"Cosmetic" cracks in walls?

bbrown wrote:

We just moved to a home that was built in 1994. Our inspector noted "cosmetic" cracks in the walls but it is much more than that. We have low spots in the floors, heaving in corners in some rooms, shifted windows, doors that are stuck and multiple cracks above doors.... a contractor that came out said that everything looked as if it was all shifting to the center of the house. My question is what causes this? He also told me he highly recommended me hiring a structural engineer. 


Thanks for your inquiry.  Assuming your walls are sheathed with sheetrock(gypsum wall panels), cosmetic cracks are typically vertical or horizontal and extend through joints in the panels.  If you have plaster walls (generally much older homes) the cosmetic cracks may be more meandering in direction.  But even "cosmetic cracks" can really be signs of more significant problems when combined with other evidence of movement such as sloping floors and such However, if you have diagonal cracks over interior doorways and the doors are rubbing on the tops of the frames or they don’t latch, your contractor is right and you probably have some movement of the foundations or framing toward the middle of the home.  Not an uncommon phenomenon, unfortunately.  The greatest load is near the center of the home since a home typically has joists and beams coming in from all 4 directions.  The goal is to determine if the movement is old and stabilized or if it is ongoing.  If the cracks appear to be growing in length or if the doors become increasingly difficult to open/shut you probably need and engineer to diagnose the problem and either prescribe a repair plan and/or benchmark the positions of the floors with accurate level measurements and compare the measurements at some future date (I recommend 18 to 24 months).