Reliability of crack detection methods for baseline condition assessments

Debra F. Laefer, Jane Gannon, Elaine Deely

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite billions of dollars of annual exposure from claims and litigation related to construction-induced damage, there are no quantitatively based, agreed upon standards or procedures as to what constitutes due diligence with respect to a preconstruction, condition assessment. Similarly, the relative accuracy, reliability, and costs for various inspection approaches are not well established. This paper compares the relative performance capabilities of crack detection by sidewalk-based manual inspection with digital photography, terrestrial Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), and elevated manual inspections based on two brick and two concrete buildings (8.2-14.3 m high) in Dublin, Ireland. Results showed that nonmanual methods tended to overpredict crack widths by at least 5 mm and underestimate crack lengths by one-half. Digital photography, however, detected the shortest cracks (as short as 17 mm) and had no significant decline in accuracy beyond 12 m high, which has the added benefit of generating a permanent objective record. The terrestrial LiDAR proved neither particularly accurate nor cost-effective at the selected point density of less than 2mm×2mm. Finally, operator-based reliability problems emerged with all methods with discrepancies of at least 11%. Overall, digital photography taken and archived, but not analyzed, was the most cost-effective, accurate, and reliable approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number007002QIS
Pages (from-to)129-137
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Infrastructure Systems
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2010


  • Bricks
  • Cracking
  • Defects
  • Digital techniques
  • Field investigations
  • Imaging techniques
  • Masonry
  • Nondestructive tests
  • Site evaluation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering


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