If it’s your first year in your newly built home, you might notice small cracks on the walls and tiny gaps in flooring. These are typically caused by the normal settling and drying that a new building experiences as it cycles through year one. Find out what’s normal, what you should take action on right away, and what your home’s builder is responsible for fixing.
Drying causes shrinkage cracks and wood gaps
The concrete floor, basement walls, plaster and lumber of an average new-build hold about 4,000 litres of water, most of which evaporates during a home’s first year. The drying process can create tiny gaps between floorboards. It can also cause small shrinkage cracks in basement walls and loose rail spindles on stairways. If your home has a lot of wood elements, ask your builder if a humidifier will help your home dry evenly and slowly, to reduce wood gaps and twisting.
- You can help your home by keeping it at a constant temperature over all four seasons during the first year.
- Leave the doors of built-in storage units slightly open to allow gentle drying and use your kitchen and bathroom fans often.
Settling in cracks
Is your new house making some mysterious creaks and groans? During the natural process of settling, the weight of the home compacts some of its own structural elements and the ground it sits on. Outside of the noises, expect to see some hairline cracks, especially over doorways and windows. Nail “pops” may force small circles of plaster out of the wall. Door frames can shift enough to require a bit of muscle when opening and closing inside and outside doors.
Tip: There could be a serious foundation problem if:
- You notice large cracks running up foundation walls.
- Doors or windows shift noticeably of straight angles and become difficult to open and close.
- Gas and water pipes start breaking.
Get in touch with your builder and municipality right away.
Work with your builder to address repairs
Reputable builders know that settling and drying repairs are part of a new home building project. They typically provide a 30 day inspection and then another one near the end of the home’s first year. Together, you’ll agree on all the fixes that need to happen and then track the repairs’ completion—these fixes are free of charge.
Each province and territory has its own building codes: in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec these minor first year fixes are covered by a warranty. Good builders in other provinces often provide a private guarantee.
A team of repairmen will need access to your home so that they can putty, sand, paint, inject epoxy into hairline foundation and basement cracks, and finish any other repairs that are needed. Do find out the builder’s deadlines for reporting any problems and make sure you allow five business days before the deadline to report your new home’s issues.
Tip: Document each specific issue, photos are always helpful, and track phone calls, emails, and when repairs are completed.
Minor cracks, creaks and groans are all part of the fun of living in a brand new house. But always be sure to contact your builder or contractor right away if you become concerned that a serious issue may be developing.
What kinds of small repairs or settling have you experienced in the first year in your new home? Share your stories in the comment section below.