I live in a row home I have a crack in the outside brick that runs from the top of my roof to the top of my garage about 6 ft long the back room in my home now has cracks in it where I can see the cement, and mesh that is supposed to be under the drywall I'm sure this is a foundation issue but I don't want to leave my home I just want to get it fixed. My homeowners insurance policy does not cover structural damage. What steps should I take first? I'm afraid to call somebody because I don't want to move, I just want to fix it. Where do I begin?
Sharon ~ Whichita, Kansas
Hi Sharon. It's not unusual for an older home to develop foundation cracks over the years and it's also possible for the shifting that occurs to affect the inside of the home as well. I live in an older home myself and have a couple of cracks very similar to what you're describing. One of them has caused the plaster to crack on the inside of the home just as your home has done.
I'm assuming you live in an older home, as you described it as a row house, and the mesh you are seeing would seem to indicate that it has plaster on the interior walls. If your home happens to be fairly new, your structural damage may be covered even if your homeowners insurance doesn't want to touch the problem. Most reputable homebuilders enter their homes into warranty programs that cover structural problems for a specific time period. The builders I'm aware of have ten year programs, but some vary in their coverage. If your home does happen to be less than ten years old, you should consult the paperwork you received at settlement for any warranty programs that cover the house for structural defects.
However, if you have an older house, the first step would be to have an engineer take a look at the problem. Older homes were often built before building codes were enforced and in many cases the foundations weren't built to modern standards. The good news is that in many cases the cracked wall is due to a slight shift and it may never get any worse. In those cases the foundation repair usually only consists of a little bit of concrete patching. If the crack is large, the engineer may recommend having some epoxy injected to close it completely and give it some stability. You can then do your plaster repairs and pretty much forget about it other than giving the area a quick inspection from time to time.
The other end of the spectrum for foundation repairs would be if the engineer determines that the cracked wall is being caused by a problem that is going to continue to worsen unless measures are taken to support the foundation. Hopefully that is not the situation in your case as that can become expensive depending on the required repairs. There are contractors who specialize in foundation repair work, and I'm sure the engineer would be able to provide you with the names of some in the Wichita, Kansas area.
Most foundation problems and cracked walls do not require that you vacate the home while repairs are done unless the engineer feels your safety is at risk, which in my experience is very seldom. One thing you may want to do though is rope off the area in the proximity of where the crack in the brick is located until the engineer looks at the situation. Falling brick can injure someone very badly depending on the height from which it falls.