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Study of Cracks in Buildings


Thesis January 2009
DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.2485.5201

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Sri Kalyana Rama J
BITS Pilani, Hyderabad
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Retrieved on: 27 September 2016

STUDY OF CRACKS IN
BUILDINGS
V R SIDDHARTHA ENGG COLLEGE
(AUTONOMOUS )
DEPARTMENT OF CIVIL ENGINEERING

TERM PAPER

Presented By

J S KALYANA RAMA
V R RAGHAVA SUDHIR
V SAMPATH KUMAR
V VICKRANTH

UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF


V.RAMESH

Long Term Drying Shrinkage Cracking

INTRODUCTION

Cracks in a building are of common


occurrence.

building

component exceeds its strength. Cracks


are classified in to structural and non
structural categories. The structural ones
due

to

faulty

Thermal

Contraction

Cracking

component

develops cracks whenever stress in the

are

Seasonal

design,

faulty

construction or overloading which may


endanger safety of buildings. The non
structural cracks are due to internally

CAUSES OF OCCURRENCE
a) moisture changes
b) thermal variations
c) elastic deformations
d) creep
e) foundation movement and settlement
of soil

induced stresses. Depending on width of

a) Moisture movement

crack, these are classified in to thin (<

Most of the building materials having

1mm), medium (1mm to 2mm) and wide

pores in their structure in the form of

(> 2mm wide).

intermolecular (ex concrete, mortar,

Internally induced

stresses in building components lead to

bricks

dimensional changes and

moisture and shrink on drying. These

whenever

etc)

expand

absorbing

there is a restraint to movement as is

movements

generally the case cracking occurs.

shrinkage is partly irreversible and

There are numerous causes of cracking


in concrete, but most instances are
related more to concrete specification
and construction practices than by
stresses due to induced forces.
The four primary causes of cracking that
the designer can help to prevent are:
Flexural Cracking
Early Thermal Contraction Cracking

are

on

reversible.

Initial

occurs in all building materials which


are cement/lime based e.g. concrete,
mortar, masonry etc. Some of the
building materials absorb moisture from
environment

and

undergo

gradual

expansion (Initial expansion), bulk of


which is irreversible. For the bricks, this
entire expansion takes place in first 3
months once they are removed from
kilns. Cracks due to shrinkage affect

mainly the appearance and finish and the

thermal

movement

structural stability is not impaired. These

distinguished

cracks generally get localized near door

shrinkage or other causes from the

and window openings or stair case walls.

criterion that the former open and close

In external walls they run downward

alternately with changes in temperature

from window sill to plinth level or to the

while the latter are not affected by such

lintel of lower story.

changes.

from

could
those

due

be
to

Thermal movement depends on Colour


and Surface Characteristics of exposed
buding surfaces. Dark coloured and
rough textured materials have lower
reflectivity and hence rise in temperature
is more for these surfaces. In case of
concrete roof slabs, as the material has
low conductivity, thermal gradient is
quite appreciable and that causes the slab
to arch up and also to move outward due
to heat from the sun. This results in
cracks in external walls which support
the slab and in the internal walls that are
built up to the soffit of the slab. In case
of framed-structures, roof slab, beams
and columns move jointly causing

b) Thermal movement
atmospheric

diagonal cracks in walls which are

temperature, there will be thermal

located parallel to the movement, and

movement in building

horizontal cracks below beams in walls

Due

to

variation

in

components.

When

restraint

movement

to

component,

internal

there
of

is

some

building

stresses

are

generated resulting in cracks due to


tensile or shear stresses. Cracks due to

which

are

movement.

at

right

angle

to

the

c) Elastic deformations
Structural components of a building such
as walls, columns, beams and slabs,
generally
consisting of materials like masonry,
Cracking in Top Most Storey

of a

Load Bearing Strucrure

concrete, steel etc, undergo elastic


deformation due to load in accordance
with

Hook's

law,

the

amount

of

deformation depending upon elastic


modulus of the materials, magnitude of
loading

and

dimensions

of

the

components.
If RCC slabs, RCC lintels over openings
and masonry in plinth and foundation
have good shear resistance, cracking in
question would not be very significant.

Expansion Joints in Slabs Supported


on Twin Walls

stress/strength ratio and, therefore, creep


in brickwork with weak mortar, which
generally has higher stress/strength ratio,
is more. Another reason for greater creep
in case of brickwork with weak mortar is
that weak mortar has greater viscous
flow than a strong mortar.
In brick work, creep may cease after 4
months while in concrete it may
continue up to about a year or so.
However, in concrete, extent of creep is
related to the process of hardening and
thus most of the creep takes place in the
first month and after that its pace slows
down. That means creep strain can be
reduced
Vertical
Diagonal

Cracks

and

Cracks

In concrete, extent of creep depends on a


number of factors, such as water and
cement content, water cement ratio,
temperature, humidity, use of admixtures
and pozzolanas, age of concrete at the
time of loading and size and shape of the
component.

