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Question DetailsAsked on 1/23/2016

who should we contact for a living room wall crack that has been plaster several time and contin ues to crack

Vaulted ceiling wall that has a 4ft crack with the attic space on back side has been fixed several time but the crack reaccures.

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4 Answers

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Couple of common logical reasons for this to happen, as well as a few less common I will not go into:

1) floor settlement, causing a non-load bearing wall to settle, separating from the overhead attic floor joists or truss lower chords, opening up a gap. Commonly occurs with non-load bearing walls that do not have a supporting wall on the level below, so the weight of the wall and normal floor sag with age pulls the wall down from the ceiling. Can be aggravated by loads on the wall from floor above or attic framing.

2) another common cause, most commonly with non-load bearing walls that run perpendicular to the attic floor joists or truss lower chords, is commonly a combination of two causes working together.

2a) if you have roof trusses or angle-braced rafters supporting the roof, under snow load (if applicable in your area) the trusses put some load on the wall as they sag under load unless a deliberate air gap was provided under them, pushing the wall down and permanently deflecting the floor joists holding the wall up - then when the snow melts off and most of the load is gone, the attic framing relaxes and moves up a fraction of an inch, taking the ceiling drywall with it and opening a crack along the wall/ceiling junction - commonly appearing in the spring and remaining until snow load moves it down again.

2b) again with roof trusses or angle-braced rafters, during the drier and colder winter, those members can shorten and lift the attic floor joists or truss bottom chord up by as much as an inch or so, lifting the ceiling drywall with it - again leaving a gap at the top of the wall, but this time occurring in winter as the trusses dry out - and may open and close somewhat through the winter as snowload comes on and off, so a mix of 2a and 2b causes working against each other.

Solution - for 2a, commonly putting a support under the wall so it acts as a load-bearing wall (which all walls in direct contact with roof trusses should be designed as). For 2b - many times just caulking the crack when it is open, using a high-bond, high-extension caulk - one designed to bond very tightly to many types of materials and to move a lot without splitting or peeling free, like 3M Marine 5200 caulk (about $15-20/caulk tube), will solve the problem or make it so you only have to recaulk a small section every few years.

Normal caulk - maybe a yearly recaulking thing, a high-grade 3M or Dow or GE silicone caulk maybe every 3-5 years, 3M 5200 I have not heard of it opening up again. Be very careful not to get on walls or floors, silicone caulks are hard to clean off once spilled - especially the 5200, which is gooey, tenacious, and almost uncleanable. Read up on how to remove glops/smears BEFORE using so you are prepared with correct materials if necessary, and use masking tape and newspaper to cover the work area wall and underlying area.

If the paint there is not white, use an appropriate paintable caulk if desired.

Permanent/preventative solution for 2b - is to not fasten the ceiling drywall for the last foot or two coming up to the wall where the crack is, so it is sitting on top of the wall drywall if installed correctly - do NOT do this if the wall drywall was put up first so ceiling drywall is unsupported at the edge. That way, as the overlying joists/trusses lift, the edge of the ceiling drywall that was lifting to create the crack bends and stays in contact with the top of the wall drywall - at least once you have caulked it once. This solution, as a retrofit, requires taking a metal dececting type stud detector to locate and remove the screws or nails in the ceiling drywall along the lifting edge. Be sure to caulk the holes WELL to try to seal up the nail/screw holes in the vapor barrier that is likely overlying the ceiling, if an attic is above it. Then drywall patch and paint touchup to finish out the hole repairs.

IF this does not answer your question, or you want to get more input, use the Answer This Question yellow button right below your question to reply back (as if you were answering your own question), and above the Your Answer box that pops up, use the leftmost yellow button to attach photo(s) of what you are talking about.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD


I appreciate your in depth answer. The first repair i did was tape and mud. The second time was with enforced tape and flexable mud. Handyman radio host suggestion. Third fix on back side of wall in attic. I'm not sure if what I have is what you call angle brace rafters as stated in item 2. Directly behind that wall is the stairs to the basement. Directly under the wall and to the right of the stairway is 2 side by side-(2x10's). They are supported by an I beam and the basement wall perpendicular to stairs. I hope that makes sense. So I don't think the wall should be moving. We live in the Detroit Metro area in Michigan so snow can be a problem but not so much this year as 2 years ago. We had broken the old record of snow fall.

