Should I worry about this crack?

catherinetJanuary 29, 2009

We had this addition built about 12 years ago. I just noticed this crack about a month ago, at which time it was only about 4" long. Now its about 24" long. This is the ceiling of a 3'x4' hall in our master bedroom that leads to a closet and a bathroom. There is a crack on the other side of that hall ceiling, heading towards this crack, but about 1" in front of it. That crack is about 10" long.

I don't understand why this has started now. There aren't any new cracks anywhere else that I know of.

We did have a small earthquake here in Indiana last year. maybe that got it started??

I've never had a crack on the ceiling like this before.

Any thoughts?


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Well it would be a good idea to check it out with a professional I think - how can anyone here possibly give a meaningful answer on something like that?

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 10:36PM
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I agree with Lucy, it would be a good idea to have an engineer or an architect or contractor (although beware of a contractor trying to drum up business for themselves) check this out.

It is difficult, as Lucy said, to try to guess what might be causing it when all we have is a photo of the crack, no floor plans and no idea of what relationship the crack has to the addition or how it fits with the rest of the house.

Basically something is pulling that section apart. Some cracking is normal - again, how is house constructed? Brick? Wood?

Cracking can be due to ingress of moisture, excessive dryness, settling of all or part of the foundations, etc etc. I suppose if you want to do some initial checking yourself, examine the outside of the building near the crack, is there any visible cracking? Is the crack near the join between old and new? A corner? Is there any noticeable cracking around the foundations or corners of the building? Are any door sticking that weren't? Any water leaks? Water getting into foundations can cause problems. Do you have gutters and downpipes that direct rain and snow melt water away from the house?

Check up in the ceiling space/attic above. Anything look awry up there? Any evidence of leaking?

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 11:26PM
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Thanks Lucy and pjb999,
The house is wood and is on a crawl space under that addition. The addition was about 30' wide and almost as long. I haven't checked for cracks outside because we've had so much snow. No, the crack is well within the new addition (not near the old part), and starts on a corner of a small hall. We'll check the attic for leaks, but there's been no discoloration of any ceilings. We have gutters and the water is directed away from the foundation.
The house is very dry (humidity in the 30's), but I try to keep a couple humidifiers running.
I'll send DH to the attic to check for any obvious problems. Its going to be pretty hard to cover up a big crack in that textured ceiling. At least its not in a real visible area.
Of course, I'll have dreams about waking up and the 2 parts of the house have split apart. ;)

    Bookmark   January 30, 2009 at 7:11PM
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Thanks drywall diy guy,
I just saw your reply.
I don't know if its at a drywall seam. How can I tell? It would make sense, though, since its at the beginning of a small hallway. I can't see any seam tape.
This addition was built in l996. Why would it just now be shifting? There really aren't other cracks to speak of in this big addition.
On super cold mornings, I do hear big crack sounds occasionally in the attic. I told the builder this the first winter after it was built, and he just laughed and said it was normal. Is it normal?
I checked the outside of the crawlspace, and there were no cracks in the cement blocks.
What type of person would I have come here to look at this?

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 4:40PM
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An engineer preferably, or architect. There may be some sort of building inspector you could hire, but if they're like the house inspector type, their qualifications can vary widely. Probably an engineer is your best bet. It will cost you some money, but what you are experiencing is not normal and should be addressed.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 6:47PM
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Thanks pjb999.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 6:52PM
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You are welcome.

Are the cracking sounds normal? I guess you will get some but from what you've said they were pretty loud, and in the addition. Given the crack in the ceiling, it'd be a safe bet that the two are related. Since it's an opening crack, I guess we can assume that section is being pulled apart or the house is settling on opposite sides of the crack, like snapping a breadstick.

What sort of soil are you on there? I guess the other question, is it any sort of a hill, or has there been excavation next door or anything like that?

The engineer will address all of those issues. Just a few streets away from me is an area that's been identified as having ground water issues with I think some liquifaction and there was severe house movement etc, the city had to drill a series of wells and their website has information and a map of the area with dire predictions of what would happen if the power went out and the wells stopped pumping, they said movement would resume within a few days. In recent months, around the affected area I've noticed green boxes with the Cummins name on them in various spots, they've put in some sort of backup generators presumably to run the pumps in case of an outage.

I'm sure what's happening at your place is not that dire, but one needs to take precautions, severe earth movements are usually preceded by warning signs like you're seeing. Best to be safe. Have you noticed doors sticking or anything? It may just end up being a poor seam, but you'll sleep better when you know.

I would also take some measurements and maybe put some marks along the crack so you can see if it's moving or getting worse.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2009 at 10:44AM
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Where are you located in Indiana? My brother lives in Evansville and got shook pretty good by that earthquake. Your crack could be from that. He had some cracks from the quake. the next question do you have anything stored in that section of the attic? Has there been anyone in that section of the attic and put their foot on the drywall?

    Bookmark   February 11, 2009 at 8:38PM
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To see if it is a seam, you would probably have to remove the textture enough to see if it is two sheets meet there. Another way would be to look from the top if you have attic access - be careful not to step on drywall as you will break through.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2009 at 9:58PM
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When a crack propagates from a corner like that, and it's fairly linear in nature, it's often a seam in the drywall that's cracked, just as previously mentioned.

Why after 12 years? Could be from the earthquake. Could be because this winter is different from the others...a little colder, a little more snow, a little more this, a little less that.

Could be due to work done on the house. New insulation, new HVAC.

Do you have trusses in that section of the attic? Could be due to truss lift.

Could be any combination. Or it could be just because...


