Worried - Advise, please

Discussion in 'Builders' Talk' started by DanielQ, Jul 7, 2018.

  1. DanielQ

    DanielQ Member

    After 1 year refurbishing my house in the evening and weekends without any holiday, dinner out... I just discovered a cracked window lintel 2 smalls cracks in the external insulation all the way to the windows upstairs. We were at the point of skimming walls downstairs and choosing kitchen:(. Now everything on hold and quite worry.

    I have an ex-council house with walls made out no-fine concrete. Yes, I know...

    The window in the living room is quite large, 2400mm wide, the window above (bedroom) is 1800x1200mm.

    The little crack under the window upstairs appeared a few weeks after skimming (6months ago). The cracks outside in the insulation are hair thin and could have been there for a while but I realised today.

    I have no idea how bad this is. I need your knowledge and experience now more than ever.

    I would appreciate all your advise to help me with this.

    Attached Files:

  2. koolpc

    koolpc Well-Known Member

    Could be just shrinkage. You say its newly rendered?
  3. DanielQ

    DanielQ Member

    The external insulation and render was installed 5 years ago.

    Also the cracks are in the corners of the damaged lintel. You can see it in one of the photos.
  4. Astramax

    Astramax Well-Known Member

    Any large trees near the property. Do all the windows open and close as they should.
  5. DanielQ

    DanielQ Member

    No trees any close. The windows open perfectly fine.
  6. Astramax

    Astramax Well-Known Member

    Probably will not be anything to worry about.
  7. DanielQ

    DanielQ Member

    I have added a few more photos.

    The cracks in the external insulation point 45 degrees to the centre of the lintel.

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  8. koolpc

    koolpc Well-Known Member

    Rubbish lintel maybe? If concerned get a SE to take a look.
  9. DanielQ

    DanielQ Member

    I have never used a Structural Engineer.

    How much can I expect to be charged in Scotland for a SE advice on a matter like this? I know it can vary a lot, but It would be good to have a rough idea.
  10. koolpc

    koolpc Well-Known Member

    Ring around i would say. Sorry as i couldnt guess a price.
  11. rogerk101

    rogerk101 Well-Known Member

    This is one of those cases where storms might be brewing in a tea-cup.

    Have you ever looked at the houses in most of the rest of the world? even in relatively developed countries like France, Belgium, Netherlands? They are probably as concerned about structural integrity as the Brits, but they're far less concerned about aesthetics than the Brits. As such large numbers of their houses have cracks in the walls, the lintels, the facades, etc. and they've been like that for tens, if not hundreds, of years.

    Even if your crack were to be an early sign of a compromised structure, it's not going to result in a sudden catastrophic failure such as the wall collapsing or the safety of the inhabitants put at risk.

    Set a date in your calendar to take a couple of photos of the cracks every year with a millimetre ruler next to it and monitor if there is any movement. If the crack doubles in width or length in the next 10 years, then, and only then, you might want to look at repairing it. Otherwise you're just stressing yourself for the sake of stressing yourself.
    DIY womble and Jord86 like this.
  12. Jitender

    Jitender Well-Known Member

    I paid a SE £456 to calculate lintel for a new window opening last year in England. Best to get 3 quotes ideally, but use a good one who will provide the report.

    A builder may have used the correct beams but needed the report so i could show BC if they ever queried it as it is a flat so council own the freehold.

    In you position I would also look at getting a SE to quot and visit, the breakdown of cost was £275+Vat for site visit.

    It may be that the lintel is OK, but the report he shows will come in handy if you ever you come to sell the place to show that it is OK, the buyers surveyor would pick this up While the lintel is exposed now it is much easier to examine than if room had been plastered, The SE may be able to tell you over e-mail so avoiding a site visit and reducing the cost.

    I would be worried too and would rather pay the money for peace of mind, and a few years down the line, you would be glad you did go this route.
  13. Jitender

    Jitender Well-Known Member

    Would be good to see what they do say, look for a residential SE as they will be a lot cheaper.

    The cracked lintel under the bottom, and the fine hair line cracks extending to top and bottom of the lintel could suggest a lintel replacement, but not qualified/experienced to give this advice.
    koolpc likes this.
  14. DanielQ

    DanielQ Member

    Thank you for all your advise.

    The cracks extending from the bottom to the top are my worry.

    Worsr case scenario, Is feasible to change a 9 feet lintel in a house made with no-fines concrete?
  15. Jitender

    Jitender Well-Known Member

    If the SE does suggest a new lintel, them fitting a new one will be a nightmare.

    Lintel is going to be extremely heavy if its' one piece, but think it will be 3 butted together.

    I have a flat that is constructed in no-fines and if was hardwork trying to get the old lintel out from one window opening which stayed the same width but increased in height. Width of lintel was 300mm and 100 tapering down to 65 mm in depth.

