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Question DetailsAsked on 1/16/2014

what causes drywall crack at ceiling tape joint? entire length of joint.

A type ceiling meets flat ceiling joint is 14 feet long. joint is cricket entire length on both edges of tape. House is 8 years old.

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5 Answers


If you are able to post a couple of photos, using the Answer This Question button, it would make it easier to see what is happening.

Here is a similar recent question about the same sort of problem, with a bunch of response on possible causes - peruse that list and see if it helps.

If you can access the area over the top (attic ?) to make sure you do not have water damage or heavy frost loading, that wouldeliminate a lot of the possible, and probbly most ofthe most serious, possible causes. Make sure to only step on wood framing - the ceiling drywall is nailed to the bottom of that framing - you step on it or the insulation over itand you can being a piece of your ceiling down, or even fall through. While up there also look for any sign of rafter or truss distress, or of the joint between the top of the rafters at the peak opening up at the bottom of the joint, as if the roof was trying to flatten out, pushing the walls outward. This would be probably the worst case, but also probably the rarest. Slapping a level on the outer walls would indicate if you have this type of problem (they wouldbe tilting out at the top), which can be caused by rotting joists (the attic floor timbers), or by rusting and loosening truss/joist joiner plates.

Ruling them out would leave the normal truss lifting, and shrinkage in the joists/rafters causing separation in the adjoining drywall panels.

You could also climb up on a ladder near that joint several places and, using a roughly 3 foot square scrap of plywood or such, padded well with a several times folded blanket if textured or popcorn to avoid crushing or flattening the texture, push up hard on the ceiling near the joint. If it moves upward enough for you to notice it or causes popouts in the drywall where the screws or nails are, then your drywall is loosening up and coming down - due to inadequate fasstening, water weighting the insulation above, or whatever.

If no water or structural damage in the ceiling and ceiling drywall is tight, then likely a joist lifting or shrinkage crack. Try caulking crack with PAINTABLE latex modified silicone caulk, using a very small cut on the tip to control the flow to just enough to fill the crack, then paint and see if it happens again. If you have been in the severe cold spell recently and that is unusual for you, your attic framing may have just shrunk enough in the cold dry weather to open this crack up for the first time since it was built.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


Good answer LCD.

If not mechanical damage (i.e. weight loading), look at the moisture content in the attic and resultant truss creep/uplift.

Answered 6 years ago by WoWHomeSolutions


Answered 6 years ago by Reynolds


Thank you for the picture - six possibilities I can think of now I have seen it.

If you do the lift-up test I suggested - pushing gently (maybe 5-10 pounds) with both hands near but not at the edge, using a board with a blanket over it to spread the load so you do not crack it - if it will lift up, then it is coming loose, which tells us something. (May take two people - one lifting, one watching to see if the gap closes up). -

1) possibly due to water in the attic, weighting the insulation (but water has not made it through the insulation to wet and stain the drywall yet). This is rare with fiberglass as it does not hold water real well, so by the time it starts getting heavy, you generally have water staining, though not always - sometimes the vapor barrier holds a fair amoutn of water before letting it wet the drywall. However, with "cellulose" - the gray shredded newspaper that is blown in, it packs quite well and absorbs water like crazy so it can get quite heavy before the water drains through it enough to stain the drywall - especially if there is a vapor barrier on top of the drywall, which there should be. A foot thickness of blown-in shredded newspaper can pick up as much as about 20-30 pounds of water PER SQUARE FOOT - far more than enough to bring an entire ceiling down long before that much water gets into it. Obviously, if you can access the area above, you should be able to confirm or rule this source pof the problem out.

2) possibly due to inadequate number of screws or nails along the edge. Another possibility, especially with an angled intersection like that, is that instead of cutting a bevelled edge joist or sill to nail to they used just a rectangular one, or did not even put one there - so if they nailed near the edge of a flat piece, they may have totally missed going into wood. May be it needs to be nailed further back where there is a rafter - hopefully not more than a few inches back - a stud finder and metal finder (some have both capabilities in one) would tell if the nails or screws are going into wood to not.

If it does NOT lift up, then three possibilities I can see:

3) water in the attic (see #1) getting to the paper tape at the joint, causing it to peel. If the paper is peeling but the drywall is NOT coming loose, then removing the tape and retaping it (with fiberglass tape) would be your solution, with of course touchup repainting afterward.

4) moisture in the house getting to paper drywall joint tape, causing it to peel - see #3 solution, above.

