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Cracks in Crown Molding: Sign of Structural Damage?

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Peter in Maryland, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    PETER: When we had first moved in, everything was cosmetically perfect. And now, all of a sudden, we’ve got cracks everywhere in our hardwood flooring and our crown molding. Now, certainly, we could live with a little cosmetic shifting but it’s so drastic, I’m wondering if there is a greater underlying problem here.

    TOM: So the cracks in the molding, where are you seeing those cracks? Corners? Is the top and the bottom of the molding separating from the wall? What are you seeing?

    PETER: All in the bottom of the molding.

    TOM: OK.

    PETER: However, it could be anywhere: corners, middle, anywhere.

    TOM: OK. And so you have cracks up at the crown molding, which is between the ceiling and the wall, but you also mentioned you had cracks at the floor. What are we seeing at the floor?

    PETER: Yeah, it’s more drastic. On the first floor is all hardwood flooring.

    TOM: Right.

    PETER: And like I said, it was seamless when we had moved in. Now, over the past two months, I’d say every third board has a gap in it. And the gap may be very slight but some are as large as an 1/8-inch now.

    TOM: OK. So you’ve got some shrinkage in the floor and you’ve got some gaps in the wall. I mean the entire house could be shrinking. What kind of heating system do you have, Peter?

    PETER: It’s electric heat.

    TOM: OK. Electric heat. Forced air or radiators? What do you have?

    PETER: Oh, it’s forced air.

    TOM: It’s a very dry heating system.

    Well, I will say this: gaps around molding and gaps around floor and gaps in the crown molding, especially along the walls, that’s generally not the kind of crack that indicates structural movement. When you see walls – that looks like – that sounds like shrinkage. When you see walls that are cracking at the corners or cracking above doorways, physically cracking inside the drywall itself, that’s usually more of a concern. What you’re describing to me sounds a lot more like shrinkage.

    That said, I would keep an eye on it. We’re coming off of cold months. If you had the heating system on, you’re going to get a lot of shrinkage then and you’ll get more swelling in the summer as it gets more moist and humid out.

    So, you can either keep an eye on it, see what happens or if you want to get a structural opinion, what I would do is I would suggest that you go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors. That’s ASHI – A-S-H-I.o-r-g. And look for a certified professional home inspector – an ASHI-certified inspector – in your area. These guys don’t work on houses, so they’d have nothing to gain by finding things that need to be fixed. They’re just there to diagnose. And I would say an ASHI-certified inspector, because they are clearly the best.

    In fact, my nephew was buying a house last week and he’s in the Air Force in Florida. And I helped him find an ASHI-certified inspector there and I saw the report and I’ve got to tell you, I said to him – I said, “You know what the name of my show is?” He goes, “Money Pit?” I said, “You got one,” because there was so much wrong with it.

    PETER: Mm-hmm. Right.

    TOM: So, I would definitely suggest monitoring it and if you wanted to get an opinion on the structural aspects, bring in a professional home inspector and see what they have to say, OK?

    PETER: Alright. Great. I appreciate your time, Tom and Leslie. Enjoy the show all the time.

    TOM: Thanks very much, Peter. Have a great day.

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