As you’re settling into your new home, your new home is setting into being. During the first year, post-construction, you may see some changes in the appearance of your home. Learn what is expected and common and what issues should cause you concern.
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Wood framing shrinkage leads to cracks in stick built homes
In the United States, “stick building” is the most common construction technique. According to Wikipedia, “A stick-built home is a wooden house constructed entirely or largely on-site; that is, built on the site which it is intended to occupy upon its completion rather than in a factory or similar facility.” In these types of homes, the framing is generally constructed of dimensional lumber, meaning that all four sides of each piece have been planned and then cut to standardized measurements.
Dimensional lumber in the US is generally pine which is milled from trees grown for this purpose. When harvested, trees are taken to the sawmill and milled to a standard, finished size. Fresh lumber contains a high volume of water and is usually kiln dried to remove much of the water. The US Department of Commerce sets standards and defines kiln dried as, “Lumber that has been seasoned in a chamber to a predetermined moisture content by applying heat.”
Kiln dried lumber which is under 5 inches thick is allowed to have a moisture content of 19%. During the first year, your home’s lumber may lose up to 10% of this moisture content, especially in winter, causing shrinkage. As the framing members shrink, they shift, resulting in cracks in or around door corners. In humid climates, wood may absorb moisture during humid months. Wood is hygroscopic, meaning that it will take on water or lose water depending on the environment and the humidity levels.
The American Softwood Lumber Standards tell us, “The range of shrinkage of individual pieces from experimental observation is from 2% to 7%. Variables that affect measurement and shrinkage of lumber are: density, species, grain orientation and allowable grade characteristics.”
If you see diagonal cracks at door corners or interior partitions, document the issue, and consult your homeowner's warranty to determine if this is covered. 2 10 Warranty, informs owners in their sample warranty,
“all new homes go through a period of settlement and movement, and your home may experience some minor material shrinkage, cracking and other events which are normal and customary. Examples include small cracks in drywall and paint; and separation where dissimilar materials meet each other — for example, where moldings meet sheetrock, or where tile grout meets a sink. In most cases, paint and caulking is all that is necessary to conceal these types of blemishes that result from the natural expansion and contraction of construction materials. Because these events are normal and customary, they are not a defect or a major structural defect that are covered by this express limited warranty.”
According to Canada Post, “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.”
As your home’s framing members dry out, nail heads can “pop out” of the drywall. The lumber shrinks and the drywall moves with the lumber, and the nail remains in place, resulting in the protrusion of the nail head. The finishing compound may pop off the nail head or be cracked over it.
Most home warranties cover severe nail pops. 2 10 Warranty’s sample warranty says, “Nail pops are a defect only when there are signs of spackle compound cracking or falling away.”
Water where it should not be
Water should be contained and flow where it is supposed to. You should not find any standing water except in a toilet bowl! Water should not accumulate under your home, on your patio, on your steps or at, in or around the foundation. Finding water in your crawl space means there is intrusion from some source. It’s important to locate the source and stop the water’s incursion into your home.
Common sources of water intrusion are from poorly graded land at the foundation. Following rain, walk around your home to inspect for any puddling water along the foundation. If you have standing water where it should not be, consult your warranty for recommended actions.
Your home’s roof may be constructed of triangular manufactured trusses which support your roof. Truss uplift happens when the lower portion of the truss is buried in lots of attic insulation and remains warm, drying out at a greater rate than the upper members of the truss which lengthen during humid winter months. When this occurs, the bottom members of the truss bow upwards and the ceiling literally lifts resulting in drywall cracks at the top of the walls. In the summer months, this condition may naturally reverse itself.
Generally, these types of cracks are not structural and can be cosmetically repaired with drywall compound and paint. Consult your home warranty to learn if these cracks are covered under your first-year workmanship warranty.
10 month inspections
Some homeowners opt to get a professional inspection of their new home before the first-year post-construction is concluded. An independent professional inspector will document issues which may be covered under your First-Year Workmanship Warranty. Always consult your home warranty, and address issues which are those which are your responsibility, including regular maintenance. Read our article on home maintenance.
Because your home is a major investment, know and understand these typical, normal changes. Study your home warranty to understand where and what may be considered a workmanship defect which is covered, or a major defect or structural defect. Knowledge and diligence are important when it comes to owning a home. Be sure you use both in caring for your home.
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