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When do you need to worry about ceiling cracks?

 

Even the most well-maintained houses are susceptible to damage over time, and ceiling cracks are one of the most common ones. The good news is, not all cracks are worth losing sleep. While some merely add to the old-house charm, few may be dangerous if not taken care of. Thus it is essential to assess the damage and understand the solutions at hand.

 

COMMON CAUSES OF CRACKS IN CEILINGS:

Ceiling cracks could be due to either of the following four reasons-

  • Natural settling/aging of the building

  • Thermal Effects

  • Poor Workmanship

  • Structural Damage

 

As buildings or homes age, they tend to settle in the soil on which it was built, leaving behind small cracks on the ceilings, walls, and around windows. These cracks are typically harmless and can be easily repaired.

Drastic fluctuations in temperature and moisture levels may also lead to ceiling cracks. Building materials expand in warm temperatures and contract with a fall in temperature. This continuous expansion and contraction place stress on the joints causing them to crack.  

Similarly, poor workmanship may lead to drywall cracks and hairline cracks due to improperly taped drywall and insufficient drywall mud.

However, some cracks may be indicative of severe structural damage. These cracks can be identified based on their location and size, especially if they are wider than 1/8th of an inch.


 

COMMON TYPES OF CRACKS AND WHAT THEY USUALLY IMPLY:

 

THIN, STRAIGHT CRACKS AT TAPING JOINTS:

An incorrect installation, poorly taped joint, or insufficient use of drywall mud may result in thin straight cracks in ceilings along the edges of the drywall tape. These cracks can be easily repaired and are usually not a structural or safety hazard. However, if drywall cracks are larger than hairline width, this may indicate a foundational problem and requires a structural engineer to examine the same and offer a solution.

 

SPIDERWEB LIKE CRACKS:

Spiderweb cracks resemble tiny spider webs with a center point and then spread out in all directions. These cracks often appear on textured ceilings and are an outcome of improper application of drywall compounds. Thick drywall compound instead of thin layers causes the compound to shrink, creating a spiderweb crack. In case of such cracks, size is of importance. If the crack is wider than 1/8th of an inch, it could be a part of a more significant structural problem.

 

HAIRLINE CRACKS DUE TO PAINT ISSUES:

Repeated coats of paint over the years increase the chances of cracks. With time, the layers under the topcoat tend to get brittle from continuous expansion and contraction from the change in temperature and moisture levels. This causes the less flexible lower coats to crack, eventually affecting the topcoat and creating thin hairline cracks in the ceiling.

 

DISCOLORED CEILING CRACKS:

Leakage or moisture may cause your ceilings to crack. For example, an overhead leak may drip down the insides of the wall and to the ceiling's drywall panel, thereby making the tape wet, leaving behind a crack accompanied by discoloration. Before fixing these types of cracks, it is essential to identify the source of the leakage and get it fixed. Additionally, water retention may also lead to interior mold growth requiring a visual investigation to understand the extent of the damage.

 

SAGGING CEILING CRACKS:

A sagging or bowed ceiling crack is an indication of a serious problem and requires urgent attention. Multiple factors could be responsible for these large cracks, such as heavyweight above the ceiling, loosening of beams and joists holding the ceiling in place, leakage in the roof causing the wooden frame to rot, incorrect removal of a load-bearing wall, or impact on other support members. Such cracks in ceilings imply that the framework is damaged or compromised. A structural engineer is well suited to identify the cause, evaluate the structure and offer the best solutions.

 

HORIZONTAL CRACKS BETWEEN WALLS AND CEILING:

Horizontal cracks between interior walls and the ceiling appear due to truss uplift. Roof trusses are designed to move when their wood expands or contracts with fluctuation in temperature and moisture levels in the attic. This results in the ceiling drywall lifting due to the roof truss being pulled upwards in few scenarios, creating a crack between the wall and the ceiling. The primary reason for this is when drywall panels are attached to the trusses near the edge of a non-load-bearing wall. Truss uplifts may also cause the truss to move forward, lifting the ceiling with it. In such cases, it is best advised to seek help from a professional to repair the damage.

 

MULTIPLE CRACKS THROUGHOUT THE HOUSE:

If you encounter multiple cracks across the ceilings and throughout the house, this may indicate structural damage. It is recommended to get a structural engineer to evaluate these cracks and offer the best possible way to fix the issue.

 

WHEN SHOULD YOU BE WORRIED?

Ceiling cracks are a common occurrence, and often, they are not major issues concerning your safety. However, it is essential to identify the ones caused by structural damage that require foundation repair. The location and size of the crack are of utmost importance when examining these cracks. Some of the cracks in ceilings to look out for are:

  • large cracks accompanied by sagging ceilings

  • multiple cracks in different locations

  • hairline cracks or spiderweb cracks larger than 1/8th of an inch

  • horizontal cracks running from interior walls to ceilings

  • Wall cracks which run from the edges of doors or windows and up to the ceilings

  • Cracks caused by gaps between walls and ceilings

 

It is best advised to hire a structural engineer to do his or her due diligence and offer you the best possible way to repair the concerning foundational issues. Design Everest, a leading technology-enabled Architecture and Engineering firm in California, can provide you with a cost-effective solution to your structural problems. Call us now on (877) 704-5687 or drop us an email at info@designeverest.com to get a consultation and free quote.

  

 

*Note: The content published above was made in collaboration with members of Design Everest.

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