Cracks in the wall and ceiling – how long does it take for a house to settle?

How Long Does It Take for a House to Settle & What Causes It?

When anything enters a brand-new environment, it takes time to settle. The same applies to your home and its foundation. Once built, homes tend to shift as the foundation settles below. Although common with newly built structures, the movement often leads to minor damage. However, in some cases, the damage is major and can cause foundation problems.

How long does it take for a house to settle? And what is the best course of action when you notice settling? We answer these questions and more below!


What causes homes to settle?

Soil is the culprit! Soil is made up of all kinds of matter and moves over time. Soil expands and contracts based on temperature and moisture levels. The movement of the soil forces the structure above to shift and settle. This shifting is common with clay-based soils, which is common in Auckland.

As the soil expands beneath your home, it lifts the foundation. When contracting, your house sinks and settles. All this movement causes stress on the foundation and other areas of your home, like the roof, joinery, and doorways.


How long does a house take to settle?

Unfortunately, no home ever completely settles. While some people will claim homes settle in a few years, consider the reason your home settles in the first place. How likely is it that the soil beneath and surrounding it will become impervious to moisture and temperature changes over the years? Not very.

Your house will continue to settle as it moves with the surrounding environment—and that’s completely normal. What’s important is knowing what to look for and when to raise alarm bells.


Common signs of a settling home

Here are some common signs of a settling home; you may have noticed a few around yours!



Cracks are the main one. From hairline cracks to large structural ones, they pop up here and there but shouldn’t be left to grow. Small hairline cracks appear where the wall and ceiling meet, and you should patch these as soon as possible.

Typically wall cracks that are a result of settling are small and vertical. Horizontal wall cracks can indicate a problem from the settling. If you see wall cracks around your home, it’s best to have them patched up immediately.


Separating joinery

The stress caused by soil movement can cause joinery to separate. You may notice small gaps in door and window frames, or the doors and windows are sticking. The joinery is essentially pulling itself apart under the stress of shifting soils.

When doors and windows are not opening or closing smoothly and tend to stick, get them repaired as soon as possible. This could be as simple as sanding down a door to fit a slightly misshapen frame or getting a contractor to repair your window joinery.


Sloping floors

As the soil expands and contracts, it can cause your home’s foundation to lift and tip. Houses are built level, so when you notice a sloping floor, it’s a tell-tale sign the soil beneath is shifting.


A wet basement

If your basement or a level beneath ground level is leaking, it’s an obvious sign that there has been some separation, allowing water to enter the room. After or during a rainstorm, check your basement to see if any leaks exist and pinpoint the location.


How to tell if the damage is structural

Each of these signs indicates a settling home, yet they can all point toward more serious foundation issues. If you notice one or more of these signs around the house, it’s best to have them repaired immediately. Invite a professional to inspect your home and its foundation; the longer you leave it, the worse it’ll get.

If the cracks and separation you spot exceed a couple of inches, it’s best to have an inspection. Leaving foundation issues to worsen will lead to incredibly costly replacements. It is difficult to tell the difference between foundation problems and inevitable settling. The best measure you can take is to have a foundation contractor perform inspections and maintenance work on your foundation annually.

You can check your foundation yourself if you know what signs to look for. You should conduct a simple once-over check twice a year. This includes going through your home inside and out to spot any signs of shifting and movement.

Remember that your home’s foundation is what keeps everything held together. Take note of any cracks, water, slopes, and other signs that the soil is moving. If you know what to look for and when to call the professionals, your home will stand strong and tall for years to come! Get in touch with the team at Grace Foundations to conduct a professional inspection today.