    In place had to reinsert 3 x new lintels after efforts to take out the old lintel went in vein.

    Not sure if this is the rear garden, and the ground level to the back, but thinking if the old lintel stayed in place and a new lintel directly under it, but don't know if this will be allowed? plus the height of window would be reduced, especially if you may be putting in french doors.

    Very likely that the concrete under the first floor window will need to be removed completely as well, as likely to crack if left in place wile work get underway.

    Even if a new lintel is fitted there could still be fine hairline cracks appearing in the same place, I'm hoping it is the render that is cracked only, not the concrete.

    What are the dimensions of the current lintel?
  16. Jitender

    Jitender Well-Known Member

    Really hoping the SE comes back to say it will be ok, then you are left with dealing with the visible cracks.

    The render is very tough and there may be products available to help repair the cracks.

    In the estate I am in (council) a lot of the houses/flats were clad with a brick skin I think in the 70's so the place looks like brick built, but the deep window cills give it away. Other places that were bought out before the work got carried out are evident.

    Trying to figure out what may have caused the lintel to crack, as did think these types of builds were bomb proof.

    The crack in the bedroom above opens up as it gets higher which suggest the lintel is deflecting in the middle as we are thinking, but the place does look like its been painted fairly recent so cracks have 'recently' appeared.

    May be worth checking out other house around the are as someone has suggested as well to see if this is a common problem.
  17. Jitender

    Jitender Well-Known Member

    In earlier post says he says it was rendered about 5 years so means that it has moved since then. Am now sliding towards a new lintel now.

    Shame it wasn't picked up prior to having it rendered.

    One idea I had was a central pier being built to support the lintel in the middle, but would scupper plans if you chose to have a french door in future.
  18. DanielQ

    DanielQ Member

    I moved in a year ago

    We moved in a year ago. We've been quite busy doing work in the inside, we haven't spent much time in the garden. The thin cracks in the rendering could have been there for years. I realised they were there yesterday.

    What I know for sure is the cracks under the window on the 1st floor have been there since we moved in, I remember seeing the cracks when I removed the wallpaper.

    6 months ago I saw the cracked lintel in the inside. I took a photo then and It hasn't got worse. I lied to myself thinking it was ok because I'm pretty sure it is reinforced.

    The lintel is at least 2600 x 250 x 200mm
  19. DanielQ

    DanielQ Member

    I sent an email to and SE and I got the following reply:

    Dear Daniel

    This looks like some subsidence has taken place resulting in a drop of the foundation resulting in cracks to the elevation as the building settles into its new arrangement.

    We would suggest the foundations at the crack positions are excavated to try and find the cause. There are products on the market by Twistfix to repair the cracks to the property.

    Our fee to further investigate the works, issue a report and specify a repair would be £725.00 plus VAT. The earliest we can come to site would be 6 August 2018.

    We await your further instruction in this matter.

  20. Allsorts

    Allsorts Well-Known Member

    This must be scary Daniel, but my gut feeling is that there is little to worry about here, but I am not a builder so I don't know :oops:

    The crack in the render outside is microscopic and is typical of general movement or settlement. Obviously if it increases in size you'll know there is something amiss, but such a hairline crack is not at all unusual.

    However, there is also the matter of the strange damage to the lintel inside, and whether there's a connection between the two. I'm afraid I don't know. The damage to the lintel seems strange - it's not what I would have expected from a failed pre-stressed concrete lintel; surely a failed lintel would have vertical cracks in it, but I don't know.

    That type of horizontal crack is typically caused by what? If that's where the reinforcing bars are, then it is clearly an issue, and that means the lintel is kaput. Is there any sign of rust inside that crack? Is the concrete around that crack crumbly or is there any loose dust there? Do the bits around that crack move? Is there any chance the crack is old and was there in the lintel from when it was installed?

    If the crack is below where the bars are, then it might just have been a poor casting in which case it's unlikely to get any worse?

    You are clearly going to have to get a professional builder or SE out to have a look at this. The SE that you have contacted deserves a kick up the bottom as they are suggesting (costly) things on little or no basis. Subsidence? Why subsidence of all causes?

    Surely it's a case of either the lintel is ok in which case the hairline crack won't get any worse, or else the lintel is kaput in which case it'll need replacing. I fear the lovely new render will be damaged around the lintel in the process, and will possibly be difficult to get it to match up again. But I don't know. (If so, perhaps the area above the window could have a row of upright bricks put there instead as a nice contrast? Or even a fake decorative stone lintel like you see on some new builds?

    I would ignore that SE you contacted and instead call up a couple of local builders who you can find recommendations for. They will call round for a look (for free, I'm sure) and either confirm the lintel is fine and you have nothing to worry about, or else declare the lintel as kaput and give you a quote for replacing it. In which case discuss how they can patch up the render outside afterwards.

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