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What is Shrinkage?

Here at New Build Inspections, we’ve seen everything snag related, whether that be doors not closing properly, to concerns of safety within a building. In this blog, we want to discuss what is shrinkage, including the difference between shrinkage and the settlement period, what the builders will have to do if the shrinkage is severe and when you should get in touch with us here at New Build Inspections.

What is shrinkage in comparison to the settlement period? 

In new buildings, it is common for the building to go through a stage of what is called ‘the settlement period’. You may have heard about this from a site manager telling you not to worry about shrinkage cracks or other shrinkage issues. 


In the eyes of a building survey, shrinkage can occur for 10 years. However, in reality, you shouldn’t notice the signs of shrinkage any later than 12 months after completion. 


Some of the signs that show shrinkage include: 

  • Doors not shutting properly
  • Cracks around the window sills
  • Cracking floor tiles upstairs 
  • Cracking in brickwork- outside


Both the foundation type and construction method of the house have an impact on the severity of the issues. All of these issues happen as a result of the house settling into its foundations and usually aren’t something to worry about. 


The reason that the shrinkage is commonly found around door frames, windows and staircases are because, in terms of structure, these are the weaker areas of the house. This is because, in these areas, there are openings. In comparison, shrinkage cracks will occur elsewhere.


Shrinkage problems tend to occur in other areas, such as cracks in brickwork, outdoor mortar and cracking floor tiles. This is the reason why you may have been advised against placing tiles upstairs in your new build – because they’re less likely to cope with the movement of the house. It is recommended to put a temporary floor in place, such as a lino and wait a year before placing any tiles down. 

What is shrinkage? 

Another problem, Shrinkage, is caused as a result of the construction materials drying out. In the snagging business, this is a whole different issue, as this, can be considered a ‘snag’ that should be fixed and paid for by the building contractors. 


Shrinkage often occurs at the tops of walls appearing as a crack of a width no less than 2mm. Shrinkage occurs over the period of several months and can be helped by creating ventilation spots in the property, to help dry these spots to dry. 


If this snag is found, what does the builder have to do? 

In the case that the crack is severe enough, the builders will have to do some repair work to get the building to look in top condition- how it should be. According to BRE, any cracks or shrinkage that is 5mm and less is considered minor and they, therefore, won’t do much about the problem. The NHBC have similar guidelines on this and will advise that anything less than 2mm is not a concern. Although this is true in some cases, if you feel that your new build has had significant shrinkage, you might benefit from getting a snagging survey. 


What is classed as significant shrinkage? 

If you notice that your home has cracks that are 3mm or bigger (roughly the size of a pound coin), then you should get in touch with us at New Build Inspections. We are a snagging company, that has industry knowledge and experience and can help liaise with the building contractors, making sure that your new build is completely up to scratch.

Can shrinkage be dangerous? 

Although seeing a crack can be alarming, try not to worry- the chances are that it’s nothing to worry about. It’s extremely unlikely that your home will be in any sort of danger or have a risk of excessive settlement, subsidence or heave related movement. However, we understand your concern and our snagging professionals here at New Build Inspections will be able to let you know if your house is at risk of safety. 

When should you contact us at New Build Inspections

If the crack is: 


  • more than 5mm wide 
  • wide at one end and narrow at the other
  • diagonal or stepped 
  • Is visible from both inside and outside of the property
  • Has significantly widened or lengthened since you first noticed it 

Thank you for reading our blog ‘What is shrinkage’. If you would like to find out more about our Snagging professionals, get in touch with New Build Inspections today.