Dealing with (cracks in a floor) - please advise

I purchased a new house which is 2-year old now. The house is developing straight cracks in the ground floor - parallel to the foundation. These cracks start from the corner and are developing in a pattern that are about to join into one line across the house. I have contacted Homebond and made a claim.

While they have confirmed by email they will be sending a structural engineer, when arranging the inspection over the phone with them I was told they won’t be sending a structural engineer but a technical adviser (qualified Certified Insurance Practitioner) who is not a structural engineer.

Would anyone have an experience on the procedure?

As I don’t have experience (and being very concerned about those cracks) I would like to get some advice on how to go about it and what to look out for to make sure the issue is not underestimated.

Thank you.

You don’t say what kind of floor covering you have: carpet is unlikely for example, unless the cracks were gaping canyons. Perhaps it’s tile? A straight, single crack under the tile could cause multiple cracks in the tile itself.

It’s also unclear whether the crack runs parallel to the foundation (which I take to mean foundation under an exterior wall) the whole way across the room. And whether it remains close to the foundation or stands two foot from the wall.

It could be something relatively minor or it could be something more. Suffice to say, you should hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Given the worst could involve a claim for significant works, you need to start with professional advice. And that means professional advice which is working (and being paid for) by you.

Anyone sent from Homebond relating to a claim you might make against Homebond is not the person who will support your best interests. A dog cannot serve two masters.

A professional means a structural engineer. Assuming your commissioning of him/her makes reference to a desire to be given an indication of the scale of repair costs, in addition to technical opinion as to cause, you will have a start figure for your claim. Costs would be €350-450 for a visit, bearing in mind Struc Engs costs less if they have to travel less to get to you.

The Struc Eng might conclude that further exploratory works are required to discover cause - although I’d say that’s less likely at this point. Which brings me to the second element involved here.

You should take a very important hint from the title of the guy Homebond propose to send. ‘Qualified’ means he may be a structural engineer or something of that quality. But it certainly means he works in and is familiar with, the insurance game. And is on the books of the insurance company. Which is an aspect of his expertise which is possibly not focused on your best interests. This second element, your dealing with a claim, is as critical, if not more so, than the first, establishing the scope of the claim. Expertise on your side is advisable there too.

I don’t want to alarm you - there might well be something relatively benign going on, like settlement after a build, which could well stabilize and halt, when its done. Your struc eng will tell you. But if the crack has significant underlying causes and you have to enter sizeable insurance waters then you’ve not only got to ensure you’re covered for the cost of rectification, but are compensated to for any undue stress, time and cost expended in any undue work undertaken by you to ensure the insurance company adequately cover the cost of proper rectification.

Those costs start with a Struc Eng.

I (someone with an interest in the property game) have had occasion to seek opinion from 3 structural engineers in the last year - only one of which I’d use a 2nd time. Which raises the issue of choosing/getting the best from someone you’re paying to be on your side. I think of a lay-friend recently faced with a 65-page surveyors report involving a period house purchase!

I’ve also (somewhat unwittingly and definitely unwillingly) become something of a experienced hand in making a significant building-related claim against an insurance company. A claim that could have settled at €15K if the insurance company hadn’t a combative, drive-the-claim-down philosophy from the get-go. It (rather, the bulldog adjuster they choose to apply to my case) ended up costing them something like €35K.

So I know something of what I speak :slight_smile:. But I’d emphasize again, not to letting yourself become alarmed and worried. Even if it’s not something minor, ultimately, everything is fixable. You simply have to make sure the insurance to pay for it :slight_smile:

PM me if you need further advice.

I know there is no point in speculating about the cause of the cracks until it is properly examined but just some thoughts:

While the immediate concern would be Pyrite, I think it’s very unlikely. No builder is going to take a chance with all the hysteria over the last few years. Whoever the certifying engineer was will have certificates and chemical analysis reports for the crushed rock. I can’t imagine an oversight like that.

Cracks in a floor slab are not uncommon. They can appear immediately in the slab if too much water was added to the mix to aid workability, but if they are ongoing then it is most likely to he settlement of the compacted hardcore. This shouldn’t happen, but sometimes it does. I had an issue with a crack across a floor slab which I suspect was caused by a change in the depth of crushed rock across the site that still caused a problem despite all the efforts made to ensure the compaction was thorough and uniform.

If the cracks are parallel to the foundations then that would suggest to me that the fill against the rising walls wasn’t sufficiently compacted and over time the floor has sagged where it meets the walls.

Of course it could have a completely different cause, but that seems likely to me.

I know it’s worrying and it should definitely be properly investigated and set right, but ultimately it’s not really a structural issue. If the crack could be seen also running up the wall then I’d be more concerned.

Thank you. I should have been more specific. The cracks are developing in tiles and run in a straight line parallel to the back wall (30cm away from the wall) across the entire house. Neighboring houses built at the same time by same problem have same issue and same houses slightly older built by same builder also have a straight crack running across the front of the house (also <30cm parallel to the wall). What worries me is that the tile on one side of the crack is slightly higher than the other one. The cracks are not running up the wall at this stage, but I see little hairline cracks developing on walls as well.

You would have to give a more detailed description of the floor, any floor covering, and the cracks (eg starting in a corner, going across the house parallel to foundations doesn’t immediately make sense - there must be a diagonal there). Use a spirit level liberally also, all the way across the floor in each direction.

Check for cracks in the walls exterior and interior.

Mark the precise ends of cracks accurately and record how far they move.

If you get an engineer in it will require less time if you have noted where the cracks are and aren’t.

That’s very different to what I’ve described above. More likely then that the centre of the slab has dropped a bit and it is being held up around the edges by a step in the rising walls. Again maybe poorly compacted crushed rock, (or possibly compression of the insulation?)

Either way, definitely one for the professionals.

did you go back to the builder?

Why would you go back to a “builder” who builds numerous houses that crack their floors?

Normally punters lose the plot & stage a picket outside the EA’s office that sold the house, or go after the builder to fix it. Not normal that someone takes an analytical approach to an issue.

based on the calibre of most I come across on a daily basis, I think the approach here is pretty well up there. Not sure how you’re linking VI’s running the property market to this scenario… I thought VI’s just controlled prices.