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Question DetailsAsked on 3/19/2016

Drywall cracked in all seams of ceiling in 6 month old house. Moisture in attic? leaving thermostat down to low?

Our lake house was finished in July and we started seeing cracks in the 2 story ceiling great room ceiling. in November and by February every ceiling seam had cracked, and the cracks extended over into the loft which is only 8 ftt High. There were a few cracks on the wall in the great room also. And a minor crack in a . Some of these seams had cracked in the spring a couple of months after installation but before the painters came. This 2nd time it was a mess to fix because we had hardwoods. Furniture etc. We just got thus repaired (at the sheetrockers expense) I don't want this to happen again. I gotta find the cause.

There is a difference of opinion on what the cause is. Builder says it's the sheet rock guys problem and vice versa.
I did research am wondering about (1) moisture in attic due to poor ventilation. , (2) truss lift. (3) settling and movement(4) leaving thermostat at 50 degrees when we are not there.

What is the acceptable level of humidity in attic?

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3 Answers


also every seam was cracked horizontally in the two story gratroom

Answered 4 years ago by GrannyLaura


Time to get the better business Bureau involved-most time the sheet rock company is contracted by the builder to all is the builders problems-since a new house they probably have more homes to sell. Make them Miserabletill they fix your problem.

Answered 4 years ago by Guest_9534279


Hard to tell without a careful walkover and moisture testing of the wood - but since in ceiling and walls both, especially if the cracking is perpendicular to the ceiling joists and horizontal in the walls, my first guess would be the framing was left exposed to the rain and got real wet, and is now drying out. Can take a year or two for this type cracking to sort itself out because it has to go through both winter drying from wall/attic interior dehumidification from (typically) dry exterior winter air, and also air conditioning dehumidification from the inside during the summer. Typically happens quicker in houses without a humidifier on the furnace or with year-around moisture-regulating climate control system.

One key - it is the BUILDER'S problem as far as YOU are concerned - whether he can shift the blame to the drywaller is HIS problem, not yours - HE is responsible for ALL defects in materials or workmanship because your contract was with HIM, not the subs. (Hopefully you were not paying the subs directly - that would change things)

Couple of things that could be checked which would tend toward drywall installer causes -

1) were the joints filled with drywall compound and the tape worked into that or just taped over the open crack (almost guaranteed way to cause joint cracks), was the tape paper (more likely to crack) or fiberglass or polyester, and was the nailing done per manufacturer and code recommendations on spacing - especially on ceiling where nailing/screw spacing is closer. Can check non-destructively with a metal detector type stud finder to determine field and edge fastener spacing.

2) On the crack repairs - was the tape stripped off the joints and redone from scratch, or just slopped over with drywall compound. Patching the cracks without repairing the tape too makes cracking again almost inevitable - the tape is there to prevent crack propogation - without it the cracks are quite likely to come back yearly as the wood expands and contracts.

3) On drywall sheet placement - there is no firm code on this though industry and manufacturer recommnedations generally recommend horizontal sheet placement on walls, and perpendicular to the joists in ceilings (this is more important than the walls) - and no strips spanning less than 3 joists or studs (edge to edge) if at all possible.

Builder cause or just because the wood was green or wet:

4) framing should cure in place a month or so after dry-in BEFORE drywall goes on, though this is generally not adhered to

5) wood should be cured (much preferably kiln dried) before use and stored so it does not get wet from rain or snow (though I could count on probably 1 hand the number of contractor sites I see a year where tarping is consistently done) - do not use green wood or wood with more than "green" water content (varies by wood species, generally about 10-20%)

6) wood should be thawed for at least two full days before checking moisture

7) The cracking would likely be due to moisture changes - will not generally crack if moisture stays the same even if temperature changes. So seasonal changes in attic moisture is the key on ceilings - if it dries out in low humidity winter air (mine goes down to about 5% moisture content in cold climate area) then goes back up to 20% or more in humid summer air, this is not great - though if due to natural ventilation might be unavoidable unless your attic is converted to conditioned space. NOT a good idea at all to add winter humidity as you WILL get condensation somewhere which can cause mildew and rot, and not economic to dehumidify a ventilated attic. Not more than about a 10% seasonal wood humidity change in the framing should not cause significant issues.


On your numbeared questions:

Certainly the attic should be investigated for condensation - if you have insulation or ventilation issues up there you could be getting either wood movement or ice/water loading on the drywall. This is particularly common in cathedral/vaulted ceilings with low-profile rafters or joists that do not provide enough ventilation space above the insulation, causing moisture issues. A lot of cases have been with the "new think" (translated idiocy in my opinion) of packing the joist space tight with cellulose insulation (which holds moisture quite well), which can accumulate literally tons of moisture and ice in the winter if you do not have excellent vapor barrier between the drywall and the joists. Sometimes this situation can be somewhat mitigated by vacuuming the blown-in insulation and replacing with seamed batt insulation leaving 3-4 inches of airspace above it (with excellent eave ventilation), also sometimes by using a water vapor paint on the ceiling (which can be under a finish color coat of compatible house paint). Of course, the ventilated space under the roofing needs to be combined with good eave vents and ridge venting (assuming a peaked roof here). More on the attic insulation and ventilation issue can be found in the Home > Insulation link in Browse Projecgts, at lower left.

Truss lift - google on that if you don't know what it is, but basically that is lifting of the trusses over interior walls due to humidity and temperature changes in the wood Genersally only noticeable in trussed roof framing (either true trusses or rafter and joist framing with intermediate rafter supports angled down to the joists). I have never heard of it causing cracking of drywall except right at or immediately adjacent to and parallel to interior walls - commonly shows as cracking in the center half of the room where the ceiling drywall meets the interior walls, and almost always only on the walls that run perpendicular to the attic trusses or floor joists.

Settling of house framing/foundation - almost always, if settling enough to cause significant drywall cracking you will be hearing wood cracking and nails screeching as they pull out, and almost always diagonal cracking at the top of door and window frames. Also, settlement cracking in drywall, except top-of-wall cracking where a sagging floor is pulling a non-lead baearing wall down from the ceiling, will gaenerally be diagonal rather than along drywall joints. Structural engineer (possibly working for your architect if you have one) should be able to address this and the previous issue as to whether they are likely causes - though truss lift can commonly only be assessed in the dry season (usually winter but can be summer in DRY hot summer areas) like Southwest/SoCal.

Professional consultation on this problem if needed - an architect/engineer firm (did you have one working for you on the design ?) with building ventilation design capability in conjunction with an energy efficiency expert doing a house energy rating and blower door test might lead to indications of air/moisture flow problems. Using one with thermal infrared camera (especially in cold weather since this is happening in winter) could help a lot in identifying if air leakage or moisture concentrations are contributing to this. You could have the IR scan done before calling in architect or getting energy auditor to do the blower door test.

If the problem continues/persists, I would be sure that you have certified return-receipt statement of that and that the problem has NOT been fixed before your house warranty expires, so it is on record as a continuing problem and that you have given notification to the builder BEFORE warranty expiration, And read your warranty carefully - in many states with new home warranty requirements and in many builder warranties, the attorneys have gotten tricky and phrased it so REPAIRS only have to be made within the warreanty period - not that repairs have to be made for items identified to the builder within the warranty timeframe. Makes a big difference - the former gives the builder incentive to delay repair until the waranty expires. I would consider getting with an attorney on the letter if this looks to persist to close to warranty expiration period to be sure you are covered.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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