Are cracks in floor and ceillings bad?

5 Replies


I'm in the process of buying a SFH (built in 98) in Fort Worth area and the inspection came back stating that:

"There is some cracking on the floor in the garage. Recommend this be monitored."

and... "There is some cracking and nail pops noted on the ceiling and walls through-out. Consider touch-up repairs. There is evidence of past moisture on the ceiling in the kitchen. Consult seller for history."

The inspector said foundation (Concrete) is in good shape but stated that: "Small cracks are visible in the foundation system. Most small cracks are normal due to the curing process of concrete and/or mortar shortly after installation."

Do these suggest there might be high cost issues with the house? Should I skip or bring someone over for an expert opinion?

Thanks for the help!

Having lived in CA most of my life you will experience this.  That is earthquake country.   99% of the properties in the CA area have cracks in the concrete.   The earth moves frequently there and there is really no way around that.    The cracks in the ceiling often times is "floor movement"   Depending on where the property is located will often times determine its physical condition.   I live in the Pomona, CA area.   Most of the properties in this area have experienced this.    Also, go outside and look at the stucco.   You will see cracking in that as well.    

Now, if the seperation is very noticable then it may be a red flag.

With the roof, you want to see how old the roof is as well.   Make sure there is no moisture or staining on the roof.  If it is, then that is an indication of a roof leak.   

What i use to do was this.  

Get a large Marble.  Like the kids use.   Place that marble on the floor or the countertops.   If it rolls, you have an uneven foundation.  this is a RED FLAG.    If you are an experienced investor that knows how do deal with these issues, you can always take it out on a price reduction.  

Nail pops are not usually a big deal.  When wood shrinks due to age and drying out the nails sometimes pop through the drywall.  Also if you ever replace your roof all the pounding will cause those.

The garage cracks I wouldn't be too worried about unless they are opening.  As the inspector said, Concrete will often get microfractures as it dries.  That being said, along with the cracking in the in the sheetrock could mean you have some foundation settling.  Dallas & Fort Worth is prone to slab foundation issues.  Many foundation companies will come out and do an inspection for free or low cost.  If you are buying through a realtor ask him/her if he knows one that will do that.  It would be better to know about that now, than later.

On the water staining, I agree, see how old the roof is.  I assume your inspector checked out the roof and told you its condition.  If it is original, plan on it needing replacement.  They sell 30 year roofs, but in Texas, roofs don't last 30 years.  With all the hail we get and the sun beating down on it, you are lucking to get 15 years.  One place we I've seen leaking that is common is around the sewer vents that go through to the roof.  There is a rubber gasket around those where they meet up with the stack.  They eventually wear out and will leak.  My house is 2 years newer than this, and we had that exact problem, same as many in the neighborhood, and I had a rent house leak there.

the water leaking could also be from an AC unit that is in the attic.  If primary drain line clogs, if everything else is working right (secondary drain) you can get a leak onto the ceiling.  I would assume a decent inspector would have made that connection though.

You're buying an out-of-state house so why not get a couple of local contractors out there to take a look during your inspection period.  Nailpops are pretty normal...that's why we always use screws.  Buildings almost always use the cheapest of everything...including a $2 plastic vent boot instead of the $15 aluminum based vent boots that perform way better.  Most vent boots we see are nailed down with 1/2" roofing nails...which absolutely won't hold in high winds.  If you can see your roofline, look for that black shadows under the vent boots...that gap is often the source of your water leaks.  Renail your boots with serrated roofing nails with a neuprene can usually get these a Home Depot or Lowes....or Ace Hardware.  Seal all vent boots and furnace or water heater vents with a clear elastromeric sealant like Through the Roof....we handle several of these repairs a week in Atlanta through HandyANDY and Through the Roof is good for 20 years....great product.

When you seal the boots, run a bead of sealant over the tops of the gasket that slides along the vent pipe.  UV rays tend to break these down and the "split", no matter how minor, is usually the source for water stains in kitchen and bath ceilings.  Ounce of prevention is worth many pounds of cure!  Happy Investing 

@Oren H.  There isn't any house in Texas with a slab foundation an is more than a couple years old that doesn't have some sort of cracks in the foundation.  There's 3 primary reasons in Texas...

1.  The concrete was poured in the summer  (As I'm sure you're aware that can be anywhere between May 1st and Nov 30th in Texas!!!), and - since it was not a living surface - there was no one standing there sprinkling it in the 100 degree heat.  In this case, it's shrinkage, and the foundation is generally fine.  As @Shawn Thom  said, as long as the cracks aren't separating, there's nothing to be concerned about.

2.  Generally settling of the house.  The Metroplex is all clay-based soil.  It expands and contracts with the seasons.  If you draw a line from about 100 miles west of Ft Worth straight south, about 90% of all houses east of there will have settling.  Although it becomes a significant number, the reality is that only a relatively small percentage of houses in that group will require true foundation repair.  Settling can cause cracks in the foundation, doors sticking, drywall cracks, mortar cracks, etc.

3.  The settling of the house that exceeds the 1" drop within 20', which will require leveling and repairs with piers.

There's a great blog post on foundation repairs...

Foundation Repair Basics and Misconceptions

If you are really concerned about the foundation, just have a reputable foundation repair company do a free evaluation on it.

As for the drywall, it could be due to settling, but it could also be either a bad drywall job or poor framing.  Drywall comes in 8' x 4' sheets.  Framing should be done on either a 12" or 16" center.  This makes the seams all line up nice, so that the seams are on top of a stud.  If either one of those are off, the seams will not be on a stud.  That means that someone leaning against the wall can cause nail pops and cracks.  Just do cosmetic repairs on those. 


Thanks everybody for your replies!

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