I don't have cracks between the wall and ceiling as suggested in response 2a. I really don't want to pull out any screws or nails from the ceiling since I just had it remudded about 5 years ago. I needed to get rid of the ripples the original mudder's left in it at the joints. SHAME!

I have attached 8 photo's. 1 and 1a show the drywall side of living room. 1a photo shows the crack better. The other photo's #2 thru #4 show the attic side of said wall. You can see the trusses and insulation and how that area was constructed before my fix. Photo's #5 thru #7 show my fix. (which was my shot at getting it right) So I am here now still looking for a solution. Any help as suggestions on how to repair or who I may contact to FINALLY resolve the issue would be greatly appreciated. I had contacted Artistic Constr.twice and haven't received a return call from them. They were recommended on Angie's List and close to my home. I wouldn't suggest them on a list much more.

I just want to THANK YOU in advance for your help and suggestions. If this helps you to understand my problem more clearly, and give me an answer.... this time will be well spent. Thanks again.


Answered 4 years ago by RichE


Wow - nice photo work - are you a professional photographer ? If only every question about a physical (visible) problem came in with such a clear picture of the problem, it would make responding so much easier.

A couple of things working here, I think - though I was way off on where I thought the crack was - obviously not at the intersection of wall and ceiling as I thought.

1) it is not clear, under the insulation, if the "rafters" which the ceiling drywall is fastened to are part of the roof trusses or independent, though certainly that end one in photo #2 is independent. If part of or in any way connected to or contacting the trusses, then the trusses moving up and down with temperature and moisture changes and especially with snow load could well cause spreading of the drywall joint down the ceiling peak - opening up as the snow load increases (or stays on the trusses and causes them to creep), as the load would tend to "flatten out" the trusses a bit (possibly as much as a quarter inch to inch of vertical movement so typically), which would cause spreading at the bottom of the rafters - opening up the drywall at the peak, causing a longitudinal crack.

2) you could use a metallic stud finder to check if the drywall in the wall was actually nailed/screwed to that vertical 2x4 exposed in photo 2 - if may be it was never fastened right, or one sheet had its fasteners miss. Of course, if you stripped the drywall tape when patching the vertical crack you should have seen that.

3) Your fix in photo #6 is pretty much what I would have recommended, at least at that point - laterally tying the supports for the wall together. I would also run another 2x4 horizontally across the centers of the vertical 2x4's in the photo, across to at least the adjacent one on each side or maybe even to the next one too, tying the vertical supports together on both sides of the vertical crack to keep it from moving - located probably right below the scabbed-on pieces of 2x you used with the top tie piece.

4) I would also beef up the fasteners - the vertical ones into the ends of the brace maybe at 3-4 inch centers or so if they are widely spaced now, and try to fit in (without splitting it) 4 or 5 screws at each 2x intersection in the repair you made - and also in the addditional horizontal brace in 3) above.

5) whether you will get peak cracking if you solve the problem on the vertical wall depends on the trusses - certainly do not mess with the trusses themselves, and be careful about putting any weight on the top of the vaulted ceiling, but if the vaulted ceiling rafters are separate from the truss like in photos #2, I would try to reach in and put a joiner tie plate on the vaulted ceiling "rafters" both at photo #2 where that big gap is, and also at the next one down the peak of the vaulted ceiling - below the truss shown in the background. HOWEVER - if the vaulted ceiling "rafter" is the lower leg of the truss, in a configuration like the Scissor Truss here -

then do NOT add reinforcing - could result in undesireably locking up of the truss leading to stress concentration and breakage due to that and also due to too many fasteners in one place.

