To repair or not to repair?

Ali S
by Ali S
We have what looks like settling or small gaps between the ceiling and walls in a lot of our rooms. They opened up in the beginning of winter. Also, there is one 45 degree crack in the drywall coming from one of the door frames. We've had two people say foundation needs to be repaired and two that say it's just the house "breathing" with the change in temp/humidity and from being 40 years old. Thoughts?
  16 answers
  • The cracks your talking about are from two different causes. The ceiling to wall cracks your seeing is most likely truss uplift. This is the movement of the roof as it expands and contracts because of weather and humidity. For the angle crack on the door frame. This crack is caused by settlement of the home. It can be caused by age, earth movement, poor quality construction practices, home remodeling gone wrong or any combination of them. To understand were the movement takes place you need to determine how to figure this out. If you were to draw a line from the crack at a right angle and follow this line down to the floor, it would be showing you the approx location to where the settlement has occurred. You then need to once your at the floor level go straight down through the floor towards the basement, crawl or slab. As you do this you need to look for signs of movement or settlement of the framing. Often times with an older home you will end up in the basement or crawl area and find that the top of the columns that support the main beam have crushed into the main beam. This is an indication that the engineering of the structure was undersized and there is to much weight placed upon the column within the basement. If this is the cause you need to have a structural engineer further evaluate this condition and suggest methods to improve the load sharing on the beam. Also you can determine what side of the door is moving by simply looking at the top of the door when its closed. The hinge side of the door is fixed to the framing of the room. So that side will remain constant. The latch side however will move up or down in relationship to the hinge side. When you look at the top on the hinge side is the space between the door wider then the hinge side or smaller? Smaller means that the movement down is on the hinge side of the door. Wider means the hinge side dropped. The side that dropped is normally the side that shows the angle cracking. The last type of crack is vertical. This is a sheer crack. This is normally caused by incorrect framing within the wall itself.
  • Ali S Ali S on Jan 21, 2012
    So then what about the cracks over the door frame? That's the one that scares me. :/
  • You must first determine where the crack is coming from. All cracks can be fixed and prevented. I posted the response but goofed and forgot the door part. so I edited my response to you. Check it once again as there is something about this in my response as well. Then let me know if you have any questions. As far as concern about it just showing up now. Homes age in many ways. Some good, some not so good. But I would not be over worried about the door, unless it got real bad real fast. But I think this has been a long term issue and your just seeing it now.
  • Ali S Ali S on Jan 21, 2012
    So basically what you're saying is that this is likely going to be an expensive repair? :(
  • Peace Painting Co., Inc. Peace Painting Co., Inc. on Jan 21, 2012
    In my opinion, you may not have to do anything structurally if these cracks have been slowly forming over a very long time, but still find out why if you can by phsically looking for some failure as Woodbridge mentioned. If you think it is progressing quickly because of some recent event, put a pencil line at the end of the crack and check back again in a month or so. If you see any movement, it is time to call the right expert. For repair of the crack itself, I just posted on how to patch this to withstand minor future movement. Best, Charles
  • Ali S Ali S on Jan 21, 2012
    Thanks, guys!!
  • No not possibly expensive. All homes settle. Just like people things tend to go south as they age. This is nothing different in a home. Wood shrinks and as it does items such as man made wall board does not move at the same rates as does the framing. Therefor cracks develop. As Peace said, you can mark it and monitor it over time to see if it keeps moving. And my bet it will continue. This does not mean that you need to worry about it. But you still need to keep an eye on it. After a while you will get to know your home better and understand its quirks and as you do you will understand what is really a concern and what is not. Much like a car that has a squeak. You may never even think about it, but when someone else gets into the car it drives them crazy telling you "don't you hear that noise?" If your still concerned about this issue. Perhaps a photo or two of the door and ceiling cracks to us may provide you with a bit more information about your issue.
  • Ali S Ali S on Jan 21, 2012
    Here are some pics....
  • Peace Painting Co., Inc. Peace Painting Co., Inc. on Jan 21, 2012
    You're right, that's a good size ceiling crack in the green room. It's not uncommone for crown mould to crack on it's own but when seen in light of the other cracks, there may be some shifting going on somewhere. How old is the house and how long have you been there or noticed this going on Ali?
  • The ceiling to the trim gap is most likely because of dry wood shrinking. I have the same issue in my home. I solved this issue with a good quality caulk and repaint. The caulk does not harden and takes up the flex of the wood when the season changes. So nothing much to worry about there. The first photo with the green wall. This is an example of truss lift. However if I see this correct it appears that the ceiling was installed after the walls. As it does not appear that the ceiling is on top of the wall board. What good contractors do is they install the ceilings first. And they do not nail within 16 inches or so from the surrounding wall. This allows the ceiling wall board to sag just a bit. Then when they install the walls they push the ceiling board up tight to the framing. This allows the ceiling to move up and down anytime the wall settles. The result is no cracks develop should the wall area shrink or if uplift occurs the ceiling boards bend down and continues to hide the joint. The door crack does not appear to be that bad. Although some settlement has occurred, its my guess that it has done so because of framing of house has dried out. lumber shrinks faster along its width then it does lengthwise or width-wise. So when you lay floor joists and main beams on their sides you will see the most shrinkage in height. Some lumber can shrink as much as a 1/4 inch in just a few years. Other lumber it might take ten or twenty to shrink that much. In any case if you stack, the main beam then the floor joists your looking at at least a 1/2" of natural settlement right there. Put another floor on top and your looking at 3/4" settlement. The wall boards simply will not settle that much without popping nail heads, or in your case crack the walls. watch this for a bit longer perhaps a few months to see if the wall is still moving. bit of paint between the crack that has dried is a good method of checking. As it will crack the newly painted gap that the paint has provided. I do not see anything of any great concern here. Just keep an eye on it before you patch and paint the wall.
  • Ali S Ali S on Jan 21, 2012
    Thank you so much Woodbridge and Peace. I really appreciate it. We're going to have a structural engineer come out on Monday and double-check everything. Peace, the house is 40 years old (1972) and we have only been here 7 months. Before we came, we were told that the house was freshly painted throughout and the floors were refinished.
  • My guess the house had a lipstick makeover and these cracks were not properly addressed by the painter from the get go. This is quite often the case when someone is selling. They want things to look good on surface but do not want to pay to have it done correctly. This fresh paint issue is the home inspectors biggest nightmare. It takes years of experience to evaluate a home that has been recently painted. And even then lots of issues are just experienced guesses. Keep us informed about what the engineer finds.
  • My guess is that's it's nothing will often see gaps open up at crown molding and ceiling/wall joints during the heating season. I would recaulk with Sherwin Williams MaxFlex at needed...or a product made by Sashco called Big Stretch. In Atlanta, we see this issue alot in fairly new homes that were caulked on the interior with cheap .99 caulks. Builders usually pay the cheapest and get the cheapest work....then you end up call someone like HandyANDY or Peace to come make it right! If the door is opening and closing properly, I wouldn't be as worried about it. Either caulk & touch-up the paint....or make the repair Peace posted elsewhere. Please let us know what the structural engineer says....but I don't think you need one
  • Ali S Ali S on Jan 27, 2012
    Hey all! All right, here's the verdict. The structural engineer came out and said that, overall, there's no major structural damage. Phew! The cracks between the walls and ceiling are the gaps/truss uplift that y'all were talking about with the weather. The 45 degree cracks above the door frames it looks like *were* there before and the previous owners filled them in and painted over them as you suspected. The 45 degree cracks pointed to one spot under the house, where there is a floor beam that has just moved a bit over time. Something about there are metal ties under there that have come off? The damage there is already done and it's not going to move further. The interesting thing we found out in all this is that he went under the house and discovered we have NO insulation for our floors!!! NONE!! Holy cow, no wonder the floors are freezing. So if we want to do that (which obviously we do), it's $2500. He told us how we could do it ourselves, but we're going to enlist a professional for help with that. Thank you again so much for your help!!!! It really helped me not panic about everything. I appreciate the time you all took to help me out. Ali
  • Peace Painting Co., Inc. Peace Painting Co., Inc. on Jan 27, 2012
    Ali, that so nice to hear everything is working out. There's a reason for everything and you are going to have a warmer floor! You made a good call, thanks for keeping us posted. When you get ready to fix the wall crack, look at my posting 6 days ago. Way to do your homework on Hometalk! Best, Charles
  • Callie Callie on Oct 28, 2017

