Cracked Wall - where to start?

We have a stone built property - in the Auvergne.

There was a crack at the top of one of the external walls, which has gradually travelled down the wall and got bigger (wider).

It is now at a point where if we were in England I’d be panicking - so I think we should do something about it.

Would I tell the insurers? Contact a builder? A surveyor?

Please could you offer some advice to us so that we don’t do thing the wrong way around.

Old property or new build?

Old property - thanks Anna - about 100 years old…

In that case I would start by contacting 3 reputable, local maçons and asking them to come out and inspect the crack and give an estimate for the work needed to make it good. Talk to them while they’re there to get as much info as possible about their diagnosis and their proposed remedy, then compare the three estimates. If they all make the same diagnosis and propose essentially the same solution, simples, just choose whichever you have most confidence in.
If they won’t commit themselves or if they arrive at different diagnoses and/or propose different solutions, or for some reason you don’t end up with a clear way forward, then I would probably start looking for a surveyor.
That’s what I would do but others may have more informed advice.
Depending what the diagnosis is but I don’t think the insurance would be interested unless there is a specific identifiable cause like a lorry ran into it, they don’t generally cover maintenance.



Anna may have given you exactly what is required. Personally I do not know what Masons are professionally capable of diagnosing in France…ie may be different country to country.

I would think that a building surveyor would be the first call, to inspect the property in detail.
From what you describe, it sounds like you have movement, possibly foundations - not sure how high wall is.
If you have noticed it in your time there - which is how it appears, I would contact one asap.

They will say where the problem is. A builder / Mason , or both could be involved to fix.
A builder if it is foundations… maybe Mason for some stonework after the cause is rectified.

The reason I would attempt to bypass the surveyor is that I think an experienced artisan maçon with local knowledge will likely be at least as competent of identifying the cause of the problem and the solution, as a general building surveyor. He will have built and repaired many walls and buildings in his time and will have intimate knowledge of local conditions that commonly make remedial work necessary. Plus, even if you have a surveyor’s report in your hand, a good artisan is still going to want to to form his own opinion and deal with it as he thinks best, since it’s his insurance that will guarantee the wall for the next ten years once he’s finished the job, I think this makes artisans very aware of their responsibility. If he thinks subsidence or foundation problems are the cause, I’m sure he’ll advise.


Hmm a French stone property of 100 years+ with foundations, that’s rare to begin with.
Any big trees nearby or ones that have been removed?
Any re roofing work done?
Crack at the top suggests movement from the roof structure/top of walls and not the not ground level.
It’s quite common for chainage ties to be used to prevent the walls spreading. (large iron pieces visible on many old buildings)


It used to be said (in the UK) that any crack that you couldn’t slide your hand into wasn’t a crack at all, it was settlement/a cosmetic issue, but that was before the 'lets build it next to a stream or over some old mine workings became acceptable.

Tend to go along with JW’s logic that if it’s stood over 100 years and now something is having a big effect on it, find out what that something is. If you’ve recently bought it, the previous owners will most likely know what’s wrong, although whether they’ll admit to knowing is debatable.

As a semi retired structural engineer & building surveyor the first thing that comes to mind is Foundation/footings issues. With out proper stabilisation of these, any repair work is futile. So If you have any photos as to its location and proximity to any streams or trees would be helpful in partly diagnosing the problem. Since the age of the home is 100 years old settlement can readily occur. Foundation stabilisation using cement soil injection would be a permanent solution. Once that has been achieved, then brick/stone stitching to the affected walls will also be a permanent repair method. - this is probably what your local building surveyor would diagnose, if he knows what he is doing. send us a photo & I would be happy to help. cheers


I reckon we would all be interested to see a photo of the property and the crack… :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

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Interesting Peter that your first thought is foundations/footings, yet the crack is at the top of the wall? Please explain your thought as to how the foundations/footings (if there are any) can move without a crack appearing low down at the point of most movement but can show some 5,6,or 7 meters up?

I endorse the need for a photo.

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Hi John - Rotation of footings in combination with settling is generally the cause, this in turn like a lever has a small effect at the bottom (short end of the lever) but a more magnified effect at the top of a wall (long end of the lever), especially if there are weak areas like openings in the vicinity. Roof spread is a possibility, if there is a lack of collar ties, and of course when walls have fractured vertically, and in the case of severe fractures or extensive bows in the length of a wall the use of the ties is a temporary measure (& even looks good in some heritage buildings), however which to me spells immediate visual trouble. The best proven way is to stiffen (solidify) the foundation to attain some sort of stability to that section of wall. In addition it is also worth while to have a look at the roof frame work, to see if due to the settlement the framework has not come adrift.

