much trouble as the other bad word, "normal." See my reply to Ted as for my take on crack reporting.

    Victor's 1st photo shows a raised crack adjacent to a roof drainage downspout. This will only get worse and may already present a safety call as a potential trip hazard to foot traffic?
    The 2nd photo shows step-cracking in a masonry wall which I find ominous and an automatic deferral to an SE.
    The 3rd crack I agree should be called out, but without a deferral.
    Just my 2 centavos…………….


    Jerry McCarthy
    Building Code/ Construction Consultant

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    Default Re: Slab cracks

    WC Jerry,

    I appreciate the suggestion. Thanks.

    Dave Hill
    Buyers & Sellers Property Inspections LLC
    WWW.BuyersSellersPi.Com

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