    Bookmark   February 11, 2009 at 10:45PM
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We haven't checked the attic out yet. But what's interesting is that my son is home and tall enough to push on the ceiling, and it appears as though the entire textured ceiling in that hall moves when pushed. Like the whole section of it has come loose from the drywall.
It has been a very cold, dry winter. Unfortunately, I didn't get the humidifier in that room going for a long time.
Yes, we have trusses, no new work since the 12 years ago.
We'll check the attic out this weekend. Hopefully there won't be a leg ending up where the crack once was. ;)
If we find that the crack is where 2 boards meet, does that tell us anything more?
Actually, there's another crack starting at the other side, running parallel to the first crack, about an inch from it, but its only about 7" long. Even though these cracks follow a fairly straight line, they are very irregular.
Thanks everyone.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 7:27PM
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Dang. I was in the bathroom this morning and looked up, and there's a stain from the roof leaking. This spot is about 6-7' away from the crack. I looked outside on the roof, and its under a vent stack, whose sealer-thing around it is cracked and broken. DH will go in the attic later today. Hopefully it isn't a real mess. This addition is only 12 years old. I suppose my next post will be about how to nicely cover up a ceiling stain.
Gosh, doesn't it take alot of water to make a stain on the ceiling? We have about 8-12" of cellulose insulation in the attic.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2009 at 2:57PM
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DH went up in the attic, and the vent stack must be leaking, and has made the insulation and then the drywall wet. Temporarily, we put a big pan up there. How does one deal with leaks around things that come out of the roof, if the weather is always below freezing and probably will be for awhile??
The crack area is, indeed, where 2 pieces of drywall meet. I have been too hesitant to pull more of the textured ceiling away from the crack, to see if there's any tape, but I have the feeling there isn't. Do cracks like that tend to happen when they haven't used seam tape?
Thanks again for your help.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2009 at 8:39PM
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Good question about the vent stack boot in cold weather - a roofer or roofing plumber can answer that. In the mean time, if it's the plumbing vent stack, you could take a 6' tarp up there, some sandbags and weatherproof duct tape and put a tent round it til spring.

Now if there's no mould up there, you can bag the ruined insulation (you'll need to replace it) and you may be able to repair the ceiling. If it keeps bulging/sagging after it's dry you might need to replace it, but I have heard you can repair a damaged ceiling from above by supporting it from below with a prop and sheet of plywood or similar pushing ceiling back into place from below, then you pour a layer of plaster of paris onto the ceiling from above, that will mend it, in theory. You could reinforce it with the fibreglass tape that looks like flyscreen, perhaps put strips up there with a hump in them to tie it all together.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2009 at 7:18PM
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Thanks pjb,
The ceiling wasn't bulging or anything, thankfully. We just have a small dark spot on the ceiling in the bathroom to try to cover up. About protecting the leaky vent stack until warm weather.......I was thinking about getting something like a cheap rubber welcome mat, and cut a hole in it that would fit tightly around the stack. Oh dang, I guess that wouldn't keep roof water from leaking under the floor mat though. Hmmmm....well, I guess we'll figure something out, but in the meantime, we have a dishpan in the attic where it can catch the leaking water.
Its funny, but this has made me remember that we had a spot on the ceiling in another bathroom years ago, and it was right under the vent stack too! Guess we haven't been so good on doing roof-patrol! Just a little bit of caulk would have saved us all this trouble!
Thanks for your help pjb.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2009 at 8:07PM
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No problem. As for the staining, there is a product called Kilz, it's a primer and stain-stopper. If you just paint over the stain it'll come through again so treat it with Kilz first, a couple of coats, then paint over it. If it's a non-painted coating on the ceiling you will probably have to paint the whole hallway so it doesn't look odd but the other rooms should be ok if the colour difference isn't too noticeable. An airless sprayer is your best bet for painting the ceiling if the coating is too delicate for a roller.

Over the crack itself I'd use fibreglass tape then mud it.

If there is mould up there, you'll want to remove all affected insulation and spray the affected areas with a mould treatment.

At least we know what it is now, and it's not structural. When I bought my house we had a mystery ceiling stain but the valley on the roof was quite obviously done for, as the previous owner had attempted a repair. We replaced the roof a year or so ago. You should be ok just replacing the boot, or caulking it. In the meantime tape over the joint might even suffice if you can get up there.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2009 at 11:52PM
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Thanks again pjb!

    Bookmark   February 17, 2009 at 12:00PM
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Don't forget to empty that dishpan frequently! Water is heavy, and if you have the pan sitting on top of the insulation between the wood beams and it gets full, you could end up with a hole in the ceiling when the pan drops through. You might want to but a 1"x6" perpendicular across the beams (rafters?) and set the pan on top of that, if you haven't already.

The house was probably already settling after 12 years and the quake may have hurried the process along a little, leading to the drywall seam separating enough to cause the crack. But I think someone mentioned additions settling in different directions from the rest of the house - that's happening with my sunroom as well. It was attached to the brick house, with a large doorway cut into the brick, and the caulking where the wood addition joins the brick has pulled away due to settling. I consider that a cosmetic problem, though, and not something affecting the integrity of the home. But I could be wrong!

    Bookmark   February 18, 2009 at 1:56PM
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Thanks poodoo.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2009 at 8:52PM
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I have a crack in my ceiling in my master bedroom where the attic would be. I agreed not to use the attic so in 4yrs I have never been up there. The crack started out about 5" long now it about a foot long

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 6:28AM
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start your own thread
easy to do
and explain more details
but as the old thread indicated
you likely need to have professional assess

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 9:21AM
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