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What Causes Major Structural Damage?

What Causes Major Structural Damage?

Let a building inspector confirm if there are major structural damage on your property.

Sometimes we can let our emotions take over our logic when it comes to purchasing a property. That house you found may have the perfect location, size, and even price, but stop. Are there any issues hiding under the surface?

One way to find out is to look for minor aesthetic issues, which may be warning signs of more serious structural damage. It’s crucial to detect these as soon as possible to save money and time in the long run.

What is Major structural damage?

Structural damage is the name given to any fault in a building’s structure or deviation from a building’s planned structure. These damages are categorised as either “major” or “minor” and can include anything from wall dents or cracks to gas or electrical faults. According to the Home Building Act 1989 – a defect is “major” if it satisfies one of the following conditions:

  1. It threatens the safety of the people staying in the building.
  2. The building is likely to collapse.

Major structural damage can often be rectified, if caught early enough, but you must call a professional to carry out a building inspection to fully discover all the problems that are present.

Which parts of a house can be affected by major structural damage?

Major structural damage is an inconsistency or defect in any of the major components of the property, such as:

  • Beams
  • Braces
  • Columns
  • Fire safety systems
  • Footings
  • Floors
  • Foundations
  • Load-bearing floor slab
  • Pads
  • Piles
  • Plates
  • Roof trusses
  • Waterproofing.

Major structural damage can render a property unfit for its intended purpose, which may also lead to the collapse or destruction of some or all parts of the property.


What are signs of major structural damage?

Major structural damage incurs the most significant expenses in Australian homes. Below are signs of growing damage to look out for in the property:

1. Termites

Termites can cause massive amounts of damage. They can eat away the wall studs, ceiling joists, and support beams that cause major structural damage over time. It is possible to mistake the damage caused by termites, like cracking walls or sagging ceilings, for normal structural movement, but an infested property may soon become unliveable if you do not remove these pests as soon as possible. If you see some or all of these signs on your property, get in contact with a reliable buildings inspector in your local area, such as Vital Building Inspections Sydney in Sydney.

2. Roof leaks

Roof cladding is typically built to last for 30 years, which is when leaks can begin to naturally appear. However, a leaking roof that is not near the end of its life cycle may be due to:

  • Weather-induced damage
  • Timber frame movement
  • Lack of adequate maintenance.

Fixing roof leaks is important because they can lead to significant internal damage.

3. Sagging roof

Uneven roof lines or sagging indicates that there are problems with the roof structure. This may be due to:

  • Removing load-bearing walls
  • Overloading of the supporting parts over time
  • Incorrect size of framing timbers
  • Termite damage

4. Uneven floors

Uneven floors differ in severity, which means they may or may not need your immediate attention. In worse situations, the presence of uneven floors could be signs of something serious like:

  • Settling foundations
  • Improper construction
  • Cracked floor joists
  • Inadequate sub-floor support
  • Termite damage

5. Crumbling concrete

Spalling is the main reason for crumbling concrete or brickwork. This means that the material has been exposed to chemicals or high moisture levels.

Concrete absorbs salts and chlorides. As result, the crystals get bigger and force apart the bond between the materials. Similarly damaging, steel reacts with salts, leading to corrosion. Calling in a Sydney building inspections company is the first stage to recovery.

6. Exposed gaps in walls

Exposed gaps between the external and internal walls are due to sagging floor joists. This usually happens when the support pillars are too far apart or damaged by termites. This may also be due to foundation settling, where the ground shifts or changes.

7. Ill-fitting windows and doors

A glaring sign of major structural damage is when doors or windows can’t be closed properly. This happens when the ground below the foundation shifts or changes. If the property is on stumps, re-stumping in some or the whole area may be needed.

8. Slab heave

Homes built on concrete slabs on clay may suffer from slab heave. This is when the ground under the slab expands due to an increase in moisture. As such, the slab is lifted up, causing severe structural issues that need professional evaluation from a local building inspector in Sydney.

9. Ceiling and wall cracks

Not all cracks in walls and ceilings indicate structural damage. These are common in Australian houses. However, there must still be regular monitoring to ensure they turn into something serious.

Wall cracks may be signs of structural damage when:

  • there are cracks located above doorways, or cracks come with a sagging ceiling or uneven floors.
  • the sides of the wall are uneven.
  • windows and doors no longer fit in their frame.
  • cracks are at least 5mm wide.

A knowledgeable building inspectors such as Vital building and Pest Inspections perform a two-stage test to accurately confirm if there is a major defect. Firstly, they will confirm if the damage is located in a major component of the building, and secondly, they will locate the specific cause of the damage.

Factors causing major structural issues

Several factors can lead to structural defects. Some are natural, while some are completely preventable:

  • Poor workmanship: Some builders make reinforcements too near to the surface. This allows surface moisture to penetrate deep enough to the surface and leaches the concrete, resulting in a chemical reaction that weakens the steel.
  • Faulty construction or materials: Some use incompatible materials near each other. This may produce a chemical reaction that causes rusting.
  • Mechanical wear and tear
  • Defective concrete slabs that permit water to seep through the structure.
  • Installing new equipment: Usually on the roof, like anchor points or air conditioning unit. equipment drilled via waterproof membranes, or those improperly sealed, causing damage by allowing water to penetrate the structure.
  • Inadequate flashing: Some flashing is poorly installed or placed too low into the cavity, meaning that water may penetrate through the cavity. In some cases, the flashing is correctly installed, but the drains have not been cleaned thoroughly. Water can accumulate after heavy rain, rise above the flashing, and leak into the cavity.
  • Defective design
  • Failure to comply with the National Construction Code.

Protect Your Investment with Vital Building & Pest Inspection Sydney

Are you excited to invest in your first property? A building inspection ensures that you’re investing your money in the right place. You’ll detect minor or major defects that will help you decide if it’s still worth your while.

Vital Building & Pest Inspection has more than 18 years of experience in the industry. We commit to removing your worries when it comes to protecting your property. With our team, you’ll get more than just a comprehensive building inspection. Get a FREE quote today by clicking here or ask us anything related to your building inspection by calling us on 0435 197 424.