Structural Damage

Quick Summary

Structural issues, foundational cracks and water damage are problems you can’t ignore. These issues are often easy to spot, but sometimes the damage is hidden and worse than you think. Learn more about structural damage, when to call a professional and if your insurance will cover the costs.

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Structural Damage Overview

Structural damage is any type of damage that affects the core integrity of your home, especially your roof and load-bearing walls.


Load-bearing walls are crucial to a home’s structure, and they are what carry the majority of your home’s weight.

Without these walls, your home would collapse. Leaning windows and door frames are common signs of a structurally weakened home.

High winds are the typical culprit for this damage, but intense floods have also been known to cause structural damage. Windstorms and flood damage stress metal fasteners and 2×4’s in your home, causing them to buckle. Water damage may also undermine a structure’s integrity by rusting and weakening foundational metal structures.

Doors and windows that don’t open like they once did are strong signs of structural damage. A shifted door frame can indicate a shift in the overall structure.

Other Things to Look For:

  • Cracks in wood structures
  • Hard to open doors and windows
  • Damaged wires, pipes, and gas lines
  • Wet insulation
  • Wet electrical circuits
  • Rust seeping out of cracks
  • Cracks in foundation

On the surface, structural damage may seem minor. A door or window that’s a little tougher to open doesn’t seem like a big deal. But it could indicate more significant, underlying damage. Hidden damage can cause irreversible, long-term damage to a home. It also compromises the safety of your home.

Home Structure Damage Causes

Structural damage to your home can occur for many reasons but is often caused by water damage. Your home, or any building, may have structural damage if the roof or any load-bearing walls have been compromised. The damage may have come from a water leak, an intense storm with high winds, flooding or other natural disasters.

No matter the cause, it’s imperative to ensure your home is restored to building code requirements.

Water and storm damage are often the culprits leading to structural issues. A leaky pipe or roof may seem like a minimal issue at first, but can have long-term effects on your home’s integrity.

“Most structural damage is obvious. Visual inspection is the best way to initially find structural damage”, according to Jerome Connor, a structural engineering professor at MIT.

Additionally, water can saturate soil and cause foundation support issues and wood damage, increasing the likelihood of structural instability.

Structural problems put your home at risk for collapsing. Hairline cracks in walls, drywall, the ceiling and roof are tell-tale signs that your home may have structural issues. And while structural problems are never good, many are easy to fix and repair.

Signs of Structural Damage to Your House

One of the first signs of structural damage to your home could be spotting water damage. Water spots and stains in the ceiling, roof, walls or drywall could suggest structural issues. Knowing what to look for and immediately addressing these serious problems can save you a lot of time, money and stress.

First, take a look at your roof from a distance.

Does anything seem lopsided, slanted, damaged or saggy? 

Another way to tell if your house has structural problems is to inspect your driveway and yard for cracks and keep an eye out for any broken wires or pipes. Additionally, you may just consider doors and windows that are difficult to open a nuisance, but they could indicate a more severe problem.

Ignoring small signs of structural issues can result in major expenses down the road, sometimes requiring an engineer. What may seem minor to your eye may actually be a significant problem in your foundation. You could risk extensive damage to your home, costly repairs or your home could even collapse.

Foundation Water Damage

Water damage to a home’s foundation can happen for a variety of reasons. Not all water issues cause structural damage, but it’s essential to correct any foundation damage before it becomes a concern to your home’s overall structural integrity.

A home may have water damage if there’s water seepage in small cracks in the foundation or basement or crawl space walls.

Structural damage can occur when the water damage is ignored or if it’s extensive. The home can sink into the ground and compromise its stability. Additionally, if flooding occurs, your walls and foundation could be damaged by hydrostatic pressure.

It’s imperative to ensure your home is completely dried as quickly as possible if you experience any flooding. The longer the water sits, the more extensive the damage will be. If the area isn’t dried thoroughly, your home is at risk for mold and becoming structurally unsound.

