The expression ‘a stitch in time …’ is entirely appropriate when dealing with structural defects in your home or business. Prevention is always easier, and cheaper, than repairs on neglected areas, which can lead to serious costs in both time and money.
The key to saving time and money in repairs is to learn to recognise structural defects, and to take early action. Ensuring that your building is structurally sound will become a legal requirement if future proposed legislation is passed. All property owners could be required to provide evidence of the sound state of their property in order to sell, so it’s well worth being prepared. Here are some of the defects that can occur, and the ways to repair them.
Cracking Walls These are symptoms of structural instability. Evidence usually takes the form of vertical or diagonal cracks in plaster and brickwork, which are obvious to the naked eye. They occur when a building has been laid on shrinkable sub-soil which can expand and contract with moisture. Interference from nearby tree roots spreading under walls can call cracking.
Most plaster cracks eventually, it’s part of the stress relief of a building. A quick fix is simply to re-plaster the wall, but it will crack again as the natural stresses continue to exert pressure. A permanent repair involves the use of fibreglass joint tape and joint compound, completed by a skim of new plaster.
Floorboard damage is most often caused by careless lifting and replacement, either by the occupier, or a tradesman. The problem can be recognised by sight if the boards are uncovered, or by bumps and creaks which are noticeable if the boards are covered by rugs or carpeting. This can lead to damp and decay. Decay can also be caused by pest infestation, lack of preparation of the wood before laying the boards, and decayed clips and nails.
It is advisable to try and treat the damaged areas only, so decayed sections can be replaced without affecting the overall strength of the floor. Decayed clips and nails can be replaced, and uneven sections can be raised and relayed.
Most roof damage is caused by the elements, and occasionally by growth of plants which thrive on trapped dirt and moisture which allow seeds to grow. It is not recommended that the average householder checks their own roof, for safety reasons. Employ a reliable professional to check and assess any damage. Repairs usually consist of removal of any plants and mosses, and repair or replacement of missing tiles or shingles.
Foundation damage is the most serious structural defect because it will affect the entire property. It manifests itself in cracking plaster and brickwork, visible movement of door and window frames, and cracking of concrete paths and areas surrounding the building. The most common cause is settlement of the soil, which may respond to addition or absence of moisture over a period of time. Clay soil can shrink over time, which will cause foundations to shift and crack. The solution is usually underpinning of the structure, occasionally in tandem with chemical treatment for the soil problems. This is a job for specialist contractors, and is expensive, so it should be addressed as soon as any of the warning signs appear.
The most essential aspect of repairing structural defects is to keep an eye on things, spot defects early while they are small ands inexpensive to fix, and have them repaired properly. Prevention – and rapid repair – are always better, and cheaper, than cure.