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Question DetailsAsked on 2/12/2017

Cracks where ceiling beam meets wall

Have recently noticed new cracks where our main ceiling beam hits our exterior wall. Is it something to worry about?

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4 Answers

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Here are links to a number of previous similar questions about cracking drywall/plaster which might help - the first link also tells how to post a few photos which might a more informed answer - will keep an eye open for such a posting to give my two bits worth on how critical I think they might or might not be: (sorry about the ... lines but Angies List computer is removing paragraph breaks AGAIN !!!

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Generally speaking - though a Structural Engineer would be needed for a definitive assessment (typically $250-400 for a site visit, more if remedial design is needed) - if slowly developing cracks (many weeks to months or years) generally a settlement or gradual sag rather than major structural problem till it gets pronounced. Hairline cracks generally are a wait-and-see situation unless diagonally across the field and more than a foot or two long. Also, if cracking is accelerating (mark the crack ends and date with a pencil to track growth) much more concern than otherwise. if cracks are following drywall joints or small more horizontal than vertical diagonal cracks off the top corners of doors almost always less critical than high-angle (closer to vertical) or diagonal cracks across the sheets (or across main field of plaster walls). If reflecting on the outside of the building as disjointed siding, newly cracked concrete or brick, or creases in siding generlaly indicates a serious issue needing immediate assessment. If in a relatively short period of time you are having crack growth, sounds of creaking or cracking in the framing (usually more noticeable at night when it is quiet indoors and out), sticking doors or windows then you should get a professional evaluation.

Answered 1 year ago by LCD

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One thing I forgot to mention - crushing of drywall causing pieces ro fall out of the cracks, or crushing under the beam would definitely be bad and urgent.


Also - if this beam (assuming an exposed beam at the peak of the roof) passes through the outside wall as an exposed beam, could just be shrinkage from cold dry winter air drying it out, if the cracking is just tension cracks opening up right around and in direct contact with it. Ditto if it is a pretty new house (first year or so) because that large a beam would be expected to shrink as much as (depending on original moisture level and on whether the framing sat out in the rain for a long time or not during construction) from 1/8-1/4" in dimension once it is exposed to dryer "interior" conditions.

Answered 1 year ago by LCD

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Have attached photos of the beam and the cracks where it meets the wall on both ends, thanks!


The last image is from far away sorry, its a double height space.But they are hairline cracks on one vertical side of the beam and continuing below it for maybe a foot, as well as under it running horizontally.


Also worth noting that im in northern california, so we have had a heap of rain recently after such a long drought, so i thought it might be a soil problem, but even if so, is it a real issue or fine to leave?


Appreciate any help!

Answered 1 year ago by fb1000

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From the good photos you sent, this looks perfectly normal to me - due to gradual settlement of the house as it ages, moisture changes over the winter, etc. You could repair the cracks - I would use a paintable latex caulk (more flexible so will not recrack so easy) and touch up the paint, then see if they regrow or get larger which might mean you have a settlement issue.


Also - you might start getting hairline cracks where the ceiling meets the beam - again, as long as they are right along the beam and hairline, and you don't see ceiling drywall cracking or nail/screw popouts, I would just seal them up with spackle or caulk (caulk less likely to recrack soon) to keep indoor air out of the attic, and touch up the paint. in many houses these sort of cracks reappear every year or few but without growing, so it may be that repair is a losing battle - but a good paintable latex caulk will commonly give enough that you can reduce the patching interval to more like every 5-10 years.


Generally, with cracks like that, I would start looking for a settlement cause if you see drywall crushing, the cracks open up to more than a few millimeters (more than a pencil tip in width), or especially if they start travelling diagonally past those corners of walls right next to the beam ends. That little hook on the first photo is no problem because it is angling for the free corner there - but if it starts traversing more than a 1/4-1/2" down the wall then I would start looking for a cause. The expert for that would be a Structural Engineer.


Two things I would do now just to be on the safe side, though I certainly see no reason for concern at this time:


1) if the support columns at the end of the beam are visible in basement or crawlspace, jsut be sure there is no sign of the foundations for them settling or tilting, or sitting in wet ground. And that the support columns (any visible portion) look OK - not rotting, mildewy, insect eaten, etc.


2) if you can get into the attic (if there is headroom) or if you can use a very bright (like 6V lantern flashlight) light to look up through the eaves while standing on a ladder, check the beam area for any moisture from room/ridge vent leakage - though I do not think this is from moisture in the attic.

Answered 1 year ago by LCD




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