Creep

increases

with

increase in water and cement content,


water cement ratio, and temperature; it
decreases with increase in humidity of
the surrounding atmosphere and age of
material at the time of loading. In case of
brickwork, amount of creep depends on

deferring

removal

of

centering and application of external


load.

d) Movements due to creep

by

e)

Foundation

movement

and

TYPES OF CRACKS

settlement of soil
Shear cracks in buildings occur when
there is large differential settlement of
foundation either due to unequal bearing
pressure under different parts of the
structure or due to bearing pressure on
soil being in excess of safe bearing
strength of the soil or due to low factor
of safety in the design of foundation.

Wall: External wall of load bearing


structures
i) Vertical cracks in the sidewalls at the
corners of building.
Cracks start from DPC level and travels
upwards are more or less straight and
pass through masonry units and there is
difference in the level on the two sides
of cracks.
They are due to thermal expansion
sometime

aggravated

by

moisture

expansion of bricks work.


ii) Vertical cracks near the quoins in the
front elevation of long building having
Cracks at the Corner of a Building

short return walls.

Due to Foundation Settlement.

These start upwards from DPC level and


are due thermal expansion and occur

DIAGNOSIS

when adequate provision from the

For Diagnosis, the following information


is to be collected and studied.
(i)

Location,

Shape,

Size,

short return wall rotates due to thrust at


Depth,

Behavior and other characteristics


(i) Specification of job
(ii) Time of construction
(iii) Past history
(iv)When the cracks first came to notice
(v) Whether the cracks are active or
static

moment joints has not been made. The

two ends from the long walls this


resulting in vertical cracks. If length of
return wall is more than 600mm, this can
be avoided.
iii) Vertical cracks in the top most
stories at corners of a building having
RCC roof
It is due to shrinkage of RCC roof slab
on initial drying, as well as thermal

construction, which exerts an inward

Span to be small insulation protective

pull on the walls in both directions. This

covering to be provided, slab should be

is because bending in walls in portions

slightly shorter or longer.

always from corner, causes verticals

(vii) Horizontal cracks in the top most

cracks about one unit always

stories, the cracks being above the slab

from corners.

when seen from outside and below the

iv ) Vertical Cracks below opening in

slab when seen from inside.

line with window joints .

These occur due to temperature variation

These are due to vertical sheer caused by

accompanied by bowing up of slab due

differential strain in the lightly loaded

to thermal gradient in slab. provide

masonry

Inside week mortar outside mastic

below the opening and heavily loaded

compared after cleaning etc. reflective

portion of wall having no openings.

cover on top. If rich mix is used, cracks

Avoid large windows.

recur.

(v) Vertical cracks around staircase

(viii) Horizontal cracks at windows lintel

opening and around balconies

or sill levels in the top most stories.

Due to drying shrinkage and thermal

Due to pull exerted by slab on the wall

moveme3nt in the building because of

because of drying shrinkage and thermal

weakening of

contraction pull result in bending of wall

in the wall as well as floor section most

which causes cracking at a week section

very conscious.

i.e. lintel level. They can be avoided by

(vi) Horizontal cracks in the top most

providing slip joints at slab supports on

storey below slab level .

the wall and by providing smaller

These are due to deflection of slab and

windows.

lifting up of edge of slab, combined with

(ix) Horizontal cracks in the top most

horizontal movement in the slab due to

story of a building at the corners.

shrinkage . Because of light vertical load

Due to vertical lifting of slab corners due

on the wall due to which, end of slab

to deflection in the slab both directions.

lifts up without much restraint.

Can be avoided by providing adequate


corner reinforcement. This ours only in
the top

stress because less load.

