Ask Your Question

Angie's List Answers is the trusted spot to ask home improvement and health questions and get answers from service companies, health providers and consumers. For ratings and reviews on companies in your area, search Angie's List.

 
 
or
Submit
Top 30 Days Experts
Rank Leader Points*
1 gbafreview 430
2 kstreett 240
3 Guest_9020487 110
4 Guest_9190926 105
5 GoldenKid 100
6 ahowell 95
7 KnowledgeBase 95
8 skbloom 80
9 Guest_98024861 70
10 Guest_9311297 70

*Updates every 4 hours

Browse Projects By Category

Question DetailsAsked on 1/24/2014

Multiple hairline drywall ceiling cracks

My house is six year old two-story colonial. New England area. I noticed in the past few months there are several hairline straight cracks appears in the ceiling of my dining room. They are all fine and straight. Started to really worry about them.

Do you have the same question? Follow this Question


10 Answers

Voted Best Answer
1
Vote

Well, thanks a Lot - that blows most of the theories out of the water. Just so normally occurs in top floor ceiling, assumed that was where it was. You say mostly in ground floor - so some upstairs too ? That probably takes thermal and insulation load issues out of the picture, and if not uplift cracks right at the junction of the ceiling and walls, which it could only be if your second story floor joists are continuous across the entire width of the house, then that pretty much leaves expansion cracking from joists soaking up moisture, defective drywall, and joist sag.

1) If you are keeping your house humidity high with the cold weather (as outside air gets colder, inside humidity rises), then remotely possible it could be the wood is soaking up moisture and expanding - would tend to create roughly evenly spaced fairly straight cracks running perpendicular to the floor joists, usually at drywallsheet joints first. IF this is the source, you very likely have had heavy frost and condensation on the bottom part of your windows.

2) If defective drywall, like the sulfur-rich stuff that Florida is having problems with, it has a tendency to crack up perpendicular to the sheet length as it expands from moisture, from articles I have read. However, if that was the case, I would expect you to comment on a sulferous smell in the house, and would probably have a pretty substantial nail or screw head rusting issue causing popouts in the ceiling - and the walls as well.

3) Joist sag would cause cracks the same as in 1) above. If you have a place you can get your eyeball right up againt the ceiling, see if it looks like the center of the joists are sagging down. A certain amount of sag is normal with age - up to about an inch in the center (over 30-50 years) assuming your joists run half-width of the house (about 16 feet) and are supported on an intermediate wall/beams running the length of the center of the house.

Personally, unless you have very dramatic joist sag (in which case get a structural engineer to consult on the case), I would fill with joint coupound and paint over and watch and see what happens. If takes 3-5 years to become noticeable again, probably just the joists sagging. If opens back up several places in a year or less, then probably time to bring in a structural engineer to be sure your flooring is built right and joists are adequate and at correct spacing - possible you got a builder who cheated or did not know any better and put 12" designed joists at 16" or 16" at 24" spacing, or you got a defective set of wood I joists or glulam beams that are delaminating and losing strength. That is far more common than it should be, especially with ones that used water based glue and sat outside uncovered (or unroofed) in the rain or snow, which they never should.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD

0
Votes

Here are two recent similar questions, and the answers pretty well covered all the possibilities, as well as how to determine what your case is:

https://answers.angieslist.com/what-d...

https://answers.angieslist.com/I-larg...

I would suggest you review them, then if you still have more questions or want to post pictures to get more responses, do so using the Answer This Question button, so it stays in this same thread.

One thing to consider, if you remember, is if you were affected by abnormally cold temperatures, that would dry out the roof and attic timbers, causing movement which could have caused cracking - especially near the walls at the two sides of the room that are perpendicular to your rafters and roof joists.