5) that they used an edge strip at the corner, which is a metal perforated strip that is plastered over - usually used on vertical drywall corners so if you hit them drywall does not break off. I don't think that is the case here, because it would have required custom bending a strip to the angle you have - not something a normal contractor would go to the trouble of doing. IF there is an edge strip (probing with a nail would tell that) and the nails are rusting, it could come loose.

6) one other possibility, who a drywall contractor might be able to assess, or it might take a carpenter unless you can get up there yourself - if your flat roof section is suspended from flat joists but the sloping A-type or cathedral ceiling is supported from sloping joists or rafters that are independent, then joist lift could be causing it - lifting the sloping drywall off the flat piece. I can't really see how this likely be happening, because where the crack is wouldnormally be a beam across there (paralle to the crack) to hold the end of the flat joists - unless you have one of these screwy double inverted trusses that structurally supports the roof at a higher level, with drop-down bottom chord that supports the flat cediling below the main truss like the double invesrted truss image here -

in which case truss lift could be the problem. This would be much more likely if the A frame ceiling was truss supported, but the flat ceiling was on separate joists supported only it, like is done with a dropped-ceiling kitchen.

This is so hard to assess without actually being hands on - maybe your best bet is to find a good general contractor who specializes in roof framing and roof/ceiling joist and truss repairs to first determine the cause, then fix it. ANotehr alternative, if you would not trust a contractor to give you an honest answer, would be to pay $250-400 or so for a structural engineer familiar with roof truss and drywall cracking issues to assess it.

Your other alternative is to, after making sure water from above is not the problem, is make sure the drywall is secured tight to the joists above it, and put a nailing joist along above that edge, and rescrew the edges of both sheets to that, then retape. That should solve the tape separation issue - but if trusss lift is the cause, could result in a parallel crack forming in the bottom foot or so of the A slope drywall, because it would now be pulling between the sloping truss bottom chord and the bottom edge nailing joist.

IF you are a do it yourselfer, you could check the wet insulation or water getting to the tape possibility, in which case if that IS the issue, you would then have four chores - cure the leak, dry out the insulation, get rid of any attic mold, and then repair the drywall.

IF not due to water from above, then you need to locate the wood nearest the edge with the problem, which might be a joist or header paralleling that edge, or a number of truss bottom chords or joists running perpendicular, and if within a few inches of the edge, use drywall screws into them to tie it back up, then redo the joint tape - not with paper, preferably - use ultrathin fiberglass mesh type. IF there is NOT wood at or very near the edge, then a nailing joist may need to be installed right at that edge in the attic, to nail/screw into.

(Depending on attic configuarion, basically a nailing joist would be a joist or blocking between existing joists, typically a 4x4 in this case, bevelled at the bottom to fit into the drywall corner where your problem is, so both sheets can be fastened to it near their edges). A 2x6 can be used, but by the time you bevel one bottom corner to provide a nailing surface for the angled sheet, you have a narrow nailing target at the bottom, so 4x4 gives an easier nailing/screwing target.

IF not a do it yourselfer, then you need someone to inspect the attic - either by getting up there, or if an inaccessible spacer, by a hole in the ceiling, to check for water; maybe a carpener to put in a nailing joist, then a drywall contractor and painter to fix the drywall issue - so if you are not up to deciding which you need and what they should do, then a general contractor is who you need to run the job for you.

Cost is hard to tell - assuming saturated insulation or a roof leak are NOT the problem, I would say from $250-400 if only fasten drywall up, retape, and paint - or closer to $600-800 if a nailing joist has to be installed, ASSUMING there is access room in the attic to do it. If has to be done from below, then more like $1500 range, in which case as long as it is not coming down, I would make sure it is well screwed up with some extra screws, use fiberglass tqpe to retape the joint, repaint, and cross your fingers hoping it does not open up again.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


Looked back at this question as a possible reference for someone with a similar question - write me up with a total FAIL on my response. First time around I missed that you said "joint is cracked on both edges of tape" - rather than a crack down the middle of the tape.

Assuming you mean a nice straight crack along the tape edge, this almost always means the tape is coming off - which could be due to moisture in the overlying joist area, or picking up moisture from the house and coming loose, or maybe poorly bonded and stretching a bit as the A framing moves with age and open up the "A" a bit. And not necessarily enough moisture to be a problem for the house. Generally, just a tape bonding problem, which is solved by peeling the tape off and having the joint retaped properly (prefereably with fiberglass tape, especially on angled taping jobs), then reprime the reworked area and repaint.

While it could be due to pulling on the tape from one of the causes we noted before, I would certainly start off assuming it is just a poor joint taping job - once you peel it off you will see if there is a crack in the underlying joint compound along the joint as well, which might be indicative of something more going on.

Hope you did not do some aggressive repair on this yet.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD

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