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Hi Sarah… so how thick are your walls … ??

Oh… and has there been any development/improvement work done on the roads or whatever near to you, which might have caused this cracking to occur?? (through vibrations etc)

Another possibility is “la sécheresse” … we have had drought conditions over the years, this causes the clay to shrink (or whatever)… anyway that is another angle and the Insurance might cover the cost if they agree to the cause.

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Thanks Peter, I get this with a 13" brick wall, I evidenced this on houses built on sand (the beach) at Eastbourne. Just surprised that on a stone/mud/cob wall of a section 600mm or more the same would occur unless something severe like underground water or tree root die back.

There are so many French buildings with restraint chainages I have almost always seen a bulge in the upper wall from roof movement as you also mentioned.

We’ll have to wait and see, thanks for your explanation. Out with the crack monitoring!

Gee Stella - you guys are hopeful that insurance might cover it - I had all sorts of issues with AXA when trees came down at the back of my place in Sillans-la-Cascade - I had to prove that there was a localised mini tornado in my area, as the insurance assessor flatly refused to acknowledge that fact (not surprised at his reaction). I had to prove that this was the case and I did, using the army’s weather stations peppered all around our area, which luckily for me showed that there was this unusual anomaly. and as it happened AXA covered the tree trunks & branches to be removed BUT NOT the roots which were left overturned on the property - hows that for being picky - good luck

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@PeterHuber …every situation is different and all policy details are different as well.

It is quite normal for “proof” to be asked for. This is why we encourage everyone, after a storm or major happening… to report damage to their property… to their Mairie, so that info can be collated to enable “proof” to be provided to Insurance companies.

One person saying “it tore the roof off” when none of the nextdoor neighbours were touched…does not hold as much weight as 6 neighbours all complaining about the same “storm”.

In the Original Poster’s case, if the crack is the result of work done eg the roads/drains… the Enterprise concerned will have insurance.

If the Area is certified as having problems due to the drought (ask at the Mairie)… then the householder’s Insurance company may well be prepared to cough up…depending on the cover the Householder pays for.

We do not know enough about this particular incident… I am just offering possibilities to see if anything might “ring a bell”…:grin:

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Yes I am learning fast, it is just that we are so used to an uncomplicated Insurance system, with customer fall-back to an Ombudsman if the insurance companies hide events in their small print.
surely its up to the Insurance companies assessor to do the investigation, not me who has paid the premium and expects service in return, that’s just beyond believe. - but I guess its France & “When In France do as the French do”

Here in Australia everything is above board and the customer is almost always right. Any way as you know the so called Mairie have little regard for outsiders, we are last on the list - and unless you know someone that speaks fluent french to do your bidding request & results are slow in materialising.

But you do have point, the behaviour of clay soil needs to be considered, especially if there is a variance in environmental conditions.

You seem to be a very knowledgeable lady and well worth keeping in touch with.


Ha ha Peter… the first thing to take on board is that … this is France. Forget whatever you knew about the country you have left…about how things were done there… This is a whole new learning curve.:crazy_face:

French life is really very simple… for those who grow up in it… but for us coming along a little bit later in life… well, as I say, don’t assume anything and be prepared to ask questions and discuss with neighbours, Mairie etc etc…

Do you have a problem with your Mairie?? They should be welcoming and helpful…if not… they won’t get your vote next time, will they… :wink:

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So not to confuse you Stella - I still live in Australia and my Villa in Sillans, is just a holiday home, I only visit France for about three months of the year, a couple in Switzerland and the balance back in Australia.

My wife is the Francophile in the family I just tag along and do the repairs, pay the bills & wrestle with the bureaucracy, which took me some time to get used to, then I enjoy the lay back French lifestyle, enjoy good company & the friendships we have made here.

So I won’t complain any more after a few good wines all is well. But, if I may, I would like to keep in touch with you as you appear to be so knowledgeable & helpful. By the way which region do you live in ?
cheers & good night from Australia

Hi Peter

I’m in Nouvelle Aquitaine… and you can message me any time through this forum… if I can help, I certainly will.:grin: