Tips to Maintaining Your Home: Settling Cracks – How to Treat them in Your New Home
Buying a new home is daunting and you may have many questions. One of the topics that many of our Chartwell Home Loan owners ask us about is maintenance. In this blog we share a handy set of of tips on maintaining your home and settling cracks.
What is a settling crack?
Settling cracks (non-structural cracks) will almost always appear in newly built homes. These are small (less than 3mm in diameter) cracks in the plaster. Weather conditions, temperature changes and moisture content naturally cause a house foundation and walls to experience settling cracks.
When maintaining my home should I be worried about settling cracks?
These type of cracks do not immediately affect the integrity of your home. However, apart from doing maintenance to attend to settling cracks to keep your home looking pristine, they should be treated regularly as water can seep into these cracks which may give rise to damp issues and over time could start to erode your home’s inner concrete.
Maintaining your home and Sectional Title Living
If your home is in a Sectional Title Scheme and managed by a Body Corporate, exterior settling cracks will be treated in terms of the Body Corporate Maintenance Plan put in place by the Trustees and adopted by members annually. Individual homeowners are fully responsible for maintaining and attending to settling cracks inside their homes.
Below we provide some useful DIY tips to attending to internal settling cracks. When in doubt however engage the services of a handyman to do your maintenance work for you. You can see our previous post about Home Maintenance here!
What you will need:
- Scraper and a flat screwdriver
- Patching material such as internal Polyfilla
- Fine grade sandpaper
- Paint Brush, paint roller and tray
- Paint of your choice
Steps for fixing settling cracks
- Use a scraper / flat screwdriver to enlarge/widen and undercut opening along crack line, to provide grip for the filler.
- A dry paint brush can be used to ensure the crack is well cleaned and free of dust.
- Prepare the patching material (Polyfilla) to fill the crack: mix required amount to a thick, buttery consistency for immediate use. (Pre-prepared fillers are also available for purchase from hardware stores).
- Dampen the surface using a clean paintbrush or spray bottle to the full depth of the opened crack. Ensure that water reaches the far end of the crack. The better you dampen the surface the more complete the bond will form.
- Fill the opening completely with patching material (Polyfilla) using a putty knife / scraper. At the end remove excess and flatten level with the wall with a paint scraper.
- Allow time to properly dry.
- Smooth the patched surface by using fine grade sand paper. Make sure the patched surface is level with the surrounding surface. If there is still small gaps or uneven areas between the filled area and surrounding wall, then apply a second filling coat and let it dry. Once again, smooth with fine grade sand paper.
- When the repaired patch is properly dried, apply a first coat of paint over the patched area. Once the first coat has dried, apply second coat of paint from corner to corner of the whole affected wall using a roller and using paint brush to cut straight lines at cornices, corners and at floor tiles.
These are fine, shallow cracks which appear on the surface of the plaster caused by over trowelling a rich mix by the builders at time of build – one with a high cement content – or where plaster sand contained an excessive amount of dust.
- These cracks do not need to be opened or repaired. They will eventually be covered and become non-visible after a number of coats of paint applied to the wall.
This is similar to crazing cracks except that it is usually slightly deeper and usually occurs when a plaster mix has a high cement content or the plaster dried too quickly.
- Most of these cracks do not need to be opened or repaired. They will eventually be covered and become non-visible after a number of coats of paint applied to the wall.
- Where necessary however, prepare some areas as you would for settling cracks.
Drying Shrinkage Cracks
These are as a result of moisture loss after plaster has hardened. Plaster will always shrink and crack so it is expected that it would develop a large number of fine, unnoticeable cracks at close spacing. Plaster applied in layers that are too thick will also tend to crack in this way. These cracks are normally stable and can be filled with a filler and painted over.
- Follow the steps as for settling cracks.
Larger cracks need to be undercut. All loose plaster needs to be removed and the surface needs to be dampened, similar to smaller cracks. A plaster mix would be used to fill the cavity of larger cracks. Allow a drying time of 24 hours. Shrinkage may occur and will need to be dealt with as above.
Quick Tips for Hairline Cracks
A quick fix for cracks that are open and showing as a fine black line is to caulk them:
- Use acrylic latex caulk and put a small bead of caulk along the crack.
- Using a clean finger, rub the caulk into the crack with a motion that is perpendicular to the crack. This will force the caulk into the crack.
- Wipe off all the excess with a sponge so that only caulk is left in the crack. It will feel like you’ve done nothing, but this will allow the paint to cover the crack and eliminate the unsightly black line.