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Question DetailsAsked on 10/8/2016

Is small hairline crack in newly constructed ceiling running along the joints and seems normal?

I recently remodeled our kitchen about 5 months ago. We put in cathedral ceilings with a slope. I have noticed that there is a small straight hairline crack along the joint were the ceiling begins its slope. I know that settling on new construction can cause some minor cracking, especially along joints and seems were they are voulnerable. I just wanted to make sure that this is normal and not a reason to worry. Once again the crack is about a foot long and no wider then a hair. It is located in the seem that runs along were the ceiling slope starts and it is a newer construction

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Depending on how your house was built, pretty common. This normally occurs where you described it (at top of a vertical wall meeting sloping ceiling) when the framing for the ceiling does not actually bear on the wall - it carries on to another bearing point or is carried on a beam above the wall. However, can also happen seasonally as the peaked or arched ceiling framing dries and absorbs moisture over the seasons - more commonly in cases with no "attic" over the ceiling to provide deep insulation, so the wood experiences more seasonal expansion and contration than normal horizontal ceilings below attics. Especially common where the cathedral ceiling is fastened direcxtly to the trusses or rafters that also support the roof - because then they "see" more ambient moisture and temperature (and hence in-wood moisuture) changes, which result in movement. Can also flex under snow load, causing cracking - though that more commonly occurs at the peak of the arched or peaked ceiling, but depends on the overall framing system configuration.


This can mean (unless the architect really knew his business and deliberately tied them together at the wall, including that change in support conditions in the structural analysis) that the wall and ceiling framing are disconnected other than maybe with some toenailing or truss clips or hurricane ties. Enter normal movement of the ceiling framing or settlement of the floor framing (assuming this wall is sitting on the subfloor without another wall or foundation running directly under it) and the wall commonly settles an eighth or quarter of an inch - or the ceiling joists/rafters can arch up with increased moisture in the damp season. Some of this will be compensated for by normal sagging of the ceiling framing, so generally you get a hairline crack rather than a wide-open crack, though that can happen too, especially in A-frame or chalet- houses where the wall in question is not load-bearing. Is also aggravated (generally in new construction or additions) if the framing wood (from supplier, site stacked, or after framing) was allowed to sit out in the weather and not closed in rapidly so the wood picked up a lot of moisture, and then shrinks once the HVAC system goes into use.


Commonly, knowledgeable contractors/architects use a high-strength reinforced drywall tape in that sort of location (and generally in any non-perpendicular joining of surfaces) to minimize that type of drywall cracking potential.


My recommendation for a "permanent fix", particularly with new construction (or new remodel or addition) and most especially when the cracking is straight and along a drywall seam, is to get it patched all along that wall with reinforced fiberglass tape and maybe (or maybe not) touched up with paint (some wait to see) and wait and see if it reopens.


Or since so short now just patch with mixed spackle or drywall compound pressed in with your finger and then wiped off clean at an angle with a damp rag (at an angle to avoid gouging out the new patch material) and touch up the paint if needed. If fixed that way the crack will likely propogate further over time (from one or both ends of this area and in that case probably recracking in this location too) so you may have several such repairs to do over the next couple of years - or possibly indefinitely.


Whether you DIY or call the builder to do it depends on how secure you feel getting up there on a ladder, how good a relationship you have with the builder, and whether the job is still under warranty. Even if under warranty, the builder may say that this is normal cracking and not cover it - or may patch it once as a customer satisfaction measure.


One thing NOT to do without the designing architect/structural engineer's approval - physically tying the wall and joists/rafters together with Simpson type anchor clips where they meet at the top of the wall, because if not designed for that connection it can lead to stress concentration which could damage the roof framing.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD




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