A Mysterious Gap

It’s easy to conclude that significant gaps in interior finishes and what appears to be settlement, are evidence of structural problems in a building. But that is not always the case. While doing a pre-sale inspection my client asked me to look at the baseboards…

It’s easy to conclude that significant gaps in interior finishes and what appears to be settlement, are evidence of structural problems in a building. But that is not always the case.
While doing a pre-sale inspection my client asked me to look at the baseboards in a hallway and bathroom. He wanted to know why there was such a large gap, about 3/8 of an inch,  between the baseboards and the floor. He also pointed out cracks at the crown moulding and ceiling connection in various places.

Baseboard gap

It looked like the floor had settled and the walls were now too short for the space between the ceiling and the floor. The cause for this condition was not immediately apparent. If this was caused by a structural problem, I expected to find the answer in the crawl space.

What I found when I went down into the crawl space was perfection. I could not find any signs of settlement. There were no cracks in the foundation walls, strip footings or concrete floor. The framing was done properly with no settlement or sagging visible anywhere. In short the problem was not in the crawlspace.
At the time, I thought, the only possible explanation for this condition could be wood shrinkage and truss uplift. But could these two factors account for all the gaps?

Using a formula to calculate wood shrinkage in building framing, I found that the floor framing materials would shrink just under .22 inch at the exterior walls and over .48 inch at the steps into the living room. This would account for more than half the gap between the baseboard and floor at its widest point. I know that trusses can lift up to 1 inch at the center of a house, so I knew truss uplift would account for any of the gap that wasn’t attributed to wood shrinkage.
The answer my earlier question is yes, these two factors can account for all the gaps. I could now say, these are primarily cosmetic defects.

That’s another puzzle solved. It’s good to keep in mind that sometimes things that look serious are, well, not serious.

If you have any questions about this topic, other aspects of a home inspection, or would like to book an inspection, please contact Bob at InspectionPro. My email address is [email protected] and I can be reached at 250-212-5490.

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