Is It Worth Waiting For the House to Shrink Before You Start Renovating?

April 2, 2024

Everyone has heard the horror story: a young family moves into a flat in a new building, invests money, effort and soul into the repair, and then a terrible thing happens...

The house shrinks, and in the interior there are such elements as cracks on the walls, bevels and sagging door frames.

Is this true, or is it just scaremongering? Is it worth it to delay the repair in a new house, and how long to wait? And are there finishing materials that will stoically withstand the settling of the foundation or minimise the risks? Let's understand.

Who Is to Blame?

Technically, shrinkage is a change in the volume of the material (usually drying), and, as a consequence, the geometric parameters of the building. And the lowering of the building due to the compaction of the foundation and subsidence of the ground is already shrinkage. However, since in colloquial speech the process of subsidence is more often referred to as shrinkage, in this article we will also stick to this familiar term.

Who is to blame for the fact that the house gives shrinkage? Soil, incorrectly selected type of foundation, unscrupulous builder who violated the construction technology? It happens, but even if the shrinkage calculations were originally included in the project, the soil formed an optimal tandem with the foundation, and technology was carefully observed at every stage, some shrinkage of the building will still occur, it is a natural process.

The more responsibly the technologies were observed, the more painless the shrinkage will be, but how to find out whether mistakes were made during construction? You can't. You can either count on the best, or be over-insured and prepare for the worst, i.e. noticeable shrinkage.

Do not forget that after the settlement of neighbours who will take up repairs and filling of flats, the building will add weight and again "sit down". So, it is worth preparing for shrinkage.

How Long Should It Be Tolerated?

The building can sit from 1 to 10 years, but, as a rule, the duration of the process is 2 to 3 years.

However, much will also depend on the type of building. So panel houses usually actively sit for 2 years, but sometimes a year is enough. During this period, cracks may form in the corners and joints of reinforced concrete slabs, although the slabs themselves will remain even. There is also a possibility that shrinkage in the "panel" will require levelling the floor.

Brick new buildings are rare in the modern housing market, but if you are lucky enough to meet him, get ready for the fact that the shrinkage process can stretch for 5-6 years because durable brick buildings are very heavy. During this time, cracks may form in the corners and at the joints, and the walls are likely to shake so that paint and plaster have a chance to crack and fall off.

Monolithic-brick or fully monolithic new buildings are characterised by smooth and even shrinkage—without distortions. Here, the main shrinkage processes will be completed in a year. A flat in a monolithic house will suffer the least from the consequences of shrinkage if the construction technology is faithfully observed and geological surprises are excluded. To find out for sure it will be possible in about a year after the construction of the house.

What to Do?

As an option, nothing. Just wait, postponing a full-fledged repair for a year or two.

In the vastness of the Internet, you can meet adverts where furnished flats in new buildings are delivered with brutal concrete walls and ceilings under the "sauce" loft interior. Agree, creative option: while shrinking, temporary tenants pay rent, and you earn money for repairs. Of course, if there will be willing to live among the bare concrete.

The second option is to spend on temporary repairs. This solution is suitable for the flat, which is planned to rent for the period of shrinkage, and in the case if there is a need to move in and live now.

At the stage of temporary repair, you can refuse to level the floor, simply covering it with plywood and putting budget laminate or linoleum on the walls—wallpaper, on the ceiling—paint, and in the bathroom—moisture-resistant panels. Choose aesthetic, but budget. This finish will be nice to look at, but getting rid of it should not be a pity when the active stage of shrinkage passes and you will decide on the final repair.

What about finishing from the builder? Do it, as a rule, before shrinkage, and therefore it can become a very temporary repair. But if you consider it as a permanent value, finishing from the builder can be a problem: under the wallpaper paint and tiles, you will not see possible defects.

If an idle flat or temporary renovation is not an option, try to minimise the effects of shrinkage by choosing flexible materials: vinyl wallpaper, flexible plaster, rubber paint, stretch ceilings, special fixing compounds and elastic sealant for ceramic tiles.

These materials can fight back the minor effects of shrinkage, but the keyword in that sentence, unfortunately, may be minor.

Even if the finish is of very high quality and the building is luxury—it is not a hundred per cent guarantee against deformation during shrinkage. Repair is not immune to mistakes that may have been made during construction. If there is an opportunity to delay the final repair, it is worth taking it.


Urban Splatter

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