Cracks in the home is a common problem, but sometimes it’s not really a problem at all. Many times cracks in the home are simply there and very often they are made evident in tile. Tile is very brittle and cracks under the slightest pressure or movement. These hairline cracks can cut across a floor, but may not be visible in the brick and mortar or the foundation.

The fact of the matter is cracks like these have been there for a very long period of time, but it is only now with the installation of large pieces of floor tile that they have become more noticeable.

“The crack has been in there since it was poured, most likely,” said Dale Phillips, president of DPIS Engineering and co-host of the Better Home Show. “They’re called shrinkage cracks. Typically, a crack is going to be perpendicular to how the wind was blowing that particular day the concrete was poured. For example, if there was a straight north wind during the pour, the crack would run east to west.”

Don’t Sweat the Small Cracks

Phillips warns against scare tactics that foundation inspectors may use when pointing out cracks. He said hairline cracks really don’t matter.

“What matters is what type of movement we’re getting,” he said. “Do we have differential movement–one piece moving different than the other–or is it all moving monolithically?”

Fixing the Crack

Mike Feigin, owner of Design Tech Homes and co-host of the Better Home Show, suggests using Schluter Systems, which develops tile specific products, to keep tile from cracking.

“Put the mastic down and put this product on top and then put the tile on top of that,” he said. “It’s basically a slip sheet which allows the tile to move without cracking.”

Proving the Seriousness of the Cracks

Although these cracks are usually not damaging to the home, aside from cracking some tile, there are some cracks that are problematic. Regardless of the size of the crack or how long it has been there, it would be best to take certain measures to gauge the seriousness of the situation.

Phillips suggests having someone (a foundation inspector would work) shoot elevations and then file those away. If there are ever any more problems, look at those original elevations and see if there is any movement in the foundation.

“Foundation inspectors can tell you anything because there is no baseline,” he said in regard to the importance of having original elevation sheets. “It just drives me crazy that these guys will come in and say, “This corner is one inch lower than the rest of the house. Well, absolutely. That’s the way it was poured. Let’s don’t get excited here. But they don’t have any baseline and they’ll jump to these crazy conclusions.”