Every homeowner’s nightmare is discovering there is some huge structural issue with their property that will cost thousands of dollars to resolve. And aside from the cost, and regardless of whether you own your home or not, everyone deserves to have a home that is a haven for them from the outside world, and one that they know will keep them and their family safe.
That’s why it’s so important that you make time to periodically check your home for these potential signs of structural damage, so that you can resolve them sooner rather than later if they do come up, before they turn into a real problem.
The two main causes of damage to timber in houses are rot, and termites.
If your timber isn’t properly treated then water can get into it, creating a damp environment in which rot can thrive. If left untreated the rot will continue to grow and damage your wood further, so it’s a good idea to get it sorted as soon as possible.
Termites can be a little hard to spot as a lot of the damage they cause can look pretty innocuous until it’s too late. Some signs of termite infestation are:
- Blisters in wood flooring. This indicates that termites are possibly feeding on the wood.
- Hollowed or damaged wood. Termites chew through wood in search of food, which leaves behind long grooves and makes the wood weak. Check for a hollow sound or a honeycomb interior.
- Evidence of swarms. Check for discarded wings near your home’s access points, like windows and doors. Termites swarm to form a new colony, and then twist their wings off because they will never need them again.
- Mud tubes. Pencil sized mud tubes can be found where the ground meets your house if you have termites, as they use these tubes to block out the dry, cool air and turn your home into an environment in which they can thrive.
- As termites eat wood, they excrete it in their droppings. They excrete little pellets of wood that resemble sawdust or coffee grounds.
Sagging Or Leaking Roof
If your roof is leaking or sagging, this could indicate an issue either with the cladding, the timber frame or a simple lack of maintenance.
Generally speaking, your cladding should have a lifespan of around 30 years, so if it’s within that period, a leak is more likely to have been caused by movement of the timber frame, or by damage caused by bad weather.
It’s possible that home renovations can have a knock-on effect on your roof as well, for example, if a load-bearing wall is moved or damaged this can cause the roof to sag.
It is very important to address leaks in your roof as soon as possible, as they can cause costly damage if they are left untreated.
Moisture In The Basement
Moisture in your basement is generally a sign that there is an issue with either the drainage or the ventilation of your basement, and it can cause a problem because mold and fungus thrive in damp environments. Damp also rises, so you may find that a damp issue in your basement soon spreads to the rest of your home.
Dangers of moisture in the crawl space can also contribute to potential structural damage in your house. Excessive moisture in the crawl space can seep into the foundation, compromising its integrity and leading to cracks or shifts in the structure over time. These structural issues can have far-reaching consequences, impacting the stability and safety of your entire home.
If you ever find that your basement has actually flooded, this guide on how to deal with a wet basement offers some helpful advice:
- Safety first! Ensure that your power is shut off before entering the basement. You could risk electrocution if there are appliances or outlets in the basement and you touch the water. Ideally, you should call out an electrician, but if you must enter the basement yourself then be sure to wear rubber boots. Flood water may also contain harmful bacteria.
- The easiest way to drain water is using a drainage system that was designed for the purpose, however, this would have to be installed prior to the flooding incident. If you don’t have a drainage system, then you will need to either wait for the water to subside or call a water removal specialist before you can get into the basement to locate the cause of the issue.
- Fix the problem. Some common causes of basement flooding are cracked pipes, cracks in your foundations, blocked gutters, sewer backups or a failure in your water tank.
- Salvage your belongings. It’s a good idea to keep any belongings that you are storing in your basement in rubber lined boxes, and elevate them above floor level so that they are safe from flood water.
Wall And Ceiling Cracks
Not every crack in a wall or ceiling is an indicator of damage, but they are worth keeping an eye on. If they get bigger then this may indicate an issue. Cracks above doorways that are in a ‘stepped’ pattern, and accompanied by a sagging ceiling indicate a serious issue that you should get a contractor to look at as soon as possible.
Uneven floors can be quite common in older homes and don’t always indicate a serious issue, however, they can also indicate problems with your foundations so are worth checking out.
Crumbling concrete is often caused by exposure to damp or to chemicals, so if your concrete is crumbling it’s important that you ascertain the root of the problem as well as patching up the concrete itself – otherwise, it will just happen again.
Warped ceilings should be addressed as soon as possible as they can sometimes indicate a serious issue, but it can also take some time for a contractor to work out exactly what the issue is.
Ill-fitting Doors And Windows
If your doors and windows no longer fit properly this can be an indicator of foundational shift, or if the doors are wooden it can indicate that damp has gotten into the wood.
Gaps Between Walls
If there are gaps between your internal walls this could mean that your floor joists are sagging, which is caused by your support pillars being spaced too far apart or one of your support pillars having been damaged (often by termites). They can also be caused by the natural settling of your foundation.