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Ask RiotACT: Cracks in the wall

By Zultan - 3 November 2015 14

Ask RiotACT

Hi folks, I have a 40 or so year old house in Belconnen, built on brick piers instead of a concrete slab, that has a number of cracks in the brickwork.  As I understand it these are a feature of many Canberra properties; they didn’t even get a mention on the property purchase report.

Who can I enlist to examine them and let me know whether or not I should be holding off on refurbishment until the building is stablised or whether it is ok to ignore them?

thanks 🙂

What’s Your opinion?


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14 Responses to
Ask RiotACT: Cracks in the wall
rubaiyat 10:16 am 06 Nov 15

shellcase said :

Good morning Justin Heywood and Zultan; yes Justin that is the case. Zultan hope all your cracks are little ones.

Hope no one suffered too much water entry last night, wouldn’t want to read any more of Rubaiyat or VYBerlina’s insufferable and illogical rants against Private Certifier Building Surveyors.

Oh, by the way, VY’s are so last decade. VF SSV’s rool, OK!

The expensive Clayton’s inspections are generating a massive defective housing stock that everyone is having to pay for and are one reason why sensible owners avoid investing in Canberra’s housing. Neatly shooting ourselves in the foot just so the appalling standard of building can benefit the worst builders.

That and virtually none of our buildings are being built for our climate. Stupid is as stupid does.

shellcase 8:48 am 06 Nov 15

Good morning Justin Heywood and Zultan; yes Justin that is the case. Zultan hope all your cracks are little ones.

Hope no one suffered too much water entry last night, wouldn’t want to read any more of Rubaiyat or VYBerlina’s insufferable and illogical rants against Private Certifier Building Surveyors.

Oh, by the way, VY’s are so last decade. VF SSV’s rool, OK!

Zultan 6:00 pm 05 Nov 15

Thanks all. To clarify the cracks don’t seem to be getting bigger. Most of them were rendered over (attempts to hide them) by the previous owner and hairline cracks have reappeared. The one that is largest in the garage internal wall appears to have been filled multiple times and re-cracked.

VYBerlinaV8_is_back 4:43 pm 05 Nov 15

shellcase said :

Oh dear, Rubaiyat and VYBerlina are not paying attention or are politically motivated; not good.

The most critical inspection in the building process is that of Frame & Presheet where structure, utility’s rough-in’s (and in Class 2 and Class 3 structures) penetrations through firewalls, damp-proofing and flashings are checked before the interior is closed up.

This inspection is compulsory on Class 1 (Stand-alone houses). It is optional on multi-storey residential.

Private Certifier Building Surveyors can only enforce what is written in the Building Act and Regulations. Our toy government lacks the substance to do the obvious. Read my last post!

Or we could revert to government inspectors, a beaut system where you and I, the ratepayers, had to cough up around $2M per year to satisfy plaints brought by home-owners against the Building Section.

I suggest you could also get out of your armchairs, get yourselves 52 years of experience as a Tradesman, Clerk of Works and Principal Building Surveyor as per this little black duck.

You do realise that builders doctor-shop amongst the certifiers, right?

justin heywood 3:38 pm 05 Nov 15

shellcase said :

This inspection [utilitys, penetrations through firewalls, damp-proofing and flashings] is compulsory on Class 1 (Stand-alone houses). It is optional on multi-storey residential.

This inspection is optional on apartment buildings? I would have thought it even more important to make sure apartments are built well (more people affected, problems harder to fix etc.)

shellcase 11:05 am 05 Nov 15

Oh dear, Rubaiyat and VYBerlina are not paying attention or are politically motivated; not good.

The most critical inspection in the building process is that of Frame & Presheet where structure, utility’s rough-in’s (and in Class 2 and Class 3 structures) penetrations through firewalls, damp-proofing and flashings are checked before the interior is closed up.

This inspection is compulsory on Class 1 (Stand-alone houses). It is optional on multi-storey residential.

Private Certifier Building Surveyors can only enforce what is written in the Building Act and Regulations. Our toy government lacks the substance to do the obvious. Read my last post!

Or we could revert to government inspectors, a beaut system where you and I, the ratepayers, had to cough up around $2M per year to satisfy plaints brought by home-owners against the Building Section.

I suggest you could also get out of your armchairs, get yourselves 52 years of experience as a Tradesman, Clerk of Works and Principal Building Surveyor as per this little black duck.

