Worried about cracks to ceiling and walls – is it a sign of subsidence, a structural problem or something else?
Q: I am seeing signs of movement in our attic bedroom (diagonal cracking on walls and ceiling, cracks above window frame, slight bowing of wall) but can see no external cracks to the house or cracks in rooms below. I am wondering if the movement is connected to building works we had done on the ground floor a few years ago or something else entirely. Building control signed off the works. My insurance company have said they would only be liable if it was due to subsidence. The structural engineer involved in the build doesn't think the movement is connected to the building work but won't do a site visit unless I pay. The builder feels it is related to something else since there is no sign of movement where the works were completed. Should I be concerned?
Is it subsidence, previous work or something else that is causing cracks?
Local Authority Building Control: You could contact the building control section of the council to ensure that all the works connected with the attic conversion (which was done before you moved in) were signed off and completed satisfactorily. They may wish to have a look at the movement to help you ascertain whether it is connected with the building work. If the movement and cracking are as extensive as you describe, it may be necessary to gain a structural engineers report; which you will need to commission and pay for.
An Architect: Given the limited information, I would suggest that the cracking you are experiencing on the second floor is not connected to the building work carried out on the ground floor. Otherwise you should have seen some movement on the first floor.
The cracking could be due to the loft conversion. If this was done fairly recently, you should have a certificate of compliance issued by the Local Authority Building Control. If you don’t know who did the loft conversion, or if it was some time ago, you may need to pay for a structural engineer to inspect the crack.
If you are concerned that it may be subsidence, contact your insurance company. They should investigate and ascertain whether it is or not. If there is no subsidence, there will be a report to explain this on your file and you will be given a copy in the event you sell, so there is no cause for worry in having a potential claim on your home insurance file.