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Question DetailsAsked on 2/16/2015

I have a 2nd floor ceiling crack in the middle of the entry way.

The ceiling of the 2nd floor in the open entry way has a crack and follows the sheetrock seam to form a box of a crack of an on going crack. I am puzzled why the crack is located in the middle of the ceiling. The home is 3 years old and is it due to roof moving or shifting? Please provide some advise.

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The center of a joist/truss span is a normal place for a crack, especially if following a drywall seam, for four reasons:

1) sheet seams are the weak point in the drywall, so any shrinkage or tension tends to break there first


2) the joists and hence drywall are generally tightly held at the walls (certainly at the outer ones), so accumulated bending or shrinkage stain accumulates toward the center of the span, causing cracking typically perpendicular to the trusses/joists at or near the center of the span.


3) the tension stress (and hence strain) from carrying the roof load is commonly the greatest especially in the floor joist and in many cases also in the bottom chord of a truss at its center, so the drywall is being pulled apart the most there, so that is where cracks commonly show up the first (and generally only there if due to joist sag).


4) wood trusses and joists creep with age, creating a sag in the middle of their span that can commonly reach a couple of inches across a full outer wall to outer wall span in older homes. As with above, the sag causes the greatest strain at the center of the span, causing first drywall cracking there, which tends to try to follow the weaker joints perpendicular to the joists - though if the drywall was staggered in placement like it should be, then may follow a joint to the adjacent sheet and then follow that edge joint to the next cross joint at the end of the staggered sheet, resulting in a rectangular or "box" zigzagging across the ceiling - or more commonly will just break relatively straight through the staggered sheet and pick up following the next sheet seam at the other size of the staggered sheet.


Another rare cause of drywall ceiling cracks is overloading from wet attic insulation, though generally you get staining with that as well, and commonly some drywall nail/screw popouts or rusting as well, and commonly will get the drywall sagging away from the joists as the screws or nails start pulling through the drywall.


3-5 years old is a real common time for cracks like yours to appear, as the house goes through its primary settling in of foundations and compression strain of walls under roof and upper story loading. Winter is also a very common time for top floor ceiling issues like this (if attic is unheated), as dryer winter air dries out the roof support members, so they shrink, taking the fastened-on drywall with them - which commonly cracks because it is pretty brittle.


Also - if you have had unusually heavy snow in your area this year, especailly if staying on roof longer than usual, heavier snow load causes more stress in the joists or bottom truss chords that your ceiling drywall if fastened to, so if may be stretching out more than ever before and causing the cracks.


Obviously, it would be a good idea to go up in the attic and look for any signs of distress - disconnected or peeled-away truss plates, significantly sagging rafters or joists (say more than maybe 1/2-1 inch total sag across attic span especially if some are noticeably sagging more than the others), "soft" or "springy" feeling floor joists, signs of water dripping or sagging or wet insulation, etc. When up there, if there is no flooring, be sure not to step on any wiring, or on the drywall ceiling as you will fallthrough - stay only on the wood framing.


Generally speaking, small cracks (1/8" opening or less) in ceiling drywall, especially if along joints rather than meandering through the drywall sheets, is not cause for immediate alarm and would normally just be patched with spackle or drywall compound and painted over - possibly every few years for the first 10 years or so, after whioch mosst houses pretty much have settled down.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD




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