Homes “crumbling” due to defective block

A Derry man with a house in Dunree in Inishowen has urged North West home owners to check for signs of cracking on external walls.

Philip McDaid is treasurer of the Mica Action Group, a home owner’s lobby group in the North West.

The members came together in January following a number of public meetings by a group of homeowners in Donegal, whose homes are produced with defective blocks.

The most common sign among these homes was web-like cracking on the external plaster of the house.

One of the contributory factors is believed to be a high level of the substance ‘Mica’ in the block, also known as Muscovite Mica.

This, when combined with low levels of cement and rain, can cause degradation.

The group’s members are now demanding a redress scheme be set up by the Irish government for those home owners affected, similar to the Pyrite scheme set up in Dublin.

Mr McDaid said the group knows of a small number of home owners who have had to leave their homes due to the severity of the cracking.

Others are living in fear of their houses crumbling.

The majority of the houses were built from the year 2000 onwards, although some houses built in the 1980s also display evidence.

“A lot of people affected are young couples with families,” said Philip.

“I know of one couple who had bad cracking to the chimney of their house. On a windy night, they’d have to move their children’s beds, as they were concerned the ceiling would fall in.”

Philip said the external walls of his house were particularly affected.

“The damage is more evident on there, as it’s more exposed to wind and rain,” said Philip.

“And, as the outer walls pull in, the damage begins in the internal walls, which can become damp. We have large vertical cracks from floor to roof in the inside corners, where each wall is pulling on the other.

Philip said those affected now owned houses “with little or no value” and could not obtain house insurance.

“The houses can’t be sold and people are paying mortgages on defective homes,” he said.

He added that the lack of building control standards in Ireland contributed to the problem.

“The only guideline is that blocks should be of fit for purpose,” said Philip.

“There’s no maximum or minimum level for Mica or concrete. There’s no standards as to what you can and can’t put into a block.

“Quarries also need to be inspected to ensure their blocks are fit for purpose.”

Philip said the group does not want to cause panic or alarm, but intends to collate all incidents of serious cracking and degradation.

The group’s chairperson is William McElhinney, from Moville, who said: “It is crucial people check their homes now for any sign of external cracking and get in touch with us if they spot any. This is a very serious problem and only action from the government can stop potentially thousands of people across Donegal from losing their homes. Check your house now before it is too late.”

The exact cause of the crumbling blocks isn’t known but some of the common symptoms of the defective building blocks include: sporadic web/mapped like cracking to external walls; cracks on external walls only; vertical cracks close to the corners which extend from the ground from the roof and horizontal cracks on the gables

Anyone who spots cracking on their home is urged to contact the Mica Action Group urgently on (00353) 86 864 8888 or e-mail