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SP #16 - Field Guide to Crack Patterns in Buildings

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Eventually, every geologist, engineer, architect, building inspector, and contractor (i.e. practitioners of the building trade) realizes the need for information on building cracks and their meaning. Surely, cracks can be dismissed as an indication of ground movement conditions; however, upon closer examination, a practitioner can distinguish certain types of crack patterns that are helpful in defining a specific geologic cause for building movement. This field guide is an excellent tool for evaluating the geologic cause for cracking in most types of buildings. The guide does not discuss building cracks related to non-geologic processes.
Ground movement induces building distortion that manifests itself as cracks in plaster, drywall, and concrete materials. To better understand and communicate the relationship of soil-structure interactions by using crack patterns, a crack nomenclature and classification system have been developed for naming and describing cracks in walls and slabs. By using crack patterns, a practitioner can determine the sense of ground movement, the location of building impact, and the type of applied stress to buildings.
This book is based upon the original 1996 paper “Geotechnical Nomenclature and Classification System for Crack Patterns in Buildings” published in the Journal of Environmental and Engineering Geosciences by the Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists. The “Crack Classification System” (CCS) was created from the need to understand ground movement-induced building cracks for use in the hazard-impact-risk assessment of developed residential and commercial properties. The CCS can also be used for preparing disclosure statement for property sellers, locating distressed areas within a building, and in forensic studies for litigation support.

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