Worried by Cracks in Bulgarian Property
One of the most common questions from property buyers in Bulgaria is whether cracks in Bulgarian homes are cause for concern. Frequently, cracks in a property worry people like nothing else, even though there are many faults which may be more serious; and even destroy your financial investment. How bad are cracks in a property? They can be anything from tiny plaster cracks to almost yawning chasms which you can put your hand through. Everyone has seen the hairline cracks and we tend to just ignore these, being part of normal construction.
If walls are plasterboard, then hairline cracks are all to common. These can run in either a horizontal or vertical direction and usually along the joints between the plasterboard sheets and don't have structural implications.
Cracks in brick walls merit further investiation. Diagonal cracks and those which open up again after being filled, should be checked out to see if there is a deep lying root to the problem.
It is worth noting that many old properties in Bulgaria are not built in the same way as the rigid box like structures preferred in Britain. Many are constructed with timber, and even wattle and daub. This allows the building to flex over the years as the materials don't harden in the same way. They are also lighter construction materials and don't need the same big foundations. Cracks around windows in older buildings can sometimes be caused because the old wooden windows have been replaced with new pvc ones. Whilst this is great from a thermal efficiency point of view, pvc windows do not allow for flex. New plastic windows are more rigid than timber and cannot move as much with the wall and any render. Generally these are surface cracks, although it is worth removing some of the render just to make sure that the cracks are not carrying on in the underlying structure.
Checking how bad cracks really are is a specialist job and needs experience. If you are at all worried, then a surveyor is required. It is true that some cracks are in reality worse then they appear. However, don't assume that every crack is going to mean your home will fall down.
There can be many causes of cracks, some of which might be :
- normal thermal movement with season temperatures of summer and winter
- indicators of subsidence
- poor construction and workmanship: wrong choice of materials
- usual drying out
It is not uncommon for old Bulgarian rural properties to have a fair number of cracks. Many small farmhouses in the countryside were built with low quality, cheap materials and even constructed by the farmers themselves who knew little about building although a great deal about livestock.
Look out for cracks which go "through" the wall: check both sides where the crack is - can you see any daylight? Then look carefully for any further potential problems - is the wall bowed or leaning? If the crack is wider at the top, then this is likely to be subsidence. If a crack can get through a solid wall then it is likely to be bad news. Such faults can be a sign of poor foundations or on none at all.
One of the major things with Bulgarian properties is that there are usually no gutters. Whilst at first glance this may just seem a bit odd, it can have major implications. The Bulgarians seem to take the attitude that as long as the rainwater goes off the roof, then that's the end of it. However, if rainwater is continually falling into the same place and your property is built on earth, then inevitably those places will soften... with subsequent implications.
Now that you are probably sufficiently frightened, we should put this in perspective. The great majority of homes with cracks have usually stood for donkeys years and will continue to do so. It is extremely rare for a building to collapse. Cracks may not be good to look at and nobody wants to live with them. Getting a survey of your property before you buy is essential for peace of mind.