Plaster Cracks: Serious or Cosmetic?

MikeRussMay 11, 2011

Hello everyone,

My wife and I just bought our first house last month - a 1915 spanish style colonial, and the fun is beginning already :-/ I've been reading the forums here for a bit, but didn't see anything regarding our specific situation, so if anyone has any insight it would be greatly appreciated. During our home inspection, our inspector noticed some structural problems in the basement, where old termite damage had eroded some joists near the foundation wall, causing floor sagging. We subsequently had a structural inspector, who recommended having work done, including sistering some joists, etc - all of which was completed prior to closing. We've been living there roughly 3 weeks now, and I've started noticing small hairline cracks appearing in the plaster almost daily, both in the load-bearing wall where most of the work was done, as well as in the ceiling of the same room. I'm unsure if these were pre-existing (but freshly painted over) and now that the house is being lived in (it sat empty for ~1yr) they are appearing? The other possibilities are that 1) the structural work was inadequate and there are still issues or 2) that these are appearing simply because structural work has been done (and it isn't a big deal). If anyone has any advice or suggestions, they would be very welcome - I'd really like avoid hiring another structural engineer unless absolutely necessary. Sorry for the lengthy post, and thanks!


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What kind of cracks are they? Are they diagonal, vertical or horizontal?
Can you post pictures?

    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 10:42AM
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I can later tonight (at work), but to answer your question, they are all three. The diagonal are only on the wall where the work was done, and radiate from the corner of the windows.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 11:16AM
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"The diagonal are only on the wall where the work was done, and radiate from the corner of the windows."

Most likely caused by the structural repairs, especially at the upper corners of openings (doors or windows).

Plaster is not very forgiving of ANY movement.

Newer wood used in the repair may have first lifted the wall, then lowered it down partly as the new wood dried out and shrank.

If the cracks are very fine and the plaster is in the same plane on each side you probably need to just wait for a complete heating and cooling season before making repairs.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 12:04PM
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Thanks brickeyee,

Have read some of your other plaster posts. Recommend widening the cracks with a utility knife followed by easysand90?

    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 3:58PM
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If they are truly hairline a decent coat of paint may cover them.

If they are actually open cracks a light tolling to remove anything on the edges that might be loose and them some Easysand should close them up.

If they open again it means further movement has occurred.

I would be inclined to wait as long as you can and let any movement end before doing much..

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 2:23PM
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