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How to Tell If Your New Home Has Structural Problems

How to Tell If Your New Home Has Structural Problems

Homes prices hit record highs this year. In April 2022, New York home prices soared 4.7% over the previous year. The median home price also rose to $802,000, up over $25,000 from 2021.

If you’re considering selling your home and getting into a new house, you may have a significant payday in the future. However, the competition is fierce. To get the most value out of your home, you must ensure it’s in tip-top shape.

One way to set yourself apart from other sellers is to ensure your home is free of structural problems. Structural damage is a major red flag to buyers. After all, even one structural problem can lead to further damage around your home.

So, how do you identify structural problems around your house and fix them before putting it on the market? We’re answering these questions and more in this guide. So, keep reading for everything you need to know.

5 Main Structural Parts of a Home

When most people think of a home’s structure, they think about the foundation. The foundation is one of the structural parts of a home, but it’s not the only one. Roofs, walls, floors, ceilings, windows, and doors also constitute a home’s structure.

Learn more about each component, why they’re important, and what can happen when they get damaged next.

1. Roof

A roof protects your home from whatever the environment throws its way. Roofs keep snow, rain, and pests from entering your house and wreaking havoc. They’re usually made of the following structural components:

  • Rafters
  • Beams
  • Insulation
  • Sheathing
  • Shingling
  • Gutters

When roof problems arise, they could lead to further damage around your home. Specifically, a damaged roof can allow moisture into beams, rafters, or even your ceiling insulation.

2. Walls

Aside from the foundation, walls are the primary component of a home. They keep the great outdoors out, your AC and heat in, and divide one room for the next. Walls are also crucial for holding up the roof and keeping floors in place.

The walls of your home are made up of studs, posts, bracing, insulation, and siding. They’re usually covered by a layer of drywall or sheetrock, which is coated in plaster and paint.

Any of these wall components can become damaged. Whether from a shifting foundation or moisture buildup, this damage can lead to even more problems with your home’s structure.

3. Floors and Ceilings

Technically, floors and ceilings aren’t a requirement for a home. However, they are the standard for modern homes. Finished flooring and ceilings give a finished look to home interiors and offer a chance to add personality to your home.

Girders, joists, bridging, subfloor, and coverings make up floors and ceilings. The first sign of damage comes from floor coverings and ceiling sheetrock. However, that damage usually extends into non-visible components of floors and ceilings.

Ceiling and floor collapse are very real things resulting from structural damage. Ceiling collapse, in particular, can cause damage to not only the rest of your home and furniture but also the people in your home.

4. Windows and Doors

Did you know that builders consider windows and doors part of a home’s structure? This should be no wonder considering that windows and doors shield us from the elements and allow for light and air ventilation.

The main elements making up windows and doors include:

  • Frames
  • Casing
  • Canopies

Windows have additional elements like the window sash and frame. Of course, windows (and many doors) also feature clear or colored glass panes to allow for natural light.

When your windows and/or door get damaged, pests can enter your home. Worse, gaps can allow moisture into your home. And moisture is your home’s greatest enemy when it comes to structural damage.

5. Foundation

The foundation is the first part of the home that builders construct. The primary purpose of a foundation is to prevent the home from moving with the natural movements of the surrounding earth. Moisture control and insulation are two other reasons for laying a solid foundation.

A good foundation should consist of a layer of gravel, a drain tile, and a termite shield for moisture and pest control. The concrete foundation wall and footing hold a home up and distribute its weight evenly across the foundation.

Ideally, a foundation is built to last forever. But when foundations don’t last, the home can grow more and more unstable. Eventually, a home without a good foundation will begin to collapse.

Signs of Structural Problems in Your Home

Now that you better understand your house’s structural components, it’s time to talk about how to identify problems. Luckily there are many signs you can spot with the naked eye.

Keep reading to learn the signs of structural problems in your home.

Wall Cracks

Cracks in your walls could mean a couple of things. First, it could mean that the home builders installed your drywall incorrectly. This issue can especially plague recently built homes.

If you have a wall crack that leaks, this could also be a sign of damage. In this case, you will likely have roof or insulation damage. Water can also come through walls from damaged pipes, a much easier fix than the aforementioned structural issues.

Finally, wall cracks could imply foundation problems. The following types of cracks often come along with a shifting or damaged foundation:

  • Horizontal cracks
  • Long cracks
  • Exterior wall cracks
  • Cracks that measure more than 1/4 inch wide

If your home has a second floor with wall cracks, this is another sign of foundation damage. Cracks all over your home, no matter how many stores, are yet another indicator of a compromised foundation.

Floor Cracks

A cracked floor is often a surefire sign that your foundation is shifting. Although solid and durable, concrete foundations are prone to shifting. This shifting is especially prominent after a rainy season due to soil expansion.

