Structural Cracks in Buildings after Earthquake

We’ve been keep very busy in Christchurch since the big earthquake hit, carrying out leak detection investigations, building and apartment inspections using our infrared thermal imaging cameras.

The aim of our infrared investigations in the Canterbury region are to determine: Is the moisture damage in the buildings we have leak tested there from before or after the quake? This makes a big difference to what the insurance companies will pay out on. We have a set process we work through to determine an accurate result in this situation.

It’s only logical that when a building moves, the probabilities of water leaking into the walls and roof space (if any) increase dramatically. It’s not so much the obvious leak sources, like a chimney falling through a roof, it cracks occurring in critical junction points that suddenly open up and let water in… and you can’t see them.

These types of leaks can cause major headaches for the landlords, because they will continue to slowly leak into the building envelope and potentially go unnoticed for some time. We have been detecting these types of leaks for home owners and body corporates of larger multi storey dwellings (i.e Apartment buildings) with earthquake related structural issues, and providing reports as proof the leaks are caused by the quake, and not ‘older’ leaks.

One of the main issues with how some properties were built in the ‘leaky building’ era, is that common water ingress points (like around windows), are only remaining weathertight thanks to a single coat of paint around the aluminum window/door frame on the external side. We even found a series of windows on a property we inspected recently that looked like they were sealed, but you could literally pull the ‘silicone’ away from the window like a piece of spaghetti. So it looked perfectly sealed, but was actually letting a flood of water in, causing window jambs and sill plates to soak up the overflow… great!

Another scenario we found consistently across one of the apartment buildings in Christchurch we inspected, is the earthquake had shook all the window wedge rubbers out. The problem they now face is that the pane of glass is no longer sealed where it fits into the frame, therefore when it rains the water will run down the glass and into the joinery itself… and we are talking a lot of water here. When you get major movement to a building, the window mitres could open up quite easily (Mitres are very fickle and vulnerable to loosing their seal due to the leverage applied to the joint when movement occurs), letting this water directly down onto the sill plate and studs which supports the window… especially when the building doesn’t have a cavity system installed.

In addition to the above, 99% of the time you won’t even know if your window joinery has failed unless you are really looking for it, or have a trained eye. The way you normally end up finding out is when visual evidence of moisture damage appears on your gib board under the window, or the skirting board swells up… or carpet suddenly becomes wet for no reason.

Finding leaks  early can save you from:

  • Replacing the timber studs,
  • Replacing wet insulation,
  • Having to replaster and paint the whole room to colour match (More money!).
  • Potentially needing to replace an area of carpet…. and depending on your floor type (such as particleboard), it could blow out and swell, therefore needing more remedial work.

If you suspect anything suspicious is going on to your property in terms of water ingress, an infrared building inspection and leak scan could be the best ‘first’ option.

Call us for a free quote over the phone, and we’ll be happy to spend the time to answer your questions. We inspect plenty of homes, so no doubt we will have experience with a property in the past with similar issues to yours… therefore the problem could be quicker and cheaper to solve. Sometimes we can tell you where the leak is over the phone without needing to come out to your property!

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