Minor cracks appearing between radiator and steel

10 Jan 2018
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United Kingdom
Hi there

We had 2 rooms knocked together (into 1 room) over 2 years ago now.

We are a 1900's ground floor maisonette, and we had a supporting feature (A chimney breast) removed and 2 steels sat on padstones put in to support the load above (The upstairs chimney breast) which separates their rooms (There is no wall up there, just literally a chimney breast separating the rooms- strange set up)

This was, of course, all done through the proper channels with a PWA, reputable Structural Engineering firm, structural subcontractor appointed by the builder, and BC inspecting before the steels were covered, and again at the end of the works (We got sign off etc). To the best of my knowledge everything was done properly.

One end of the steels go into the external wall of the building. We are not seeing anything untoward there. We are also not seeing anything else of concern like cracks opening up in the ceiling, the box the steel sits inside, or anything like that.

The other end goes into a party wall (Dutch bonded 2- layer brick wall if i recall?), and there is a large radiator directly below the steels.

There are a few minor, shallow cracks that go into the plaster (and these are like the width of a line you would get from a mechanical pencil at most, so hairline, and some are more like a raised ridge in the paint/ plaster than cracks) above the radiator/ under the steel. I believe some of these are slowly getting longer over time, but so far, not wider. They are generally more vertical than horizontal. The higher you go above the radiator the more minor they seem to get.

Bear in mind we have had the heating on in that room until about 3 weeks ago.

If I knock the plaster on that wall it sounds somewhat hollow in some places and not others, and in general seems to sound more/ less hollow on either side of these 'cracks'. There is no sign of the wall bowing or anything like that, and the floorboards, skirting board, etc have not moved or shown signs of distress.

I showed them to another builder who was around doing something else for us a few months ago, and he said not to worry about them, but always good to get a few opinions....

Are these cracks likely to be just the result of the radiator causing air behind the plaster to expand, or minor settlement/ movement, or is it a sign of something more ominous?

It is the fact that I believe they are still developing (Albeit very slowly) and that the wall is now supporting part of a chimney that gets me thinking, but at the same time, the fact there is a large radiator there and are so minor after nearly 2.5 years might mean they are nothing to worry about.

Should I be looking to open one up to see what is going on with the wall under the plaster? or is this total overkill?

Thanks for any thoughts.
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