5 Warning Signs of Structural Property Damage

Identifying the early warning signs of structural damage allows homeowners and home buyers to take the appropriate action and make informed decisions.

Owning a home is one of the most significant investments most people will make in their lifetime. Ensuring the safety and structural integrity of a home is key to maintaining property value and providing a secure environment for your family or your tenants.

These tips were provided by an Australian building and pest inspector in Lake Macquarie with more than 20 years of experience as a licensed builder, building consultant and Timber Pest Management Technician.

What do we mean by Structural Damage?

Structural damage refers to any damage that compromises the integrity of a property’s construction.

According to the Australian Standard AS 4349.1-2007, a structural defect is defined as a “fault or deviation from the intended structural performance of a building element.” 

While some wear and tear over time is normal, significant structural damage usually results from a combination of the following factors:

  • Poor Construction Quality
  • Lack of Maintenance
  • Severe Weather Conditions
  • Flooding or Insufficient Drainage
  • Soil Volatility

Even minor defects should be monitored closely to ensure they do not develop into more severe problems.

Early Warning Signs of Structural Damage

Here are some key indicators that your home or the property you are looking to purchase may have structural problems:

1. Cracks in Walls or Ceilings

Small hairline cracks are common and usually not alarming. 

However, larger cracks, particularly those wider than a quarter inch or running vertically, can signal deeper structural problems.

It’s best to have a professional building inspector check for any significant cracks to determine if they compromise your home’s stability.

2. Gaps Around Doors or Windows

Gaps that appear around doors or windows can indicate that the property is shifting or losing structural integrity.

This can affect your home’s energy efficiency and overall stability, so be sure to address these gaps promptly.

3. Sagging or Soft Floors

Floors that sag or feel spongy when walked on can be a sign of structural damage. 

This often results from weakened beams or joists due to rot, pest infestation, or water damage.

Ignoring this sign can lead to further structural instability and potential safety hazards.

4. Sticky Doors or Windows

Difficulty in opening or closing doors and windows can indicate that your home is no longer level. As the house settles, frames can become misaligned.

This misalignment can compromise the security and insulation of your home, making it difficult to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures and secure living spaces.

5. Sagging Ceiling / Wet Spots

Water damage from leaks can lead to significant structural problems, including rotting timber and compromised insulation. 

Sagging roofs can indicate weakened or damaged support structures, which may require repair or a complete roof replacement.

Ceiling and roof damage is often caused by either timber frame movement, weather damage, removal of load-bearing walls, overloading of supporting members, and lack of roof maintenance.

Paying attention to these 5 warning early warning signs can help you identify potential structural issues early on. 

If you notice any of these indicators in your home, it’s advisable to contact a professional for an evaluation. Addressing structural issues early can save significant time, money, and inconvenience in the long run.

What Should I Do If I Suspect A Property Has Structural Damage?

If you suspect that either a property you want to purchase or your own home has structural damage, the first thing you could do is contact a Professional Building Inspector.

Home inspectors have the expertise to identify structural issues and provide an accurate assessment and report of the damage.

Your chosen building inspector will provide a detailed inspection report. This report will outline the findings, including the extent of the damage,  potential causes and accompanying images.

Professional guidance and timely action are essential to managing structural issues and preventing them from escalating into more severe problems.