Roof Water Damage

Water damage to the roof can sometimes be challenging to spot, mainly because the roof leak is often not where the water stains appear. Missing shingles and stains on the ceilings are suggestive signs that you might have roof water damage. Be sure to check your attic for signs of water, as well.

Roof water damage indicators include:

  • Cracks and tears in the roof
  • Moldy, splitting or curling wood shingles/shakes
  • Rusty or damaged roof flashings

Putting off fixing a leaky roof can have serious risks and can be incredibly costly. A water leak in the roof can encourage mold and mildew, causing serious health issues. Additionally, a roof leakage can damage the roof truss system, including the ceiling joists, framing, fascia boards and rafters.

If you don’t address the leak right away, your rafters can begin to rot and soften. Problems with electrical circuits are also common with leaky roofs, potentially causing damage to the wires or, worse, to spark.

Wood Water Damage

Water and wood don’t mix well when the wood isn’t properly sealed. If your home starts to smell moldy or musty, your home’s framing might have been damaged by water infiltration.

When water is in contact with unprotected wood for an extended period of time, the wood will start to rot.

Whether this occurs from rain or a major flooding incident, your home’s framing could lose its structural integrity. Rotting load-bearing walls put your home at risk for collapsing, so be sure to keep an eye out for any soft or brittle wood around your home.

Metal Water Damage

Water can also break down the metal and cause metal fabricated homes to rust. Rust is a sign of corrosion and decayed metal.

Rust breaks down and deforms the metal and can deform any material it comes in contact with.

A rusted rebar rod can even crack a concrete foundation. Over time, this damage can compromise the structural stability of a home. Keep an eye out for rust on steel lintels above metal window and door frames, steel-reinforced foundations, sheet metal fireplace inserts and steel plumbing pipes.

Repairing Structural Damage

Home structural repair should be done as soon as possible to avoid further damage or developing more severe problems. Whether you experienced a water leak or noticed structural issues in your home, you’ll want to get a professional to assess the damage.

You may think the damage is minimal and can be easily fixed on your own, but experts are trained to see problem areas that you might not recognize.

Additionally, many homes with structural issues, especially older homes, also have problems you cannot handle yourself, such as asbestos contamination. If you’re unsure what type of expert you’ll need, keep reading to learn more about the different types of professionals you can call on.

Structural Contractors

Structural contractors are general contractors that can not only complete handyman work or roofing issues, but they also specialize in home additions, foundation work and home remodeling or repairs.

Structural contractors have experience in load-bearing walls and building codes. These contractors may sometimes work with structural engineers and have them review plans for consideration.

You’ll want to hire a structural contractor if you have interior damage that needs restoration, as well as if your home has structural damage. Be sure to confirm that your contractor is insured and properly licensed.

Structural Engineers

It’s often difficult to know when you need to hire a structural engineer vs. a structural contractor.

Structural engineers use math, science and house plans to guide contractors on a home’s stability, particularly regarding load-bearing walls, soil and foundation issues, structural strength and capacity and more.

Additionally, assessments from structural engineers are typically highly valued for insurance purposes.

Water Damage Restoration Companies

Water leaks generally cause interior damage, varying from structural problems to minor stains. Regardless of the extent of damage you think is done, it’s important to have an expert carefully evaluate the situation.

Water damage often leads to mold, damaged wood and sagging drywall.

Water restoration companies can help you with water removal, drying and dehumidification, restoring and cleaning carpet, removing mold and odors and even some reconstruction.

Does Home Insurance Cover Structural Problems?

If you’ve wondered if homeowner’s insurance covers foundation damage or what is considered structural damage, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t simple. Your home insurance may or may not cover structural problems and repair—this is commonly a controversial issue.

Typically, the cause of the structural problems, as well as your location, will determine whether your insurance company will pay for repairs.

For example, foundation issues caused by plumbing backups, fires and explosions may be covered under your policy. Still, structural issues caused by earth movement, such as an earthquake, could be at your expense, especially if you live in an earthquake-prone area. If you live in a high-risk flooding or earthquake region, you’ll want to proactively consider additional structural insurance coverage.

