Difference Between Joints and Faults (With Table)

Natural phenomena can be heavily destructive sometimes. These are always caused due to a reason and result in a consequence. It can, whether be mere or disastrous. Geology is the term or study that lets one know about the structure, evolution and dynamics of the Earth and the energy resources associated with it. This is why it is commonly known as Earth Science. Joints and Faults are two natural phenomena that are caused within rocks.

Joints vs Faults

The difference between Joints and Faults is that Joints are small or tiny cracks that occur in the rock formation, whereas, Faults are quite big cracks in the rock formation that cover a large area. Unlike Faults, the Joints have no movement and usually go unnoticed, while Faults have lateral movement.

Joints are caused when a rock is stretched more than it can hold, so it breaks. These cracks are so tiny that most of the time, they are not acknowledged. But they carry the potential of causing danger to lives and society. When dirt accumulates over the rocks for over a long period, it results in the increase of the mass of rock which in turn leads to its breakage due to cracks.

On the other hand, Faults are powerful cracks formed in the rocks. They can extend over a large area due to their lateral movement. They have the potential of causing massive earthquakes and tsunami. This happens because Faults are formed due to the constant movement of plates under the Earth’s surface.

Comparison Table Between Joints and Faults

Parameters of ComparisonJointsFaults
Definition Joints are tiny cracks formed in the rocks. Faults are strong cracks formed in the rocks.
Movement These cracks have little or no movement. These have a lateral movement that can spread over large areas.
DisplacementThe displacement is nil. There is displacement due to the lateral movement.
Reason of FormationThese are formed when more than the required stretching of rocks occurs. These are formed due to constant tectonic movement under the Earth’s surface.
ThreatsThey do not pose any dangerous threat to the environment. They can result in deadly earthquakes.

What are Joints?

Earth’s crust is a place of several surprising and undiscovered elements. Those elements make and break things that go on above and below the Earth’s surface. The surface is stacked with plates. These plates keep things in place.

Joints are known as the cracks that get formed within these plates while rocking formation. Basically, these are gaps that are formed within the rocks. When a rock goes through stretching that’s more than its holding capacity, Joints are formed. This happens due to continuous dirt accumulation over rocks during formation, which increases their mass.

Although cracks in the rocks pose adverse threats to human civilisation, the Joints are not that dangerous. They do not possess the potential to cause something like an earthquake. However, they can lead to bigger fractures over time which can cause dangerous natural phenomena. Unlike Faults, the Joints have little or no movement. Therefore, their displacement is also zero.

Overall, Joints are tiny cracks that should not be ignored. Required precautions and prevention methods should be undertaken so that they do not get formed in the first place and do not lead to anything destructive.

What are Faults?

Discontinuities or fractures in the Earth’s surface are caused very commonly. Sometimes, they go unnoticed and sometimes are treated. However, these things are vast and complicated. Even scientists take years to study and get to know about them fully.

Faults are such discontinuities that get formed in rock formations. In other words, while the rocks are formed, sometimes, gaps tend to occur between them due to various reasons. These gaps are nothing but Faults. They are formed when tectonic forces indulge in constant movement under the Earth’s crust. They occur as powerful or thorough cuts between large-sized rocks and lead to the division of plates.

Faults carry the potential of causing earthquakes and tsunami. The world has seen recent examples of it too. Faults are subject to lateral movement, which is caused by tectonic forces. The displacement occurs according to the direction of the movement. It can move sideways, upwards as well as downwards.

Faults are bigger and very impactful cracks in the rocks. They can spread over miles due to heavy displacement. They can be little to extremely severe depending on the potential of tectonic forces. Therefore, proper and frequent preventive measures should be taken so that such things do not occur.

Main Differences Between Joints and Faults

  1. Joints are tiny cracks formed in rocks, while Faults are larger cracks in the rocks.
  2. Faults have lateral movement due to tectonic forces, but Joints have little or no movement.
  3. Faults can spread over large areas, while Joints have no displacement.
  4. Joints are formed due to vigorous stretching of rocks, which increases their masses, whereas, Faults get formed due to the constant movement of tectonic forces in the Earth’s crust.
  5. Faults are more dangerous in comparison and are capable of causing deadly earthquakes, while Joints often go unnoticed.


Natural phenomena are inevitable and can turn into disasters in seconds. The damage they cause to the environment and lives become irreparable most of the time. This is why people fear the formation of natural phenomena like earthquakes, tsunami, cyclones, floods etc.

Talking about earthquakes, they are caused due to disturbances in the Earth’s crust. The Earth’s crust is made up of plates stacked upon each other. When these plates are displaced, there is a change in their positions which causes an imbalance. This further results in an earthquake. Such disturbances are caused due to small cracks in the rock formation. Joints and Faults are two types of cracks formed.

Joints are tiny, while Faults are bigger cracks that can extend over miles. They are termed as discontinuities or gaps. Although these are small, they are capable of causing severe damages if ignored. In order to prevent them, proper and frequent checks should be run so that any such disastrous events do not occur.


  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0266352X01000180
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0013795265900049
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