To tie the ceiling "rafters" together, IF they are independent as appears from photo #2, I would use a Simpson Tie LSTA or MSTA (or wider) tie strap nailed to the sides of the pair of rafters using 10d nails in every hole - probably about a 18 or 24" long one on each side of each pair of rafters would do it, to tie them together - across the top of the drywall in the center (so as low as possible for a horizontal tie), and laterally out onto the rafters at each side. Even better if you can find them locally - a 3 or 4 inch high structural nailable cover plate or truss peak plate on each side, though you might use screws rather than nails to minimize disturbance of the ceiling drywall from the hammering. Another alternative would be using 1/2" or 3/4" plywood gussets cut to angle up over the top of the drywall and extending about a foot or more to each side of center down along the rafters, nailed with close spacing through the "rafters" on each side of the rafters - again, 10d nails or deck screws could be used.

It might well be that your lateral reinforcing on the vertical end wall will solve the problem by itself - you could repatch the cracks after putting in the second horizontal 2x4 and see what happens, and if the peak opens up again (assuming the rafters are NOT part of the truss), then go and put the simpson ties on them at a later date.

One thing on your screw fasteners - I presume those are decking screws, not drywall screws - if drywall grabbers, I would replace them with structural screws, because grabbers and similar drywall type screws are too brittle to use for structural loads.

Oh - one other thing I did not say - this definitely does not look to me like a structural issues - just an architectural finish problem because of the design of the ceiling. All in all, while snow load may be contributing to the peak crack, it is quite likely that miosture changes (usually drying in the winter) in the rafters supporting the ceiling is the problem - shinkage opening up the drywall at a seam because the rafters did not have peak fasteners when it was built, so they are opening up at the peak as you see in the photos (though a lot of that looks like shoddy cutting).

Oh - and on the crack repair - certainly use fiberglass joint tape rather than paper, but for this sort of repair it might well work better if you repaired it like a truss lifting situation - with paintable latex caulk and no tape - just cut and crease the existing tape down into the crack with a putty knife or such, then injection caulk (with small tip on caulk tube) the crack full of caulk, smooth off, and paint when dry. Using a high-extension exterior caulk (paintable silicone modified latex) may work a lot better than trying to drywall patch it.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD


OK - 20-20 hindsight coming into play here. Something was nagging me in the back of my head, and the solitary brain cell finally woke up. If you look at - photo #2 I think it is, the nearer (full height attic area) bracing (not really trusses) comes down to the attic floor, and at a much steeper angle so it can effectively carry a fair vertical load too. I would give about 20:1 odds there is a bearing wall under the centerline, running along where they come together. The "trusses" (actually just intermediate rafter supports) over your vaulted ceiling come down at a very flat angle to the roof, so basically they cannot effectively carry much vertical load - load from the center of the roof rafters pulls down on the center post from the ridge, and and ridge load (normally from snow mainly) pulls down on the middle of the roof rafters - with no way for the support system to actually transfer vertical load down to a bearing wall like in the other half of the attic. So I really think the vaulted ceiling may have been an add-on without deliberate design by an architect or engineer - because normally that type of design would have a large carry beam down the ridge to transfer the load, or more likely a scissor truss to carry the load out to the outer walls. In addition, the ceiling rafters would be part of the support system, and have peak tie plates or angle brackets, and would be on edge - installed the "strong way" instead of the "weak way".

I don't remember you saying where you lived - but if in an area with potential for ever seeing a heavy snow load, personally I would be doing a structural analysis on that situation to see just how much load the roof over the vaulted ceiling can take, because that looks like a warm-climate design to me, like is typical in most of California for instance - where the bracing you have is just to provide intermediate bending support to the long rafters and to provide sway support under wind loadings.

So - snow load may be playing a bigger part in this than I originally thought - especially since if the flat-side 2x ceiling "rafter" is typical, instead of the normal on-edge configuration, they cannot carry any appreciable load coming down from the overlying roof framing, assuming they lie right under the roof framing bottom connectors. If significant snow load is a possibility, I would be talking to a Structural Engineer to be sure this is actually adequate - though the bad news side is if it is not, there is likely no easy solution without taking out and likely lowering the vaulted ceiling to modify the framing.

Course, if this house is older and has seen pretty much all the snow load it ever will, then its past performance would say either snow load is not a major consideration in your area, the prior owners cleared the snow before it piled up, or the design is adequate as it is.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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