Default hero image

The science behind cracks in buildings

Have you ever wondered why cracks occur? Often unsightly, anyone involved in owning, occupying, designing, constructing or maintaining buildings have dealt with buildings cracks. In most artefacts a crack indicates that the item has failed – or will do so shortly, no matter whether that item is a turbine blade or a teacup handle – and that urgent repair or replacement is essential.

Looking at the behaviour of materials, BRE researchers set out the science behind the causing factors of cracks including size changes, joints and damages. Written by Ron Bonshor, Lesley Bonshor, Roger Sadgrove, the book Cracks in buildings focuses on why cracks happen and how all those who who own, occupy, design, build and maintain buildings can do to avoid their occurrence, and to diagnose their cause and repair them so that they do not recur.


Architects need to design to avoid or at least to minimise cracking. They need to be aware of the behaviour of materials and components in response to environmental or other changes, and to be able to assess the consequences of that behaviour for the performance of buildings. The significance of those consequences may determine how much design effort and money should be invested in minimising the risk of cracks developing.

Builders will wish to avoid cracking that might be attributed to their mishandling of materials and components on site (in storage or in the course of construction), to their mistranslation of design requirements or to the quality of their work.

Surveyors undertaking building surveys need to be able to locate and determine the causes of cracks, and to advise on their significance in relation to overall structural integrity and building worth.

Building failure investigators, loss adjusters and expert witnesses in litigation need to consider all possible causes of cracking in buildings so that sound and robust cases can be made for discounting those causes that do not apply and for supporting those that do.

Building owners and maintenance staff wish to be sure that causes of cracking have been correctly identified and their significance correctly assessed, so that time and money are not wasted on unnecessary, irrelevant or in some cases even damaging remedial work.

Read more here.