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Question DetailsAsked on 3/10/2017

What type of specialist do I call to determine the severity of cracks in our building?

This is only on one half of a single level slab foundation condo. The cracks are in the walls, foundation is buckling in the kitchen.

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4 Answers

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Structural Engineer - probably with a Geotechnical (Soils and Foundations) engineer along for the visit, because with the buckling I would be initially guessing either a poorly designed or built slab, or a soils or underslab water problem. Typically about $250-500 for a site visit and evaluation depending on locale and on whether you can find a civil engineering or architect/engineer firm who has a single engineer qualified and experienced in both Geotechnical and Structural engineering (not real common), or will have to have one of each come out to evaluate it.

Then after the site visit, may require some soils sampling and testing (which commonly runs $500 min to a thousand or a bit more commonly), and then design of remediation measures commonly runs in the $500 minimum for simple cases to more commonly $1000--2000 additional range depending on the complexity of the issue and the remedial measures needed.

Plus the cost of the repair by a Concrete or Foundation Repair contractor itself, of course.

I can tell you if the slab is buckling up (as opposed to merely cracking a bit without any significant slope change or vertical offset at the cracks) that the severity level is almost for a certainty moderately to very high. Ditto if you have significant diagonal or basically purely horizontal cracking (not located on drywall joints) in the field of the wall (as opposed to only at the corner of doors) or wall cracks that are more than a 1/8" or so open.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD


One thing I did not mention - if you want a thousand-mile-away opinion on the severity, you can post a couple of pictures and I will tell you what I think of your situation - no promises of course since I can't see it close up, but might give you a bit more of a feeling regarding just how severe this is.

Use the Answer This Question yellow button right under your question to respond back, then on the Your Answer box that pops up when you click the button, the leftmost yellow icon in the Your Answer box lets you post pictures - JPG, GIF, PNG formats allowed. (JPEG from a Mac also works as it converts to a JPG format).

Please also indicate where in the country this is located, how many stories the building is, whether normal wood/metal stud or concrete or brick (solid brick, not just brick facade) construction, and approximate age of the building.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD


Sorry, pictures went sideways for some reason.

The condo is a duplex and only the front half of the one side is having the issue. I believe it is wood construction since steel studs didn't hit this area for construction when these were built in the late '90's. Single story with a pool 25 ft or so away but not in direct line of the damage. The damage is on the garage/street side and the side closest to the pool is not damaged. It is a stucco facing. We are in Mesquite, NV with sandy/clay soil. None of the other condos are showing any signs of this damage. I do not have any pics of the floor buckling but was told it is lifted and it creaks. Which is strange for a single story slab floor.

Answered 3 years ago by jenahammond


I am assuming there is no garage or basement under this - if there is, then a structural engineer should be looking at this situation pronto.

Yeah - significant cracking from the photos, but I would not call them indication of anything life-threatening or such, assuming slab-on-grade construction. I would not advise a temporary move-out based on that, for instance.

But - definitely want a structural engineer (your Search the List category), and tell the person you talk to up-front at the company (probably the owner or engineering manager would be the person to talk to, and he would select which person is best to do the site evalulation) about the tilting slab-on-grade and cracking and confirm up-front the firm can send person or 2 people who can assess both structural and foundation issues here - or they may say only a foundation (geotechnical) engineer would be their first person out, maybe taking pictures to show a structural too. But if it is a structural firm or structural/architectural firm ONLY, without geotech capability, ask for a recommendation for a firm with more foundations capability.

You did not say how close the street is or if there is a slope down to it from the building, but if the slab edge nearest the street is settling because of a slope failure, it would commonly cause a crack in the slab (1/3-1/2 the way into the slab typically) which would be irregular but typically run roughly parallel to the slope outside the house. Might also be cracking in the soil or drive/walks/pool deck if that is the case. That would be my first guess - that it is a bearing failure or slope movement situation, so that edge of the condo is losing support under the slab and the weight of the walls on the outer edge of the slab is causing it to break off from the rest of the slab and sink, tilting the cracked edge upward.

Another possibility, if you have been getting the recent heavy storms, is settlement or slope instability from the excess water - or remotely possibly water got under the slab and is causing expansive clay soils to expand and force the slab up in a lightly-loaded area.

If either of those is the case, normal solution would be jacking it up and putting a foundation under the edge to support the wall loads, combined with grouting underneath to restore the support under the slab, and patching the slab. (And cutting off water access if expansive soil issue). If the tilting is fairly severe (which I doubt at this point based on the cracking you have shown, assuming you showed the worst cracking), then jacking up and support the wall independently (possibly on pin pilings or drilled concrete piers or such) then removing and replacing the broken section of slab (with reinforcing tie-in with the "good" portion of the slab) would be the normal solution.

Bad news - if caused by soil failure your homeowner's insurance almost always excludes that - so read policy before filing a claim which can raise your rates even if they pay nothing. Other bad news - for pretty much any support system you are talking, engineers and repair combined, probably in the several thousand $ range bare minimum, and up into the $5,000-10,000 range commonly if more than just grouting is needed. Also, if the problem is slope failure toward a lower elevation street, a retaining wall or soil tiebacks or such would be needed there if that is the cause - again at your expense unless the failure is caused by the street having been cut into a slope.

Possibly "good" news - you should probably do some checking into the condo terms, and probably need an attorney for this - because foundation issues are sometimes the condo association problem (so all condo owners share the costs) - and ditto on the slope stabilization if needed and the failing area belongs to the condo association rather than the street/highway department. Because of this shared-responsibility possibility, and because you are looking at possibly fairly substantial bucks and this is evidently a progressing situation you cannot just plaster over and ignore, you would probably be wise to get an attorney experienced with condo assessments and responsibility issues on board very early on so you don't end up paying for something that you might not have to.

If any cracking is occurring in adjacent/overhead units that could affect the responsibility situation too - and it is likely the engineers will want to look in adjacent and certainly overhead units for signs of movement too to improve their picture of what is happening, so arrangements would probably have to be made for that with the owners and condo association.

If cracking (visible or sound) is noticeably progressing on a daily basis, or you hear tearing sounds in the condo, then I would call the fire department to look at it - they should be able to call out a city engineer to look at it to determine if there is imminent hazard. That would only be the case (assuming you are not in sinkhole country) if there was an landslip (toward the street) or a broken sewer forming a sinkhole removing support from under the edge of the condo or such - unlikely, but does happen at times, especially after prolonged rains in drier areas.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD



This is James in Member Care. Thanks for your interest in Angie's List!

We'll be happy to help find top rated structural engineers to look at this, but it doesn't look like you have a subscription to the List yet. You can join by visiting or by giving us a call. Our call center is available 8:00 am-9:00 pm weekdays and 8:00-5:00 pm ET on Saturdays.

Thanks for your question and we look forward to assisting you!

Answered 3 years ago by Member Services

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