Finding Cracks Everywhere? Winter-Related Home Damage You Should Be Aware Of

Construction & Contractors Articles

Winter can cause a lot of damage to our homes. Some damage that occurs in winter results in cracks everywhere. If you start seeing cracks in your home, both inside and outside, will you know where to look for the cause? Old Man Winter can cause two serious things to happen to your home: truss lift and foundation movement. Here's what you need to know.  

Truss Lift

Truss lift is when the trusses of your roofing structure expand. This causes the top portion of the trusses to flex outward and lift up the ceilings that are attached to them. The expansion occurs when the bottom part of the trusses stay warm and humid underneath insulation but the top part of the trusses is exposed to extremely cold and dry air.

In addition to causing the ceilings to lift upward, the trusses can break. This can cause diminished structural integrity of your roofing structure and cause your roof to collapse. The trusses may break through the ceiling. The pressure of these changes on the entire structure of your home can cause cracks everywhere throughout your home—in your drywall, around your windows and doors, and in your brick façade. The movement of the trusses and your roofing may damage the bricks of your chimney. Hire a structural engineer to do an inspection.

Of course, broken trusses will need to be completely replaced. Trusses that have flexed outward may need to be supported with additional wood. L-brackets should be installed at the bottom of the trusses where they attach to the walls. This allows for the natural movement and will keep your ceilings from lifting. It will also reduce the pressure on your home's structure the next time the trusses expand and flex.

Foundation Movement

Soil expansion can cause foundation movement. Soil expands when it freezes. Extremely low temperatures and heavy snowfall can cause the frost line in the soil to be deeper. When soil expands, it puts more pressure on the foundation than the foundation was built to withstand. This pressure can lift the foundation up while temperatures are low. When temperatures increase the soil will thaw and contract. This can cause the foundation to sink.

Anytime your foundation goes through these changes it can cause cracks in your foundation and throughout your home in the interior and exterior. The lifting and sinking of your foundation can cause the brick façade to crack and pull away from the structure. With extreme movement, you may find ruptured utility lines and pipes.  

You may need to have your foundation underpinned to provide more support and to straighten your foundation if it settled unevenly. Repair all damaged mortar joints and cracks in your foundation walls. To do this, you will probably need to have your foundation excavated, which may affect your brick façade. If your foundation walls buckled, you may need to support the walls with a steel beam. In extreme cases, the foundation will need to be replaced completely.

Dealing with the Cracks

After you've repaired the trusses and/or foundation, you'll need to repair all the cracks it caused. Cover the interior cracks between your walls and ceilings with crown molding. Attach the crown molding with L-brackets to allow for movement in case it happens again. On the exterior, you will have to repair all cracks you find in the bricks with tuckpointing. This is important because the cracks can cause water to infiltrate behind the bricks. This can lead to significant water damage and mold.

The Casebolt family dealt with truss lift and broken trusses in early 2014. The children actually heard the trusses crack. Imagine how terrified their mother was to find 3 broken trusses above her children's bedrooms. If you start seeing, or hearing, cracks during the winter, check the trusses in your attic and your foundation walls.

Check out sites like http://www.aaa1masonry.com/ for more information.

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