Cracks - should I be worried (photos)

9 Jan 2017
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United Kingdom
I have had an offer accepted on a rather boring 3 bed 1950s brick construction house. The house had a rear flat roofed single extension in the 1970s and next to that a conservatory was added in 2000 along with the double glazed windows. It hasn't been decorated in some time!
I have since learnt the property is on clay. Now i'm worried about the large number of cracks i'm seeing and the long term prospects for this place. They appear throughout, most of them are hairline, but a couple are 1mm. They are some downstairs, but appear more prominent upstairs. Upstairs they are can be seen around the windows running diagonally upward and below the centre of window frame and behind the radiators. They also appear around the door lintels, again running upward in a jagged line. There are cracks around the power socket too. Some signs of stress on a couple of ceiling tiles as well. Two of the upstairs rooms are south facing, but one is north facing and it still has these small cracks.

So granted, there are a lot of cracks, but then is an old house. But is this normal or something sinister? I have read a lot on subsidence and it has me very worried.


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I forgot to add, there is a hairline crack where the extension was toothed into the building, it looks like it has been repointed before? Aside from that I cant see any significant cracks externally. There are also some long straight cracks running up the wall upstairs, perhaps the wall is coming away, is that serious/related?


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The house has been up since the 50, so should be fine as most cracks are hairline. It's the cracks in the corners that need looking at; do you have any pictures of the outside of those corners. And we'll need picture inside and out of the long cracks going up the walls. Clay is always going to expand and contract between summer and winter, but as long as the foundations are solid, then it'll be fine; the extension toothing has been repointed before, because the new foundations aren't tied into the old ones, so it will always be a weak point, but that's not to say that it'll be a problem. Have you had the property surveyed, or are you going to; if they find any problems, then you can go back and renegotiate the price again.
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Thanks for your comments, its much appreciated. It'll be a few days before I can get more photos. The long cracks going up the wall only appear upstairs, whats you concern regarding them, what might cause this? I do have a surveyor visiting in the next couple of days - but i'm keep to hear your thoughts on those cracks?
Sorry Otter, but without the pictures, any comments would be conjecture (even with the pictures as well) actually.

Clay expands in the winter when it rains, and shrinks during the summer as it dries out, so you need a "raft type" of foundations that will support the property over it's whole structure, but nothings perfect, so you'll still get niggles. Trees grow, and will suck out moisture, so you make sure they don't grow too high, but they can take out moisture on one side of the house whereas seasonal fluctuations will affect the whole house evenly. As long as you've only got hairline cracks, and they don't get significantly wider towards the top, and they don't appear at the corner of windows and doors etc, then there's a good chance that they are only general niggles. Wait to see what the surveyor says, and then get back to us.
Out of curiousity are you buying outright or mortgage? I know a couple who got refused a mortgage on the grounds they had polystyrene ceiling tiles which looks very similar to what you've got on pic2 & 13? After the surveyor picked up on it.
Buying with a Mortgage, I only paid the lender for a valuation. The valuation was a 3 page report, it did not mention the internal state or ceiling tiles at all, did not mention the cracks either. In fact it came back and said the property was worth exactly what I offered. Curious eh? ;) So I guess the lender had no reason to refuse or put conditions on their lending for it.
If you're getting a further survey done then make sure you ask him to pay particular attention to your points of concern and to specifically comment upon them.

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