External and Internal walls of load

(x) Horizontal crocks @ eaves level in

bearing Structures

buildings having pitched roofs with

(i) Vertical cracks in walls built with

woods trusses

concrete blocks of send line bricks

It is due to outward thrust from the roof

Cracks occur at week sections, ie. at mid

truss because of w weakening of

point of openings or at regular internals

structured timber due to dry rot or fungal

in long stretches . Depending upon the

attack. Can be avoided by replacing roof

strength of mortar, cracks may be

with

straight or stepped.

some

lighter

material

,going

treatment to wood work, by providing

They

steel ties between external walls of

construction and increase in width over a

timber is deteriorated to be replaced after

period of one or

masonry is rebuild .

two years. They get widening during

(xi) Diagonal cracks across the corner of

cold weather there are due to drying

a building affecting two adjacent wall.

shrinkage of

These occur due to drying shrinkage of

masonry units and more conspicuous

foundation soil when built on shrinkable

when reach mortar is used.

clay soil and has shallow foundation fast

(ii) Vertical cracks at the junction of a

growing

old

trees

near

the

building

appear

portion

within

of

building

weeks

and

of

new

accentuate the problem by process of

extension.

dehydration of soil. Wider at top and

These are due to compaction of soil

become narrow as they travel downward.

under load of newly built portion of

Pass Though DPC and extend to

building

foundation

(iii) Vertical cracks at the junction of

Remedy:- (i)To be filled with epoxy type

RCC columns and masonry .

material

They are due to differential strain

(ii) Provide 2m wide flexible water tight

between RCC and masonry because of

apron all round t he building at a depth

elastic

of 0.50 mt below GL. work to be carried

deformation. Shrinkage and creep in

out after 1 or 2 months after monsoon

RCC column. This and could be filled in


at the time of renewal of finishing coat.

(iv) Horizontal cracks in mortar joints

In dry weather the soil shrinks and

appearing two or three years after

external walls settle down as well as

construction . These are due to sulphate

tend to tilt outwards. In rains soil swells

attack.

up and the movement reversed but

These

cracks

would

be

accompanied by weakening of

cracks once formed do not fully close.

mortar. No remedy is available expect to

The

do replastering with sulphate resisting

unshapely.

cement.

viii) Diagonal cracks over RCC lintels

.(v) Ripping cracks occurring at the

spanning large openings. They start from

ceiling level in cross walls .

ends of lintels traveling upwards in

These are due to relative movement

masonry away from opening. They are

between RCC roof slab and cross wall.

due to drying shrinkage of in -site RCC

Movement of RCC slab being due to

lintels and are observed in first dry spell

thermal expansion

after completion of building.When pre

and construction

floor

haves

up

and

become

because of inadequate

cast lintels are used no such cracks will

thermal insulation /cover on roof slab.

be formed.

(vi) Diagonal cracks in cross wall of a

Partition

multi storied load bearing structures .

structures.

They are due to differential strain in

2) Partition walls supported on RCC slab

internal and external load bearing walls

or beam if wall is build tightly upto the

to which

soffit of top beam / slab, these types of

cross walls are bonded.

cracks appear.

(vii) Diagonal cracks accompanied by

3) Partition walls built of concrete

outward tilting of external walls. Internal

blocks Cracks are vertical and are at

walls under going random cracking and

junctions with the load bearing walls and

floors

at intermediate places when partition is

cracking

up

and

becoming

walls

in

load

bearing

uneven.

long. If wall is comparatively tall,

Due to moisture movement of shrinkage

horizontal cracks may be develop at mid

soil (B.C. Soil), when the foundation is

height portion. They are due to drying

shallow.

shrinkage.

PREVENTION OF CRACKS

Dark coloured and rough texured

1. To prevent Shrinkage/ expansion

materials

cracks Planning & Design stage

reflectitivity and

Select materials having small moisture

react more for thermal expansions

movement eg bricks, lime stones, marble

Plan for a layer of adequate thickness

etc

of good reflective surface over concrete

Plan for less richer cement content,

roof slabs to minimize these cracks

larger size of aggregates and less water

slip joint should be introduced

content

between slab and its supporting wall or

Porus aggregates (from sand stone,

the some length from the supporting wall

clinker etc) prone for high shrinkage

or the slab should bear only on part

Plan for offsets in walls for length o f

width of the wall

more than 600 mm

Mortar for parapet masonry should be

Use of of composite cement-lime

1 cement: 1 lime: 6 sand

mortar of 1:1:6 mix or weaker for

construction stage

plastering work

Construction of masonry over the slab

Plan for proper expansion/control/slip

should be deferred as much as possible

joints

(at least

Construction stage

one month) so that concrete undergoes

For brick work 2weeks time in

some drying shrinkage prior to the

summer and 3 weeks time in winter

construction of parapet.

