DROUGHT causes Buildings to Crack … leaving homeowners facing hefty repair bills!

AT such times that is when a home owner discovers that where they thought they would be covered for such a disaster that they are dealing with an UNINSURANCE COMPANY!

SUCH companies fortunately do … in most situations of storms … water damage, hail damage, earthquakes and fire compensate

BUT if one is so unfortunate like this home owner due to drought …

OR water ingress from Bob the Builder up the road excavating for its home improvements … or terraces, townhomes and Manor Homes … there is Sweet FA cover … all such events are excluded in the fine print of the Policy!

THE home buyer also can be a victim in the sense that despite prior inspection inadequate waterproofing and tradies tricks were overlooked …

IS this another consequence of pooor grubment policies … what does NSW INC say in response?

-get out of the way of growth perhaps?

Drought causes buildings to crack, leaving homeowners facing hefty repair bills

ABC Newcastle By Eliza Goetze

6 JANUARY 2020

A woman stands in front of a bookcase and a cracked wall.

PHOTO: Newcastle homeowner Trudy Grahame with one of the cracks that appeared in the week after Christmas. (ABC Newcastle: Eliza Goetze)RELATED STORY: Farmland prices remain firm despite dry timesRELATED STORY: This town was once sacrificed for a dam, but in dry times it’s being uncovered

The drought is causing a growing number of buildings across the Hunter to crack, making busy work for tradespeople and untold expenses for homeowners.

Key points:

  • Clay soils are drying out, because of the drought, causing them to contract and foundations to subside
  • Cracks in houses can appear quickly and is not necessarily something building inspections can foresee
  • Some tradespeople use polyurethane to fill voids in the foundations while others prefer underpinning, using concrete to jack up a house

Building experts say clay soils, common across New South Wales and beyond, are becoming increasingly dry, causing them to contract and foundations to subside.

Far from the state’s dusty, drought-stricken farms, it is a side of the drought showing up in inner-city homes and building sites.

When Trudy Grahame bought her home in the Newcastle suburb of Broadmeadow last year, she said inspectors gave it the all clear.

But in the past couple of weeks, cracks nearly a centimetre wide have appeared on several walls.

“We only moved here in September. There was no sign of this cracking at all,” she said.

“We had it inspected before we purchased it and they said there were no issues, so it’s come as a surprise.

“I opened the cupboard and I was just like, ‘Oh, my gosh’. It was frightening.”

Ms Grahame fought back tears when she examined fresh cracks in her spare room.

“It’s definitely bigger than what it was yesterday,” she said.

“It’s just … half the wall is cracked.”

Cracks also covered corners of her bedroom, wardrobe, and cornices in the living room on the other side of the house.

She said she was “in disbelief” at how quickly the cracks had grown.

A woman faces a wall with her arm outstretched to examine a crack in the wall.

PHOTO: Trudy Grahame says the cracks have appeared throughout her 90-year-old house. (ABC Newcastle: Eliza Goetze)

Ms Grahame had planned to install air conditioning in the 90-year-old brick home to make the summer ahead more bearable, but said she would now have to rethink the budget.

“We’re going to get an engineer in to do a structural assessment and from their report see what they can do,” she said.

“We contacted a few other people and they’ve said there’s an extraordinary amount of cracking in the Newcastle region due to the drying of the soil.”

Dry clay keeps tradies busy

One of those Ms Grahame consulted was Resinject managing director Andy Evans, who said her case was not unique.

“It’s certainly worse than it is traditionally,” Mr Evans said of cracking in homes and buildings.

“It’s in the reactive clay scenarios, which is basically statewide, aside from sandy soils on the coastal fringe.

“The clays are drying out, which means the clays are shrinking, forming voidage around the footings and foundations of your house.

“We’re getting called out to a lot of it because it’s leading to movement in houses, because of the loss of load-bearing capacity of the ground.”

Mr Evans described his work as “like Botox for houses” — injecting polyurethane, which rapidly expands, into ground that has contracted, filling voids and re-levelling foundations that have subsided.

Other foundation repairers favour the more traditional underpinning method, using concrete to jack up a house.

Jeff Brick maintains buildings around Newcastle and said he has also seen more cracking in recent months — a trend he had not seen since the Millennium drought.

He said it was happening particularly in older, double-brick homes.

“A lot of people don’t know what’s in their yard,” he said.

“With the ground drying out, there’s not much you can do about it — apart from maybe keeping a garden hose on it, which is not practical with the current water restrictions.

“So we’re going to get a lot more houses that are cracking and moving, even new houses.”

Mr Evans warned against homeowners taking preventative measures or treatment into their own hands.

“You do hear of people irrigating their footings but you have got to know what you’re doing because you don’t want to overdose it or you’ll exacerbate your problem,” he said.

A tradesman squats on a concrete slab between two braces.

PHOTO: Newcastle foundation repairman Andy Evans says the drought is causing widespread subsidence that leads to cracks in buildings. (Facebook: Resinject Newcastle)

Shaping new buildings from the ground up

The drought is not only causing cracks in older houses, it is also influencing the design and construction of new buildings.

Mr Evans said engineers had told him they have had to place foundations deeper in the ground to find the right moisture level.

“Traditionally they’d be looking at a couple of metres; now they’re looking at up to 6 metres,” he said.

Developer Luke Berry has overseen the construction of major developments around the Hunter as director of Thirdi group.

He said his builders worked closely with architects and engineers to ensure building materials could expand and contract “in response to Australia’s extreme weather patterns”.

“We are constantly monitoring and reviewing the best ways possible to construct and deliver our buildings that minimise thermal expansion, one of the key causes of cracking,” Mr Berry said.

Trudy Grahame said subsidence was not covered by her insurer and she did not yet know how much her home’s repairs would cost.

“There are so many people worse off at the moment with fires, losing their lives, their whole properties, their possessions,” she said.

“It doesn’t make me angry, because the previous owner couldn’t have known. How can you know?

“It’s just something that’s started happening because of the drought.”

Contact Eliza Goetze

SOURCE: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-01-06/drought-causing-building-cracks-subsidence/11840828