VYBerlinaV8_is_back 9:16 am 05 Nov 15

rubaiyat said :

The state of, especially the multistorey apartment, buildings in Canberra is particularly notorious to the point where owners have come out and openly described their own property as unresolvably defective, they are so frustrated with the whole building quality control and legislation in the A.C.T.

Agreed. Private certifiers has been a nightmare.

Regarding the cracks, the issue will be whether they are changing at all. If they are getting larger, especially changing in short periods of time, you have a potential problem.

shellcase 1:47 pm 04 Nov 15

Simple to fix. ACT Government must make Frame & Presheet Inspections compulsory on Class 2 and 3 multi-storey apartment projects, which then brings them into line with Class 1 residential.

Why won’t they do it? The Private Certifier Building Surveyors have been bashing the government about that since 1999.

rubaiyat 9:42 pm 03 Nov 15

The state of, especially the multistorey apartment, buildings in Canberra is particularly notorious to the point where owners have come out and openly described their own property as unresolvably defective, they are so frustrated with the whole building quality control and legislation in the A.C.T.

That there has been so little money paid out in compensation is to my experience a mere conformation of a broken system.

shellcase 4:37 pm 03 Nov 15

Zultan, have long have you been in the house? If you have recently moved in it is best to monitor the cracks through a full year if you can. Soil moisture content varies with the seasons and prolonged dry weather will cause the foundation soils to contract. A prolonged wet period will cause soil expansion and cracks will close up to some extent.

Select a couple of points around the house, measure each crack and check it at, say, monthly intervals, log the results along with weather conditions in the intervening period.

Back in the 70’s footing sizes were nominally 250 W X 150/200 D with one layer of 304 mesh, insufficient to resist long term movement in the foundation soil. Bearer and joist construction was the conventional and typical method used in that era, shrinkage of hardwood floor framing can contribute to some cracking and floors going out of level.

In Belconnen the most conveniently placed structural engineer is Jan Van Der Veen, he has his office in the professional centre in Hawker shops, he has long term knowledge of the district and can give you appropriate advise on what to do.

Generally most Private Certifier Building Surveyors are more reliable than the old government system. For the last year figures were made available by ACT government, (1998-99) the government paid out some $2M for the previous year to settle litigation brought by aggrieved building owners against the Building Section inspectors for negligence. Nowadays Private Certifier Building Surveyors must hold mandatory minimum $2M Professional Indemnity Insurance. They can’t afford the loss of indemnity nor the disciplinary action which may be brought by the Registrar if they are negligent.

Southmouth 1:59 pm 03 Nov 15

Went through this myself a few years ago when i wanted to render a double brick reno i had. It can be a minefield. A structural engineer who specialises in this is the way to go if you have the cash.
If the cracks have stayed the same size for years then it’s just a cosmetic fix, no worrying required.
Back in the day, footing sizes were too small for reactive soils, not all rooves were truss and not all builders used the right amount of steel in the footing, plus drainage and previous site use all come in to play. If the cracks are changing, understanding the cause is important but potentially costly.

Ezy 1:50 pm 03 Nov 15

This is caused by movement in the foundations which is quiet typical in Canberra with the really hot then really cold days that we get. The clay expands and contracts with rain water and the heat/cold. It is something that would need to be rectified if you chose to render the house.

rubaiyat 1:04 pm 03 Nov 15

Be aware that building standards in the ACT are not high and since virtual self assessment was introduced with the token “independent” inspectors, who are not held accountable by anyone other than the builder who pays for their work, the standards have fallen further.

Look at what your house is built on.

If it is clay, as it often is, that is always going to shift and move with changing moisture content.

Look at the cracks and see if they are fresh or widening. If they are widening that is a definite problem.

There is not much point in calling in a plasterer. If it is severe damage that is not something they can fix. If it is cosmetic you are better off fixing it yourself with a flexible filler and painting over it.

Check your doors and windows are opening and closing properly. If they are not that is a sign of excessive movement and you would have grounds to pursue whoever made that report.

Rollersk8r 12:19 pm 03 Nov 15

Whatever the answer is I’m also very interested to know. I’m also in Belconnen, looking to put our 70s ex-govvie on the market. One of many worries is whether the cracks in external walls require any attention.

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