However, cracked floors can sometimes happen due to foundation damage. If you find cracks that you can stick a credit card into, you can almost guarantee the cracks are due to a structural problem.

For example, tree roots growing too close to your home can invade the soil beneath your foundation. The roots can pressure your foundation, leading to damage and, ultimately, wide cracks in your floor.

Ceiling Cracks

Some ceiling cracks can be expected. As we’ve mentioned, homes naturally settle over time, leading to a small number of thin cracks in your ceiling.

However, large ceiling cracks or multiple cracks of any size can spell bad news. Three other types of cracks that likely mean structural issues:

  • Cracks that extend from the ceiling to adjacent walls
  • Cracks that form gaps between the ceiling and adjacent walls
  • Cracks that come alongside ceiling sag

Now, you may be wondering: damage to which structural component leads to ceiling cracks? For example, moisture damage from a faulty roof, drywall issues in your walls, or foundation problems can cause a cracked ceiling.

Window and Door Gaps

Do the doors and windows of your home have massive cracks between the frame and the casing? These gaps are a sign of structural damage, potentially to your foundation.

Again, some gapping is to be expected with settling. However, gaps larger than a quarter to half an inch aren’t normal. This kind of gapping can eventually affect your ability to open windows and doors.

Many people try to seal the gaps around their windows and doors. This technique is a temporary solution to keep out moisture and pests. However, you will eventually have to address the foundation problems, or the gaps could return.

Cracked Window Panes

Structural damage can sometimes put so much pressure on your home that it can break your window panes. Try to rule out impact as a reason for cracks in your windows first, though.

Sloping Floors

Home builders always build floors parallel to the foundation. That’s why you should never see sloping floors in well-built homes.

If the floors in your home have begun to slope, it could also be a sign of normal settling. You can especially expect settling as the culprit if all floors have the same degree of slope.

Sloping floors can become problematic when something called differential settlement occurs. A differential settlement means that different areas of your home slope at different angles or greater degrees. Another major red flag is if all your floors slope toward the middle of the home.

Structural issues are likely the cause of these two types of sloping floors. The problem could be foundation issues. Structural problems with floor joists and beams or a termite infestation beneath your flooring could be another source of floor slope.

Sagging Roof

The average roof lasts about 30 years. But even before this deadline, roofs can start to sag. And saggy roofs only get worse over time.

A roof can start to sag due to age or structural issues. The structural issue could be with the roof or, worse, the foundation. Luckily, there are ways you can tell the difference.

When dealing with foundation issues, you usually also see cracks in your home’s siding. In addition, uneven support beams are another sign of foundation issues.

You can rest easy knowing the issue is with your roof alone if neither of these problems is present. Fixing your roof is much cheaper than replacing the roof and dealing with foundation damage.

Leaking Roof

Got a leaky roof? Water coming into your home can signify needing a new roof. But the more significant issue is that leaky roofs can cause further structural damage throughout your home, including:

  • Ceiling and wall damage
  • Wall stains
  • Damaged insulation
  • Floor damage

Leaking roofs can also ultimately lead to foundation issues. Water can seep from your gutters into the foundation, leading to more severe problems like cracking and shifting.

Gutter Damage

As we just mentioned, gutters that don’t drain properly can impact the foundation. Water can seep from gutters into the foundation, ending up in the surrounding soil.

When wet, many types of soil expand. Expanding soil can then put pressure on and crack your foundation. These cracks may allow even more moisture into your foundation, causing further damage and attracting bugs.

Crumbling Siding

Siding is the material applied to the exterior of your home. The most common types of siding include brick, vinyl, wood, and stone. These materials protect the internal structure of your home.

Structural damage doesn’t necessarily cause the siding to crumble. The opposite is true— when siding begins to crack or crumble, it can cause structural problems.

Cracks and gaps in your home’s siding will allow water into your home. This water can cause wood rot in the interior structure. Homes with significant wood rot can eventually collapse.

Sticking Doors

Do you know those pesky doors that are always hard to open and close? They could be a sign that your foundation is starting to decay.

If you only have one door that sticks, look for other doors in your home soon to follow. Foundation issues usually affect one area of the home first before spreading. Catch this problem early, and you can save a ton of money on foundation repair.


Annually, termites cause $1–$7 billion in damage across the US. These pests typically dwell in warmer climates like those of southeastern US states. However, termites are also known to infest southern New York homes.

Termite infestations can lead to the following structural issues:

  • Floor damage
  • Compromised support beams
  • Rotting posts
  • Damaged wall studs
  • Problems with floor and ceiling joists
  • Drywall destruction

Termites can also cause foundation issues. Look out for mud tunnels in your home’s concrete foundation. These tubes are signs that termites are traveling through your foundation and potentially damaging other home components.