    Right wow it's October 2017. The Condo I live in was built in 1995. It's a double. I've lived here now for over six-years with no issues.

    However...over the last few months I've had extreme cracking in the center portion of my house and many nail pops.

    I hired a structural engineer who told me nothing was wrong. He said it's not the foundation. He said it's not a sinkhole. And he said the house is not settling. But he had NO idea why it is cracking. He looked up in my attic and said nothing was amiss.

    BUT...he Will not tell me what he thinks the reason for the cracking is. In fact...he won't take my money because he says he does not know. And he is a structural engineer! (makes me wonder if the condo assocition paid him to be quiet!)

    How can he NOT know why my house is suddenly cracking ?

    After reading your article & answers...I'm hinking I have trust uplifting issues. I'm irritated because he's the second structural engineer I've had out...only to tell me there's 'no reason for the multiple cracks'.

    YES! There are reasons! Walls don't just crack for no reason. Joints pulling away from each other don't happen becuz a 23 year old place is "settling@ as one of the truck still engineers said to be the cause.

    These are not small cracks! and there are not just a few.


    I'n concerned becuz more & more nail pops are coming through the ceiling and some of them are as big as a Silverdollar. I've been marking with a pencil and dating and watching my walls crack. One crack is wide enough that I can put my little finger through it!

    I don't know where to turn. I don't know who to ask. I'm not made of money. So this is very frustrating.

    If this is a truss lifting issue with the condo...then I need someone to put it in writing so I can get them to take care of it. But no one will say WHY my home has so many noticeable cracks a nail pops.

    I SO much hope you can help me. /: