What is House Settling and Why is it Important?
While it’s a completely normal part of the home construction process, house settling can still seem a little, well… unsettling while it’s happening. However, it’s a lot less scary once you understand the full process, so let’s take a look at what house settling actually is and how it’s likely to affect your new home.
What Is House Settling?
Naturally, homes are built using a lot of wood. When the wood is first made into lumber it undergoes what’s called a kiln-drying process, which essentially means the wood is placed into a large oven that removes much of the moisture. As this wood is exposed to the elements, it will regain some of this moisture. Conversely, the concrete used in the home’s foundation will retain a lot of moisture as it’s poured, which will then leave as it dries out.
So what this means is that when a house is first built, it’s natural for the wood to expand a little, and for the concrete to contract a little. This is the essence of house settling.
How Long Does it Take for a House to Settle?
The full amount of settling can vary depending on where you live (Edmonton, for example, is a much drier climate than Vancouver so should see less dramatic settling), but generally speaking it should take about a year for your home to fully settle. Once the house has been through a full year of seasonal changes and conditions, it should have been through most of the range of conditions it’s likely to experience.
What Will You Experience as Your House Settles?
Seeing cracks appear around your new home can be very disconcerting, especially if you’re not expecting them. But seeing some small cracks appear as the house settles is completely normal. As well as slight drywall cracking, you may experience things like doors and windows jamming, or baseboards coming away from the walls. You may also see a few small cracks appear around the home’s foundation. Again, this is completely normal and nothing to be worried about. In fact, it’s often considered abnormal if the concrete doesn’t crack a little bit at first.
While house settling is far too gradual to see, you may find that you hear it occasionally. Typically in areas where metal meets wood, such as in drywall, or where wood meets concrete, such as the foundation, the materials will expand and contract at different rates, so occasionally hearing pops from these areas are not uncommon.
What Can I Do About It?
While you can’t prevent house settling from occurring, any minor cracks or blemishes that do appear are easily taken care of. If you buy a new home in Alberta, you’ll automatically be covered by Alberta’s New Home Warranty Program, which covers:
- Paint, finishings and flooring for the first 12 months
- Materials and the plumbing, heating and electric systems for 2 years
- The building envelope (exterior shell, roof and walls) for 5 years
- The structure of the home (including the walls and foundation) for 10 years
This means that any minor damage that occurs during the first year of settling should be taken care of, and even in the extremely rare chance of any more substantial damage occurring in the first 10 years of your new home, you’ll know you’re covered.
Now that we’ve covered the major points of house settling and hopefully assuaged some fears and concerns, you can settle yourself in and start enjoying life in your brand-new home.