Also, search for tiny holes in your home’s drywall. No matter how small, these holes signal a flying termite infestation. Flying termites can be especially pesky because they can damage the interior and exterior of your home’s structure.

Finally, flickering lights in your home could mean a termite infestation. Like mice and rats, termites will eat through your electrical wiring. Faulty electrical wiring is one of the top reasons for house fires, so call an electrician and an exterminator ASAP if you think this is a problem in your home.

Foundation Cracks

Do you have foundation problems but are not sure? Then, head outside and check out the health of your exterior foundation.

You can expect to see some cracks in your foundation. These cracks are natural as your home shifts. However, seeing cracks near the ground is usually a sign you need foundation repair.

Soil Pulling Away from the Foundation

Soil pulling away from your home is usually a sign that the ground beneath your foundation has shifted, too. This sign is mainly present in the summertime when the soil dries out and shrinks.

You can also look at the soil surrounding your patio or deck. Pay special attention to the soil around your deck posts. If it pulls away significantly, this could eventually lead your deck to collapse.

Chimney Cracks

Sometimes, it’s hard to identify cracks in your foundation. Another method to identify a faulty foundation is to check out your chimney. Cracks in the brick or mortar are often a sign of foundation issues.

How do foundation problems impact chimneys? Significant shifts in the ground can put pressure on the chimney, leading to cracking and decay.

Why Structure Problems Are a Red Flag to Home Buyers

You don’t have to fix your home’s structural problems before listing it as long as you disclose those problems to potential buyers. Still, fixing any structural damage, you’re aware of is a best practice when selling your home.

Here’s why.

Structural Damage Signals the Home Needs Repairs

Eventually, all structural problems must be repaired, and many buyers know this. As a result, potential buyers may pass up your home for a safer bet if they see signs of structural damage.

Otherwise, the buyer may ask for a discount on the home. Again, we’ll talk more about this later.

Minor Structural Problems Can Lead to Bigger Ones

You may think the structural issues in your home are minor. Yet, even small problems like ceiling cracks can lead to bigger ones.

People buy homes to make an investment. Unfortunately, buying a home with structural issues can lead to the reverse— having to pay more overtime to fix the damage.

Government-Backed Loans Have Strict Standards

Did you know that Federal lenders have stringent requirements around homebuying? One of these expectations is that the foundation and roof must be in good shape.

Potential buyers with government-backed loans will have to get an appraisal before closing. If the appraiser finds structural damage, the lender most likely won’t approve the loan.

Why Structural Damage Is Bad for a Home Owner Trying to Sell

Still feel like fixing your home’s structural issues is too pricey? Instead, try to think about repairing structural damage as an investment.

After all, failing to fix your home’s structure problems could lead to the following.

Your Home May Stay on the Market Longer

As we’ve mentioned, many buyers know the signs of a home with structural damage. You may get lots of walk-throughs. But once potential buyers see the issues, they’ll search elsewhere, causing your home to sit on the market longer.

The Buyer Can Negotiate a Discount

Sometimes, a buyer may accept your home’s structural disrepair under one condition: you must fix the issues. If you still refuse to fix the problems, the buyer has the right to request a discount.

You do have the option to sell your home “as-is.” As-is homes typically come with the warning that they’re in disrepair. However, some buyers (especially home investors) may be attracted to the as-is discount.

You May Not be able to Sell Your Home

Even if buyers don’t recognize your home’s problem out of the gate, their inspector will. Unfortunately, multiple failed home inspections are another reason many homes stay on the market for too long.

What happens if your home is on the market too long? Your realtor likely won’t want to work with you if your home sits for more than 90 days because the house either won’t sell or will sell for much less than asking.

How to Fix Structural Damage to Your Home

Many homeowners try to use DIY fixes for major structural damage. Don’t waste your money. Instead, call a professional who can help solve the problem once and for all.

First, you’ll want to bring in an inspector to assess the damage. Better yet, employ a structural engineer to help determine the problem and give you solutions to fix it.

The repair professional you’ll need depends on the type of damage. For example, you should call a foundation expert for foundation problems and roofers to replace your sagging roof.

If you’re dealing with water damage, you may need a plumber. Pest control experts can help if you’re concerned about a termite infestation damaging your home’s internal structure or foundation.

Need Help Selling Your House?

Structural problems come in many forms. Fixing the issues with your foundation, windows and doors, floors and ceiling, walls, and roof can extend the life of your home. It can also help you sell your home for more.

Do you live in Nassau County, NY? Are you considering selling your home or looking for a new home? Contact Dean Miller Real Estate to find out how we can help!

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