How To Know When A Problem Is Just Your Home Settling Or Something To Worry About

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    I was talking with this guy that purchased a new home about 6 months ago and since it is new he is having a lot of punch item work that needs to be taken care of. Some of the things are common for new homes or ones that have had remodeling work and others are just bad workmanship and need to be taken care of before they get worse.

    The first problem he had was on a wall under a beam that runs across his living room opening there is a small hairline crack that is running down the wall. He was concerned about it and asked what steps he can take to reduce the problem or cure it.

    Unfortunately in new homes drywall around a structural member, window header, beam or even a doorway jam that might not even be load bearing can crack due to standard shrinkage of materials. Lumber that is used in walls will shrink when the heater is on due to moister being removed and wood will compress a bit under load.

    Normal settling is not normally anything to be concerned about but it will mean patching with Spackle or caulk and painting.

    The next problem had to do with a cabinet that was pulling away from a wall. At this point the gap was about 3/8th of an inch and it had grown over time. When the home was new there wasn’t a gap in this area.

    This is a problem that you need to be concerned about. When something gets worse over time especially when a cabinet in your kitchen or bathroom or sometimes other items seem to be loose in this way it normally means that they were not attached to the studs in the wall. All cabinets have a inside back wall that is sometimes made of thin plywood or often made of cheap cardboard. When a cabinet is installed the screws that attach it to the wall should be through solid wood and not simply cardboard.

    Since the home is new there is a possibility that the contractor will cover the bad workmanship. Maybe it was a simple mistake. On the other hand maybe they don’t know what they are doing and they will give you a hard time about fixing bad work. They might also blame it on you and it is possible to overload a cabinet especially if you do something stupid like stand on it. But if its bad workmanship you have the choice fix it yourself with a couple well placed screws and call it a day or call the contractor and deal with them.


    Final Note

    Sometimes it is difficult to diagnose whether a problem is something you need to be concerned about or something you can fix when you have time.

    In the case of the drywall since the cracks were hairline or very thin the problem was most likely simple settling of the home. However if in the next few days or weeks a wider gap opened up .. say 1/2 inch then it would be important to call a contractor as soon as possible or make sure the home is safe.

    A small crack that stays the same.. vs a tiny crack that doubles and triples and widens much more is the key.

    As for the cabinets… this is just bad work. Cabinets have a special screw strip on the back side of the cabinet that is made of actual wood. This is where you attach a cabinet to a wall and you make sure the screw enters into the 2×4 studs of the wall not just into drywall.

    This item needs to be fixed because it could get worse or the cabinet could tip. If it was an upper cabinet you would want to unload it immediately and fix it at the earliest  time you can. But it might only take one or two wood screws to fix. You won’t know until you empty the cabinet and inspect where the installer placed the screws the first time.



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