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Question DetailsAsked on 11/15/2017

Are hairline cracks in cement block due to frozen cores when laid a structural issue?

My house in Michigan was being built in February, and when the blocks were laid, the cores froze and I have hairline cracks. This was never an issue for the past 12 years, but I'm now going to sell the house. Do these cracks cause a structural issue? The building inspector didn't seem to think so. Your thoughts?

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Assuming this is a structural foundation (so at least some cells filled with concrete with rebar in them), the fact they froze during curing would be a structural issue - though a normal home inspector would probably not recognize thae fact unless it cracked the face off some of the blocks when it froze, or sometimes cracks through the middle of the blocks as they were pushed lengthwise by the freezing grout/concrete, which would be rare but happens. Usually would just show cracking like you are talking about.

Whether you have to disclose this on a real estate disclosure is a tough technical and ethical issue - since the freezing during construction has not caused a problem for 12 years you could reasonably omit it on the basis that it is not a currently known problem, since it has caused you no problem with leakage or foundation failure.

Also, one would assume the conrete gained at least some and possibly much of its design strength before/after the freezing, so the wall is probbly fine unless unusual lateral oad is put on it - significant earthquake, heavy equipment or vehicle driving right next to foundation, soil around foundation getting saturated (like by overflowing gutters) followed by a deep freeze which could cause lateral frost heaving pressure on the wall, or full buildup of water outside the wall to or above ground level. Also, because it may well have regained some strength from subsequent wetting, and may not even have fully frozen (because concrete creates heat during curing fro the hydration process), you probably do not actually know the extent of freezing or what effect it might have had on the strength of the mortar or grout.

Ethically - a bit grayer area of course, but again, since it has not caused you any problems in 12 years a normal person would consider that satisfactory performance and that the history is not germane to the current performance of the building, hence not cause for a disclosure specific to that issue. If you were to discuss it with your Realtor he/she would certainly say to disclose it, if only to get him/her off the potential hook, but their ethics requirements are tighter than for the normal homeowner.

If you are a building professional like a civil engineer or general or concrete contractor then you probably would be expected to disclose it, on the basis of knowing professionally if it constituted a significant structural issue - but probably not as a normal homeowner.

Of course, if it turns out down the road that there was damage and the buyer suffers loss because of it, then it could come back to bite you, so the safe thing might be to (assuming the house was built for you or you bought it new-built) disclose that you bought it new and it was built during approximately the months of --- to --- of xxxx year, and let them infer from those dates that the concrete was probably cast in freezing weather - then they can get an engineer in to inspect it if they so desire.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD

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