A property will probably be one of the biggest investments of your life. If you’re going to spend that much money on something, surely you will want it to last you a long time.
At the same time, when you’re at home all the time, you get used to all of its little quirks. It becomes hard to recognize when something is broken or out of place. That can be the case with ceiling cracks as well.
Cracks in the ceiling are not very appealing to the eye, but they don’t pose a threat most of the time. That is unless there is a leak or a stain that comes with it. If you notice a crack, you should probably check it out to find the cause and avoid a safety hazard.
Ceiling cracks are not uncommon and they often occur with time. If your house is old, chances are, there will be a few cracks in your ceiling. Generally speaking, they are just very unattractive, but not life-threatening. However, you should investigate to find the cause either way.
A ceiling crack could be a result of moisture, a storm, poor roof drainage, or a plumbing leak. In this guide, we will discuss what causes cracks in ceilings and how to fix them.
What Causes Cracks in Ceilings?
Heavy moisture is one of the main reasons for ceiling cracks. If you’re on the ground floor, moisture could be coming from the floor above. If you’re on the top floor, there could be damage to the roof.
Houses need a few years to settle after they’re built. Even after that, they continue to settle. Weather changes can cause the foundation to expand and contract. It can change the wall-to-ceiling alignment and can result in cracks in the ceiling.
Too much weight
The space above the ceiling, be it an attic or a room, might bear too much weight. Bathrooms need specific support systems to carry the weight of all the appliances they hold. If everything is not upheld correctly, it could lead to cracks in the ceiling or even sagging.
Roof trusses can cause cracks in ceilings too. Trusses sit on top of wall plates. When wood rafters expand and contract with heat and humidity, the ceiling joists are pulled away from the wall plates. That can form cracks in the ceiling.
Not all ceiling cracks are the same. The cause and solution will depend on the shape, size, and location of the crack in question. Here are some of the most common types of ceiling cracks and how to fix them.
Types of Ceiling Cracks and How to Fix Them
Fine, straight crack
If the drywall joint wasn’t properly taped or mudded, the tape will not stick to the drywall. As a result, there could be a crack at the edge of the tape.
This isn’t a safety hazard, so you can ignore this type of crack if you don’t mind looking at it. You can cover it by applying a bit of drywall compound under the tape and trying to adhere it to the wall.
Spider web cracks
These cracks have a center point and the cracks spread out from it like a spider web. You will find spider web cracks in ceilings, walls, and even floors. They are quite common. If the cracks are small, you don’t need to worry. If they are over 1/16-inch wide, however, you could be facing a structural problem.
Cover them with a thin layer of drywall compound. Sand off the old compound and apply more on top.
If the crack is yellow or brown, there is probably water involved. If there is a leak upstairs, water can come all the way down to the ceiling’s drywall panel. The joint tape will loosen, and it will create an ugly crack. Before you get to fixing the crack, figure out what is causing it and fix that leak.
Scrape off the loose tape and re-tape the joint. Use a drywall repair kit or paper tape and joint compound. If your ceiling is textured, you can go down to your nearest home improvement store and buy an aerosol texture product. Use it to cover the re-taped joint and fix the texture.
Cracks caused by truss uplift
This type of ceiling cracks appears on the point where the ceiling and the wall intersect. Roof trusses can move due to changes in temperature and humidity.
This is a common occurrence. There is nothing to worry about, as your home is built to withstand such shifts. You don’t need to repair it, but if you want to, there is only one way to do that.
Remove the nails or screws from the edges of the drywall panels. Reattach them to clips or blocks installed on the top of the interior wall plates. This can get a bit difficult, so it’s best to hire a professional builder.
Matching vertical cracks
Cracks that run in a line on the ceiling and continue down to the wall are dangerous. There is probably some structural damage to the house. It could be a weak wall stud or the result of an earthquake.
Contact a structural engineer or a builder to assess the situation and suggest further action.
Large cracks and a bowed ceiling
It gets serious when your ceiling is sagging. There is probably something heavy above the ceiling that is causing it to shift. You can fix that by moving the heavy object. There could also be damage to the support structure.
There is no quick fix for this one. You need to contact a structural engineer or a contractor and ask them to assess the situation. Act as soon as you notice something is off to avoid a safety hazard.
Ceiling cracks accompanied by wall cracks
If the cracks in the ceiling are accompanied by cracks in the wall, the house could be in the process of settling. Any house will settle with time. That can create cracks in walls and ceilings, and sometimes above doors and windows, and in corners. These can be re-taped, but they might reappear later on.
If the gaps are wider than 1/8-inch, there could be a problem and you should consult a builder.
Ceiling cracks in plaster ceilings
Cracks in plaster ceilings may be caused by moisture or movement. Plaster is very rigid, so the smallest movement can make a crack. It is usually one of two things: the house is settling or there are temperature and moisture fluctuations in the attic.
You can repair small cracks with plaster. Bigger sections will require replacing them with drywall.
Ending thoughts on what causes cracks in ceilings
Think about the location of the crack, and its size and shape. Your safety could be at stake! If you have even a shadow of doubt then you should definitely contact a professional. Don’t neglect your ceiling, even though cracks are not harmful most of the time.
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