Also, the cause of the structural damage, or worse, collapse of the home, must not be considered due to the homeowner’s negligence. This is why it’s so important to inspect your home annually or bi-annually for structural damage. Homeowners insurance doesn’t generally cover wear and tear of the foundation, so be sure to stay on top of any aging foundation or roofing issues.

What Steps Can I take if I have Structural Damage to My Home?

Inspect Your Roof First

Your roof is a good starting point when inspecting a home for structural damage. If there’s damage, you’ll probably be able to see sagging in the ridge of your roof. The ridge may sag in the middle or at the ends of the edge.

The best way to inspect your roof is from a distance. Standing farther away from your home gives you more perspective to see irregularities in your roof. A damaged roof indicates damage to the frame supporting the roof.

If you still suspect structural damage, look for the windows and doors in your home that don’t open and close as they should.

Repairing Structural Damage

Fixing a house with structural damage is a complicated job that varies greatly. Some homes may simply need joints and fasteners while others require entirely rebuilt load-bearing walls.

An initial visual inspection by you or a building inspector may not be enough to determine the extent of home repairs. Civil engineering consultants can determine weak points in a structure that need to be addressed. If you don’t properly brace your home before starting repairs, you could further damage your home.

DIY Repairs

Some people familiar with construction work find it worth their time to make their own repairs. This isn’t recommended, even with relatively minor repairs.

If you have an older home, asbestos is a likely concern for you. Houses built prior to the 1980’s were built with asbestos-containing materials. These materials don’t pose a threat when they remain undisturbed, but you could expose yourself and your family to deadly asbestos fibers if you don’t know what to look for.

More Things to Look For:

  • Other concerns when repairing structural damage include:
  • Registering for building permits
  • Using additional bracing to prevent the collapse of roof or walls
  • Discovering more damage than anticipated

Hiring Professional Help

If your home has suffered flooding or structural issues, don’t wait to get an expert to evaluate the damage. Hiring professional help prevents the destruction from escalating into unnecessary, additional wear and costs for structural damage repair. A sense of urgency can even help your case when claiming damages to your insurance company.

Depending on your home’s type of structural damage, you’ll want to find a reliable, trusted, licensed and insured professional.

Keep in mind that the extent of the damage will affect the cost, so if you can spare the time, request a quote from a few different contractors. A reliable and experienced expert will know how water damage can be devastating to you and your family and will react with urgency and compassion.

How Much Does It Cost?

Repairing structural damage can cost upwards of $10,000 or cost as little as several hundred dollars. Most homeowners can expect to spend between $1,763 and $5,880, according to data collected by HomeAdvisor.

The cost of structural repairs is hard to estimate without a thorough inspection, but you shouldn’t wait to make repairs. Structural damage gets worse the longer it’s ignored. The cost of repairs is nothing compared to how much structural damage devalues your home’s market price.

Find a local water damage restoration expert near you.

Water Damage Advisor

The Water Damage Advisor content team is made up of multiple contributors, writers, and editors. We are your resource hub for anything related to water damage, mold and restoration needs that you may be challenged with facing.

10 References
  1. The LSU Ag Center. (2005) Determining Structural Damage and Preparing for Repairs After a Storm.
  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (2013) Is there a way to check a building for structural damage without knocking down walls?
  3. Home Guides. (2016) How to Know If There is Structural Damage to a Home.
  4. Home Advisor. (2016) How Much Does it Cost to Repair a Foundation?
  5. Consumer Reports. (2020). How to clean your home after a flood.
  6. Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification. (2019). When pipes burst - tips to prevent water damage.
  7. Family Handyman. (2019). 12 Tips for Water Damage Repair.
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Inspection. (2017). Homeowner’s and Renter’s Guide to Mold Cleanup After Disasters.
  9. Inspection Certification Associates. (2015). Rust is more than just ugly ; it’s a home inspection defect.
  10. Allstate Insurance Company. (2020). Does Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Foundation Repairs?
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