recurring cracks in drywall

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  #1  
Old 12-16-00, 09:56 AM
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Question

The house I'm in has large cracks in the drywall at the upper corners of the window frames up to the cieling and along the cieling/wall angle. I was told that this was due to the expansion/contraction of the soil (the foundation is pier and beam) and that the solution was a constant soaker hose along all the outside perimeter to maintain a constant soil moisture level. I'm wishing for some type of wall treatment that will either prevent or just not show these cracks that come back with the changing weather. Am I wishing in vain? Am I trully doomed to expensive foundation work? HELP!
 
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  #2  
Old 12-16-00, 11:40 AM
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How old is your home?? If less then three years, fix the cracks and see what happens. The window cracks you've described are not uncommon due to the wooden framing acclimating itself to conditions and have nothing to due with the foundations. Be advised though, this does not rule out the foundation as the culprit. Don C.
 
  #3  
Old 12-16-00, 07:41 PM
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I don't know who you have been talking to, but I would say they are full of something or on something. Your cracks are because the sheetrock was not put up correctly. That is a fact. These are prime signs of amateur sheetrocking. you can fill the cracks, but they will return. The reason for the cracks is that when they sheetrocked, they did not use a full piece of sheetrock , and cut out the window. Instead they pieced around your window. Now you have cracks where they pieced in. The cracks run from your window corners up to the ceiling. Only real cure is to re sheetrock the windows. Not a fun job. Also the ceiling cracks are because they did not use ceiling corners. They just ran the sheetrock up, ran a piece of tape across and bingo.
Do not spray water on your house. Good Luck PS the cracks mentioned in the other answer are settleing cracks. These are common, but are in different places and are different types of cracks.
 
  #4  
Old 12-16-00, 09:19 PM
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Jack,

Those cracks are often called settling cracks, but that is not what they are. I've been drywalling, as a licensed contractor, for almost thirty years and I can't tell you how many times I've heard carpenters, GC's, realators, and god knows who else talk about settling cracks because they have nothing else to say. There is plenty of research and info on the net concerning the mositure content of wood, and it's effects while changing. The problem at windows is the opposing grains of the header and the studs in relation to temp and moisture gradients. I wouldn't rule out bad board hanging, but if it is bad hanging, there would be cracks all over, not just at the windows.

Forann, how old is your home? Don C.
 
  #5  
Old 12-17-00, 05:50 AM
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Don: I am not going to argue with you.You are correct in a few points. but settleing cracks usually occur within the first 18 months. I also have been a General Contractor for over 30 years building homes and more. In over 3000 homes, I have never had cracked sheetrock. Thats because it is hung the way I say. Its hell to be the boss.
 
  #6  
Old 12-17-00, 07:01 AM
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Jack,

This is from University of Mass. research, and there's plenty more. Take the time to read it:

Shrinkage, not settlement:

Contrary to popular phraseology, wood-frame buildings don't settle, they shrink. The year-round average equilibrium moisture content of studs, joists, and rafters in heated buildings is about 10%. But since framing lumber is exposed to outdoor relative humidity, and possibly precipitation too, during shipment, storage, and construction, it's usually sold at a moisture content of 15% to 19%, so some shrinkage and warpage is inevitable.

Beginning once the structure is weather-tight, most shrinkage takes place during the first heating season. A two-story, platform-framed home built with HEM-FIR lumber at 19% MC, for example, will shrink about 3/4 of an inch in height as it dries to 10% MC. Virtually all the shortening is due to across-the-grain shrinkage through the depth of the rim joists and the thickness of the wall plates. And that can lead to a multitude of headaches for builders.

For starters, joist and plate shrinkage can cause buckling of plywood siding panels outside or of drywall inside, especially in stairwells and spaces with cathedral ceilings. The problem arises when a panel crosses the rim joist between floors so that it's fastened to the studs above and below the joist. Vertical shrinkage of studs is virtually nil, but vertical shrinkage of joists and plates can be substantial. As the joist and plates shrink, studs on the two floors are drawn together, compressing the panel fastened to them. Being stiffer, plywood siding buckles, while drywall may buckle or crush. The solution is to break panels between floors. For drywall this may mean using an expansion joint at the joist and a control joint at the ceiling, or applying the drywall to resilient channels. For plywood siding, it means providing a flashed gap of about 1/4 in. at panel ends.

The initial shrinkage of framing can also lead to roof leaks when chimney flashing is rigidly -and thus incorrectly- connected to both the masonry and the wood frame. I've read one case history in which casement windows on the top floor of a three-story apartment building clad in brick wouldn't open after the first heating season because the platform-framed floors shrank below the openings in the masonry veneer.

Framing members that bulge out of the plane of a wall, floor, or ceiling as they dry often contain abnormal wood that shrinks excessively along the grain (ten or more times as much as normal wood), causing lumber to crook or kink. One kind, juvenile wood, forms around the center of trees for up to the first twenty years of growth, so just about all lumber sawn near the pith of a tree contains it. Another type, compression wood, forms on the bottom of branches and on the underside of leaning softwood trees. Lumber with lots of knots is apt to kink as it dries because of this. Cut excessively knotty or pith-containing lumber into cripples, blocking, and other short-length uses when you can.