Obvious primary threat is if you developed a lot of weight of frost or water on/in the insulation in the attic that is weighting the drywall down and starting to pull to loose from its screws or nails - should be easy to check by crawling up into attic - just be careful to keep feet on top of joists, because if you step on the insulation over the drywall there is no floor support usaully - you are just stepping on drywall ceiling that will break and come down, you with it possibly.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD

0
Votes

+1


Common question of late with the really cold temps.


LCD has gone through a bunch of information in other postings listed above.


Feel free to post up a picture as well.

Answered 5 years ago by WoWHomeSolutions

0
Votes

Thanks LCD and WoWHomesolutions.


Yes, it is one of the coldest winter here in Massachusetts. My question is the ceiling cracks I have are mostly on the first floor, while this is two story building. The house is generally heated. Even in the day time, I keep the house at 62F.

Answered 5 years ago by shiyang100

0
Votes

Thanks LCD.


I used 2 ft carpenter level checking the ceiling leveling. My first floor has an open design, so the joist span in the dining room and kitchen area is about 28 ft without supporting wall. I randomly checked and didn't see any dramatic leveling problem. The bubble all stays within two lines. May not be exactly in the middle. I am not sure if I rule out ceiling sagging issue. I wish I had a laser level.


Answered 5 years ago by shiyang100

0
Votes


Hello LCD.


I tried to take a few pictures of cracks, but the quality is not that good. All these cracks are hairline cracks. But here is one crack near the ceiling on the wall separating shower and bathtub in master bath on the second floor. Could you shed some lights on this as well?

Answered 5 years ago by shiyang100

0
Votes

Bathroom area is a dead giveaway.


How is the bathroom vented?


You have high moisture/relative humidity in those areas and it will absorb into the compound areas. As that compound wets and dries out...it will pull away and crack.



Answered 5 years ago by WoWHomeSolutions

0
Votes

Thanks WOWHomeSolutions.


Although my wife insists vent should be on 20 min after shower, I usually have it on for 5-10 min. If this is the reason, I would say listen to wife from now on.


My concern is the shape of this crack is awful and cannot be put into any textbook vertical, horizonal.....

Answered 5 years ago by shiyang100

1
Vote

Possibly one thing, possibly two going on:

1) On the bathroom upstairs, if this is cracking right in the corner at an interior wall, especially if your attic has any kind of truss support - intermediate vertical or angle bracing between the rafters (beams that hold the roof up) and joists (the floor beams in the attic), then that issue could be truss uplift - read the prior commentary on that. I would just caulk with paintable latex caulk then paint over so mold can't grow on the caulk - might have to recaulk every few years. Keep up with it and don't let the crack stay open, because any crack in bathroom drywall lets moisture into the walls and ceiling and attic.

2) What your picture shows certainly seems to be what WowHomeSolutions talked about - looks like the drywall tape is coming loose, probably due to moisture being absorbed in the paper tape and softening the drywall compound, which will soften and turn back to soft compound when wetted.

If you are certain you are going to redo that area for appearance purposes, then here is what I would do. First, see if you can get a fingernail or razor blade under the crack - if the tape is lifting, you should be able to catch the edge like with any tape end, and start peeling back. IF so, I would take a razor blade and cut through the tape perpendicular to the crack about 6-8 inches apart, and along lengthwise near to the intersection with the wall to isolate a piece. Then, peel that little strip out carefully. If it comes off easy then tape peeling probably is the problem. Once it is off, you should also be able to see clearly if that is the limit of the crack, or if you actually have a crack through the drywall.

If no crack through drywall, then I would first check for loose ceiling sheets as described below. If not loose, then peeling off all the tape on each seam that is showing any cracking and replacing with ultrathin fiberglass or nylon/polyester joint tape, mudding the joint, sanding, priming, painting should take care of the issue, assuming you also take care of any moisture issue contributing to it by lowering your humidity at that area.

If there is rusty or muddy staining in the drywall after you pull the tape then you need to look for a water leak from above. Also any rusty nails or screw heads should be replaced to prevent bulging popouts and rust stains in the future under and eventually through new tape.

