Drywall cracks can either be a huge problem or hardly a problem, but can you tell the difference?
Sooner or later, we all see them – the cracks lurking in the corners or just above the door jam.
Whether that crack is a symptom of nothing at all or a symptom of a weak foundation, you need to diagnose the problem in case it gets worse.
This article will help you determine when a crack is just a crack or when it may be a sign of something much more ominous.
WHEN A DRYWALL CRACK IS JUST A CRACK
Drywall cracks are fairly common and, in many cases, are cosmetic.
Nonetheless, it is a good idea to exercise caution before covering up a crack to know if it is more serious.
Some reasons for drywall cracks include the following:
Poor taping during the drywall process
Wood framing drying out.
Moisture from wet seasons or plumbing
Extreme weather changes
Vacation homes being vacant for too long
New or old home settling
Movement of soil around the foundation
Below, we will focus on a few of these common reasons for drywall cracks and explain what causes them to happen in the first place.
A common problem for cracks can boil down to poor craftsmanship.
Drywall cracks can happen when the drywall seams are not properly taped. This forces the drywall to crack over time.
A professional can help you establish if this is the case. Usually, these types of drywall cracks will look like a thin straight line where the original seems met.
DRY WOOD FRAMING
Sometimes, you’ll see cracks above doors or around windows. When you see this, oftentimes, it can result from wood framing becoming dried out over time.
This can cause the wood to bend or warp, strain the drywall and force it to crack.
MOISTURE & EXTREME WEATHER CHANGES
Another reason for drywall cracks could be leaking from your roof or plumbing. If this is the case, you will often see discoloration around the crack.
In some areas, the weather changes in temperature drastically from one week to the next. This can stress your home over time with the constant expansion and contraction, causing cracks in the drywall to form.
LEAVING HOME VACANT FOR TOO LONG
Vacation homes can be susceptible to cracks in the drywall. The reason is that when a home is left vacant, it tends not to be climate controlled.
Think about it: if your vacation home is in Florida, would you continue using air conditioning year-round if you weren’t there? Of course not.
That change can cause moisture similar to weather changes, causing drywall cracks.
Whether you have a new or older home, settling is a part of the process of a house’s lifetime.
As a house settles, it will cause changes in parts of the structure, and these are most commonly found in settlement cracks in drywall.
You may be asking yourself: soil movement? Refer back to your fourth-grade science teacher on this one. This can happen due to environmental factors of soil erosion.
Depending on the area you live in, your house could deal with elements of very rainy, flooding seasons or very windy times of the year. These are bound to cause soil erosion.
Over time, soil can become eroded from the foundation, causing the foundation to settle differently, forming cracks in your drywall. This could lead to foundation problems.
WHEN A DRYWALL CRACK IS NOT JUST A CRACK
Sometimes a crack may be a symptom of a much larger problem. If this is the case, you will often see settlement cracks in drywall that may appear like this:
trim or door frames shifting near the crack
diagonal cracks that are jagged
If you see these types of cracks in your home, it may be a sign of a much larger problem.
If you suspect your foundation could be the problem based on the cracks you have seen, it’s best to hire an experienced professional to deal with these problems before fixing the crack.
This is how you can see if your home is dealing with an integrity issue on your own before moving forward.
1. CHECK OUTSIDE YOUR HOME
Some things you can do to check if the foundation is the problem are to go outside your house and look for cracks in the foundation. You may also want to see if the foundation is bowing anywhere. Perhaps you may see cracks in your siding or stucco.
A few cracks are okay, but if you see more than a couple, it may be a sign of a weakened foundation.
2. CHECK INSIDE YOUR HOME
As you look inside your house, check around to see if the floors are sloping or have become uneven.
You may also want to look for sagging in areas.
Go down to the basement and look for cracks. You may also want to look at the beams and check for any termite damage. This could compromise the integrity of your foundation.
WHEN TO HIRE A PROFESSIONAL
If you’re determined to save money and repair the crack on your own, you’ll need a few things:
Taping mud or joint compound
6-inch putty knife
Tape and paper tape
Use a sponge to wet the area and a putty knife to scrape away the texture. Use paper tape to go over the crack.
After that, apply taping mud or joint compound (at least two coats). In between coats, place another piece of paper tape over the crack.
Use a waded-up piece of paper to apply another coat to get the right texture. Then, use your 6-inch putty knife to smooth out the texture when dried.
It’s best to hire a professional to handle this because it can be a big job depending on the severity of the situation.