Help with fixing bulging drywall seams

amt782July 24, 2012

This is driving me and my OCD NUTS! There are visible bulging seams all over in my tall stairwell and I can't figure out how to fix it without removing and beginning new (just got done removing deteriorated plaster and drywalling an entire floor- can't bring myself to do it again just yet). I have tried sanding it down and it appears the bulge is actually the drywall itself settling onto the piece below it. I also tried adding more screws at the seams but the problem is- there are no studs to be found. When examining an area on the ceiling where the same problem is occurring I realized that the visible joints occur when two pieces of drywall meet in between joists and no extra bracing was added to secure the ends to. Is there anything I can do to fix the problem without removing the drywall? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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Christopher Nelson Wallcovering and Painting

Drywall should have never benn installed without a stud at the seams. I do not know of anything else to do but have it installed correctly, sorry.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 4:37AM
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Without a stud there to fasten the drywall to, it will sag over time no matter how much kiudgework you do to try to "repair" it. The only solution is to remove the drywall, install proper blocking, and apply new drywall. Hire out the project if you don't want to DIY, as it won't be that expensive. In a stairwell, you need decent scaffolding and extra pairs of hands to do it right. It's worth paying someone else to do so you don't end up in the hospital from a slip and fall.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 12:35PM
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"Drywall should have never benn installed without a stud at the seams."

Not all seams are studded or backed up, and they do not need to be.

A typical installation uses 4x8 sheets, and only the 4 foot edges are on studs.

The long edges are perpendicular to the studs and when correctly taped and finished are not going to sag (ceilings are done the same way).

    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 4:41PM
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Hi, Maybe think out of the box on this problem. How about covering the seams with a fancy moulding (think chair rail) Then possibly paint the sections some neat colors. Make it look like it was planned, you are only limited by your imagination.
Good Luck Woodbutcher

    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 8:12PM
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Woodbutcher is right, as is op - the house is settling, which is normal. Where the drywall joins near the upper floor level, that bulge will happen. You need to actually cut away half an inch or so of the drywall - a little off both sheets - and affix some sort of trim (presumably top only) to allow for movement.

Problem solved - and it's the only way to solve it, it will keep happening as the house settles.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2012 at 1:14AM
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Once you've done what I've suggested, cut away the edges of the other boards exhibiting this and tape and re-mud - if you leave the gap under the board at the floor level, the others should be ok.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2012 at 1:13AM
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So when you say cut away the edges of the boards, do you mean just trim the 1/8" that is pressing against the sheet below it and then tape and mud? I love the chair rail idea but this is in a stairwell and the seams occur all the way up the 18' tall wall at different intervals.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2012 at 5:35PM
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Are you sure this is not that chinese drywall? Why would the drywall bulge if the house is settling? I would also look for water penetration.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2012 at 7:46PM
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If there really isn't any support behind the edges...and you want to add support at the joints without removing the drywall, how about cutting an access hole at each joint (eg. 4" high x 6" long), then insert a 1 x 4, 1 x 6 or similar size plywood piece behind the edges and screw them to the board. You may need to drill a couple finger holes in the board to pull it in place as you screw...or alternatively put a long screw in it as a temporary handle to grab onto. Then reinsert the patch you had cut out and screw that in place. (you may want to clean the edges of the patch with a sharp utility knife at an angle).

That should firm up the drywall at the edges enough to keep settlement from pushing out the edges.

Next, use a utility knife (with sharp blade) and cut away the high stuff along each edge. Next, retape (I wonder if there is tape to begin with), followed by subsequent wider coats.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2012 at 10:11PM
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It bulges at the seams because it's affixed at multiple points along the upper part, it moves slowly downwards and pushes against the lower sheet.

Where I am, it's code or at least standard practice to run that trim or picture rail across that seam, to cover the gap they allow for expansion/contraction/settling.

You don't need support behind the edges provided it's properly done, and adding such might create more issues.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2012 at 12:50AM
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Really? Code or standard practice...and a gap for expansion/contraction/settling? Come on. It's just a bad drywall job (probably with insufficient framing underneaith) that needs neither excuses nor moulding to justify it.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2012 at 12:14PM
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Absolutely it is in British Columbia. I don't know for sure if it's code, but it's absolutely standard practice in stairwells (usually the only place where you get your whole two floors height in one wall.

I'm an alarm technician, and I see it (the gap and the trim that covers it) in every new house. Mine has the same bulge at the seam at the level of the upper floor, because it was built before that trick was introduced.

I assume it's not a rule in the US since nobody seems to know about it, but it's standard here, and it WILL fix the OP's problem (assuming it's only one seam, but if it's several, once the gap is introduced, the others can probably be fixed.)

What 'framing' would fix it, in your opinion? Clearly it's downward pressure. Sure, a heavier point load may have reduced the effect, but the direction of pressure certainly appears to be downwards.

I guess that's why we leave a 3/8" gap at the bottom of a wall.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2012 at 1:08PM
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A wet 2x12 joist is a good 3/8 wider than a dry one. When it shrinks underneath, the non-compressible drywall has to go somewhere, as two objects can't occupy the same space. A slip joint or molding shroud is the no-brainer solution.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 5:56PM
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Thanks. I should add that they now put slip or expansion joints in drain pipes from the upper floor. I've only noticed them on the main larger pipes, I don't know if they put them on the smaller ones.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 1:00AM
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