Then I would check to see if the drywall is loose - push up on it with both hands, using a scrap of plywood covered with a blanket or towel (to avoid damaging paint) to see if there is any slack. The reason for the plywood is to spread the load so you don't push through the drywall ceiling board. If ceiling moves up and down at all, have drywall installer locate existing screws/nails with a metal finder, then split-space with additional ones if existing spacing is beyond code - generally 6 to max 8 inches on edges depending if 3/8 or 1/2" drywall, not more than 12 inch in field area - preferably 8 inch.

If crack continues through drywall, then I would recommend a small (typically about a foot square - enough to get you head up in there) inspection hole be cut at the crack to look for water in the joist space. Alternatively, if you have (opr rent fr about $20/day) a color video inspection fiber optic camera, only takes about a 1/2" hole - much easier to repair. If wet, find source and solve, cut holes to air out area well, then repair drywall and paint.

Your contractor type for all this (unless you have water problems that need a plumber or roofer to fix, and mold remediation contractor to eliminate mold or fungus, if any) is a Drywall contractor.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD

0
Votes

Thanks LCD. It is because of experts like you and Wowhomesolutions that makes this website so popular.


I don't have truss roof above, so option one is out. Do you think this crack is a structural problem? Thanks.

Answered 5 years ago by shiyang100

1
Vote

Offhand, I don't think it is structural. Surest way to tell would be to:

1) see if joint paper peels off easy and if there is a crack in the drywall under it - if no crack in drywall, then probably just moisture causing the paper to peel - have the paper removed and replaced with ultra-thin fiberglass mesh tape and remudded and painted. In my opinion, paper should never be used for drywall joints - you are putting a non-bonding, water-absorbing layer in the middle of the drywall mud - makes no sense. The tape should act as a reinforcing and crack interrupter - and to do that, has to be an open mesh that the joint compound bonds through, with inherent strength - which fiberglass or nylon mesh has, paper does not. In your case, because of the textured walls, the solution might be to leave the paper tape on the walls, and only wrap the new tape just around the corner and onto the ceiling, to avoid having to match the wall texture. Not as good a solution as full taping the joint on both sides, but less disruptive.

2) do the lift test, to see if sheets are coming loose. Generally, if coming loose, the push test will cause popouts of the joint compound "plug" over the screws or nails. If so, then you need to open it up to inspect for water damage up there, fix that if any, then have the sheets rescrewed into the joists. Might be so simple an item as the installer missed the joists with the screws at that location, so corner of sheet is not actually supported.

3) If still uncertain, then drill a hole with a 1 to 2 inch hole saw centered on the crack - look at the core and at the edges of the hole to see if the crack goes through the drywall. IF no crack, then probably just peeling joint paper. If crack goes through, then you need an expert to look at it to determine cause - I am tapped out as far as what I can advise sight unseen. Probably should use a General Contractor - for two reasons. He is more experienced usually with checking out problems and investigating the cause of issues than his plasterer or carpenter subs, who usually just do the fix not determine the cause.Your normal carpenter is not a Norm Abrams or Tom Silva from This Old House, who can ferret out the most esoteric causes of problems. Also, having a GC look at it gives you a preview of him, preparatory to (assuming you are happy with his initial contact with you) him giving you a quote or estimate (depending on nature of the problem) and getting the necessary personnel in there to solve the problem - be they from his crew or subcontractors, he will be able to bring the right people to bear.

Even if this is structural in nature, I do not see it as serious enough to mandate a structural engineer - I would say let a contractor look at it and show you what he thinks - if he thinks it is serious, he should recommend a structural be brought in to design a fix, but usually a sagging floor would just be fixed by replacing defective joists, or by doubling up if the existing design was substandard, and a carpenter can do that without an engineer's design in most jurisdictions.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD




Related Questions


Terms Of Use
|
Privacy Policy