should be allowed before using from the

Good bond should be ensured

date of removal from kilns

between parapet masonry and concrete

Delay plastering work till masonry

slab

dried after proper curing

The bearing portion of the wall is

Proper curing immediately on initial

rendered smooth with plaster, allowed to

setting brings down drying shrinkage

set and partly dry, and then given a thick

2. To prevent cracks due to Thermal

coat of whitewash before casting the slab

movement Planning & Design stage

so that there is a minimum bond between

on

exteriors

have

lower

the slab and the support. To ensure more


efficient functioning of this joint, in

place of whitewashing 2 or 3 layers of

When brick masonry is to be laid

tarred paper

abutting

are placed over the plastered surface to

brickwork as much as possible.

allow for easy sliding between RCC slab

When RCC and brickwork occur in

and the supporting masonry

combination and are to be plastered

To avoid cracks near door frames

over, allow sufficient time (at least one

ptovide groove as shown in Fig.11

month) to RCC and brickwork to

3. To prevent cracks due to Elastic

undergo initial shrinkage

deformations Planning & Design stage

and creep before taking up plaster work.

When large spans cannot be avoided,

A panel walls in RCC framed

deflection of slabs or beams could be

structures: i) as far as possible, all frame-

reduced by increasing depth of slabs and

work should be completed before taking

beams so as to increase their stiffness.

up masonry work of cladding and

Adoption of bearing

partitions which should be

arrangement and provision of a groove

started from top storey downward. ii)

in plaster at the junction of wall and

Provide

ceiling will be of some help in

between the

mitigating the cracks.

top of brick panel and soffit of beams.

Construction stage

Partitions supported on floor slab or

allow adequate time lag between work

beam: i) Provide upward camber in floor

of wall masonry and fixing of tiles.

slab/beam so as to counteract deflection.

4. To prevenr cracks due to Creep

ii) Defer construction of partitions and

Construction stage

plaster work as much as possible iii)

Do not provide brickwork over a

Provide

flexural RCC member (beam or slab)

between the top of masonry and soffit of

before removal

beam/slab, filling the gaps with some

of centering and allow a time interval of

mastic compound.

at least 2 weeks between removal of

5. To prevent cracks due to Chemical

centering and construction of partition or

reaction Planning & design stage

panel wall over it.

For structural concrete in foundation,

an

RCC

horizontal

horizontal

column,

movement

expansion

defer

joint

joints

if sulphate content in soil exceeds 0.2

per cent or in groundwater exceeds 300

for filling deep - say exceeding 1.0m.,

ppm, use very dense concrete and either

Soil used for filling should be free from

increase richness of mix to 1:1 1/2:3 or

organic matter, brick-bats and debris

use

filling should be done in layers not

sulphate

resisting

Portland

cement/super-sulphated cement or

exceeding 25 cm in thickness and each

adopt a combination of the two methods

layer should be watered and well

depending upon the sulphate content of

rammed.

the soil.

If filling is more than 1 metre in

cracking caused in concrete due to

depth,

carbonation

compaction should be carried out after

can

be

avoided

or

process

of

minimized by ensuing use of Exposed

every metre of fill.

concrete items in thin sections, such as

CRACK STITCHING

flooding

and

sunshades, fins and louvers of buildings,


are with concrete of richer mix (say 1:1

Following steps are to be followed for

1/2:3)

crack stitching

6. To prevent cracks due to Soil


settlement Planning & design stage
plan for under-reamed piles in
foundation

for

construction

on

shrinkable soils
plan for plinth protection around the

building
slip / expansion joints to ensure that
new construction is not bonded with the
old construction and the two parts (Old
and new) are separated right from
bottom to the top. When plastering the
new work a deep groove should be
formed separating the new work from
the old.
Construction stage

STEP 1: Clean the crack


STEP 2: Rake the joints across the
cracks in a length of 600mm as deep as
conveniently and safely possible without
disturbing the stones
3

STEP 3: Clean the joints at least 300mm


on each side of the crack.
STEP 4: Clean everything with wire
brush, and remove dust.
STEP 5: Fill the cracks and raked joints
with 1:6 cement sand or 1:3 lime sand

mortar.
STEP 6: Sprinkle water on the cement
mortar for a minimum of 7 days.
STEP 7: The wall will then become
strong again and this repaired area will

not act as a weak point in the wall for


future earthquakes.

REFERENCES
www.iitk.ac.in

SP 25: HANDBOOK ON CAUSES AND PREVENTION OF CRACKS IN


BUILDINGS

IS 2911(3): CODE OF PRACTICE FOR DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION OF


PILE FOUNDATIONS
PART III UNDER REAMED PILES

MASONRY, MATERIALS, DESIGN, CONSTRUCTION, AND MAINTENANCE


BY HARRY A. HARRIS, ASTM COMMITTEE