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Cracking cornices and plaster cracks are a common feature that often occur naturally in a new home.  Ground movement and natural settling can occur with minor cracks appearing in walls or cornices, often several years after the house has been completed.

Many homebuyers incorrectly believe that this type of cracking is the builders’ responsibility to rectify.  Under the Builders’ Registration Act (1939) a builder is responsible for any faulty and defective work for a period of six years after practical completion.  However the builder’s liability will not extend to purely maintenance items which are the owners responsibility.  Just like a new car, you would not expect the manufacturer after say 3 or 4 years to fix a cracking seal, you cannot expect a builder to be responsible for minor cornice or plaster cracking years after the home has been completed and lived in.

Whether the builder is responsible or not for cracking can depend to some extent on the size of the cracking or extent of the problem.  The key is whether it can be determined that the defect is due to faulty and defective building work.  This will often require an inspection by an independent expert or an inspector from the Builders’ Registration Board.  Without looking at the job it is impossible to give a precise answer as to who has the liability for these types of minor defects.

If you have a cracking problem, the best option is to contact your builder to arrange an inspection to determine the extent of the problem and its likely cause.  If you are unhappy with the builders’ response, you should contact the Builders’ Registration Board (Tel 9476 1200) to arrange a Board inspector to examine the building work to determine where the problem is and who has the responsibility to repair the defect.

22 responses to “Cracking Cornices and Plaster Cracks”

  1. Chris Christou says:

    Please advise if eggshell type (or map cracking) cracking to set coat to walls is the Builders responsibility to repair. The original painting to the walls was carried out by the owner .The house was built handed over 2010.


    • mbawa says:

      Hi Chris,

      Plaster cracking is one of the most contentious areas between builder & client. Issues like cracking, the size of cracks and whether the problem is purely a maintenance item due to wear and tear ( and therefore owners responsibility) or genuine faulty and defective work ( builders responsibility ) are very common. A lack of relevant Australian Standard adds to the confusion as to what is acceptable or not in relation to cracking.
      If your view is that the cracking is part of the normal post construction process you should respond as such. The client would need to obtain an independent building report to justify any complaint to the Building Commission.

      We hope that you are able to resolve this matter.

      Kind Regards,
      Gavin Forster

  2. Michael says:

    How long is the maintance period after buying a new villa?
    Is there a service for master builder to Report what the builder will need to ‘make good’

  3. Amber Ward says:

    If the cracking is extensive, running down walls and around cornices in 7 different areas of the home would this be deemed builders responsibility. They have repaired once, but are now saying that it is cosmetic. The cracks are not hairline, some close to 10mm.

  4. Jo Turner says:

    The cornice in the bathroom is cracking and there run cracks in the plaster above the doorway and cabinets. The doorway seems to be dropping as door sticks when fully closed and adjoining door to ensuite wardrobe has dropped as well going the opposite direction. Who do l contact to get it checked? And how much will it likely cost for it to be checked?

  5. Danny Diss says:

    Hi , I have just at the lock up stage and noted some cracks over the ceilings and cornices with 2-3 mm separation. Would compaction out side the house cause building to move? I did some sand compaction over the week end and noted cracking on Monday. Should builder rectify these prior to the handover?

  6. Heather says:

    My house was handed over in July 2010 now my cornices are cracking in most rooms and I’ve just notice where my ceiling gas vent is in the main living area it is cracked quiet bad from one side to thhe cornice and the same on the opposite side of the vent. Would this be the builders problem or mine? I’m not sure how they can say wear and tear on ceilings and cornices? It’s not like you are walking over it or even touching it.
    Thanks for any help

  7. Rommel Octavo says:

    Please advse if cornice cracking almost everywhere in the newly built house which already appeared during PC is builder’s responsibility to rectify. Cheers.

  8. Zeb says:

    G’day, just want to get some info before i go back to the builder. Is the builder responsible for any cracks that happen during the 6 month warranty? Also can the plaster on the walls be tested to see if it has the correct mix?

  9. Sandra Muehlberg says:

    I had issues with a dropping ceiling and consequent ceiling and cornice cracks. The Building Commission decided in my favor and the builder had to rectify . Remedial works were done twice, once during the 6-year warranty period and then 4 years later as a result of the BC orders. Patched cracks and cornices pulling apart and away from the wall are once again reappearing. According to professional called out this is because topping was originally used to repair (this is reportedly a finishing product and not suitable for this type of repair). Additionally it appears that in a lot of areas patching was done over the old topping which was already in places flaking which worsened the problem. Is this the builders or owners issue. Also I was informed by SAT ( the builder took the BC order for appeal and then withdrew) that all remedial work has a further 6 year warranty but have nothing in writing and the file has been closer. Is this true?

  10. Evelyn says:

    This cracking has been on going since we moved in to the new home. the last person that came to repair it two year ago applied filler on the sealing, promised to come back and paint it after three days but never turn up till today. it so bad that I feel embarrass whenever we have people visiting us.
    I have inquired other family and friends that build around the same time with us but non of them got this experience.

  11. Wolfgang Hotze says:

    We registered a crack a yr ago starting with a bathroom floortile. Now another 4 tiles are affected. The crack seems to extend diagonal through the bathroom. (handover of the house was in 2012)
    Is this still the builder’s responsibility ?

  12. Jamie says:

    Hi there,
    I am having issues with my painted walls which have hairline cracks throughout. I have contacted builder and they believe it is normal wear. I am however not satisfied with the result and just wondering if i can get an inspector to make sure it is normal for the walls to crack to this extent.