How To Look At A House

McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of  

site-built, mobile/manufactured and modular homes

How do you analyze a wall crack from cause to effect?

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Understanding what the different wall crack patterns mean can often point you directly to the underlying cause. Each type—inverted “V,” stairstep, vertical, etc—indicates a likely scenario. This way of evaluating a structural problem in a wall is essentially going from “effect to cause." But sometimes the answer isn’t that clear-cut. There may be multiple or hidden causes and you need to dig deeper, working backwards from "cause to effect."

    Here’s a list of things to check to do a more thorough analysis:

1) What is the wall really made of? Concrete block walls are sometimes finished with siding and, conversely, a stucco finish does not automatically mean the wall is block. It could be wood stud frame, or part block and part wood stud frame. A brick wall could be structural brick or brick facing over wood stud frame. See our article How can I tell if the exterior walls of a house are concrete block (CBS) or wood or brick? for more on this.

2) What is the history of the wall? How old is it? Was there a previous structural problem? When was it repaired? The new crack could be a long-standing problem that was only costmetically fixed.

3) What is the history of the area around the wall? Was there a nearby roof leak, plumbing leak, tree removal, or excavation? We suggest reading What should I do about a tree with roots running under my house?

4) Are there cracks on other walls or ceilings of the home? How does their geometry relate to the one in question?

5) How does the thickness of the crack vary? Is it wider at the top or bottom? Thinner at the same point on the inside or outside?

6) Any recent severe weather? Heavy rains, severe cold, windstorms.

    Combining the answers to these questions with your interpretation of the crack geometry will give you a better idea of what’s going on.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 

Here’s links to some of our other blog posts about CRACKS:

What causes raised white lines of residue on a block wall that are crusty and crumbling? 

 What causes stair-step cracks in a block or brick wall?

Why is the concrete window sill cracking?

What causes a horizontal crack in a block or brick wall? 

How can I tell if a diagonal crack in drywall at the corner of a window or door indicates a structural problem? 

Where are the places to look to find structural cracks in a house?

Why is my stucco cracking?

There's cracks running along the home's concrete tie beam. What's wrong? 

What would cause long horizontal lines of brick mortar to fall out? 

How do I recognize structural problems in a retaining wall?     

How do I recognize serious structural problems in a house?

Why did so many concrete block homes collapse in Mexico Beach during Hurricane Michael? 

• What is concrete spalling? 

   Visit our CRACKS page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.

Water Heaters

Water Heater Age

"What Are The

Signs Of..."

Septic Tank Systems

Structure and Rooms

Plumbing Pipes

Termites, Wood Rot

& Pests



When It First

Became Code

"Should I Buy A..."

Park Model Homes


Shingle Roofs




Wind Mitigation

Roof and Attic

"Does A Home


Pool and Spa

"What Is The Difference Between..."




Concrete and

Concrete Block

Metal Roofs


Modular Homes

Rain Gutters

Mold, Lead & Other Contaminants


Older and

Historic Houses

Crawl Spaces

Mobile-Manufactured Homes

Building Permits

Life Expectancy

Clay Soil





Exterior Walls

& Structures


Common Problems

HUD-Code for

Mobile Homes

Garages and Carports

Flat (Low Slope) Roofs

Electrical Panels

Sprinkler Systems

Electrical Receptacle Outlets

4-Point Inspections

Hurricane Resistance

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Home Inspection

Heating and Air Conditioning

Building Codes

Fireplaces and Chimneys

Inspector Licensing

& Standards

Energy Efficiency

Washers and Dryers



Doors and Windows



Electrical Wiring

Click Below  

for Links

to Collections

of Blog Posts

by Subject

Plumbing Drains

and Traps


Smoke & CO Alarms

Aging in Place

Top 5 results given instantly.

Click on magnifying glass

for all search results.






Air Conditioner & Furnace Age/Size


Electrical Switches





Water Intrusion

Electrical - Old

and Obsolete


Foundation Certifications

Tiny Houses

About McGarry and Madsen



Buying a home in North/Central Florida? Check our price for a  team inspection by two FL-licensed contractors and inspectors. Over 8,500 inspections completed in 20+ years. In a hurry? We will get it done for you.

Moisture Problems

Crawl Spaces