I don't want to argue either, but let's get real. You may have had 3000 homes built, but there is no way you built 3000 homes. My banker has done that, and I doubt he would know one claw hammer from another. For the record, I have a Masters in forestry and wood science. Don C.
 
  #7  
Old 12-17-00, 04:47 PM
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Don C:
I believe it is the third paragraph that tells or states what they believe to be a solution. That is basically how I do it. It works. Their report is very good, and I would say pretty accurate. In many cases with lumber from Canada, the shrinkage is even more. And if settleing cracks are going to occur they will usually do that within 18 months like they say. The only part they stated of sealing the house, has been changed somewhat. Now most codes will not allow a air tight home. You are again correct in saying I (myself personally) did not build 3000 homes, but my building and construction company did, and I own the company.
Lock, stock, and nail. By the way, where do you live. You give interesting answers. You can e-mail me if you want at [email protected] You sound like a great guy.
 
  #8  
Old 12-18-00, 08:23 PM
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sheetrock cracks

Thanks for all the prompt replies with helpful info. The house was built in the 1940s and I'm inclined to go with the poor sheetrock answer not only due to the house's age but also the fact that there has been some fairly extensive termite damage within the sheetrock itself (I was told that termites will digest the glue that holds the paper backing and gypsum togeather). Re-sheetrocking is easier and cheaper than foundation work, so if that works I'll be thrilled. Thanks again.
 
  #9  
Old 12-18-00, 10:39 PM
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Forann,

Hate to tell you this but there is no glue that holds the paper to the gypsum! Also, if your house was built in the 40's it's not impossible, but it is highly unlikely it was built with drywall. Good luck though. Don C.
 
  #10  
Old 12-19-00, 03:12 AM
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Forann:
My guess that your home was originally lathe and plaster, and that at some point in time probably within the last 10 years, it was sheetrocked. Yes, sheetrock is alot easier and cheaper then foundation work. Remember to cut out your windows. Good Luck
 
  #11  
Old 04-27-06, 08:17 PM
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Recuring Drywall Cracks with temperature changes

In my main entryway, there is cathedral ceilings along the stairwell, and I have had drywall problems where the main floor walls meet the ceiling/floor joists of the upper floor. The house was built in '96 so I think most of the "settling" should be done by now. When we moved in some cracks appeared towards the end of summer on these wall/ceiling joints in the stairwell and as it got colder they got worse. So bad that along one of the drywall joints, the drywall buckled and formed another stress crack near the joint. I went and fixed one of the joints by removing the spackle that the previous owners had covered the cracks up with and put down some vinyl mesh tape over the crack, re-spackled, texturized and painted it. It looked fairly well for being my first time doing it, but then this past weekend when we opened the windows and the house began to warm up, I woke up to find the exact crack back causing all my spackle work to bulge out and re-crack .

It is doing this expand/contract motion on both sides of my stairwell and it looks like there is about 3/4 to 1 inch of expansion/contraction depending on the season/temperature. It looks like they used a single sheet of drywall to go across the floor joist which I read is probably the source of the problem in some forums and it suggested an expansion joint at the floor joists and a control joint at the ceiling. First off, do my issues sound consistent with drywall done incorrectly across two floors of a house? Secondly, I'm an ambitious, willing to learn do-it-yourselfer but are these drywall fixes something I can do on my own or do I need to hire it out and what's a reasonable price? Does anyone have some good advice or links on how to do these expansion and control joints? Thanks for all your help in advance.

Aaron C.
 
  #12  
Old 04-29-06, 05:47 PM
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I have never heard of expansion joints in houses other than log cabins.

It almost sounds as though the framing wasn't tied together in the corners where the crack is forming, or the drywall wasn't screwed tight into the corner. The latter is far easier of a fix, either way, houses shouldn't crack 3/4"-1" as a "regular" event.

Drywall people are just people, so you could probably do the repairs if you have done it before, although if the cracks are actually that large, you might want to hire a qualified person to look at it first to make sure nothing odd is happening.

My .02
 

Last edited by MudSlinger; 04-29-06 at 05:59 PM.
  #13  
Old 04-29-06, 07:34 PM
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Aaron,

It be fun to see a picture. Got a digital camera?

But without seeing it, I have a feeling that the way the lumber was nailed is the problem. I once worked for a construction company building multi-unit apartments and the owner saw me nailing and told me I was using too many nails per foot and that I only needed like one nail every 6 feet. I am not kidding! He said that I would be surprised how all the little things can add to the cost of a building. Ya...and then after the sheetrock is hung, you could have movement then between two adjacent (semi)-connected boards.

...Which is probably what you have going on. If someone say simply left out sheetrock screws, all that would happen is that you *could* have (but not necessarily even then) one panel fall away from another panel, but the gap would not increase significantly (unless of course you pulled the panel *way* away from the other panel) But...you couldn't possibly have one panel open up a joint all by itself with no apparent plane-change of the panels unless there was movement of whatever the panels are connected to (which would be the wooden frame structure components).

I am going to try to quickly describe an example of what I mean:

Do you know how partition wall studs are made where the one wall connects to the adjacent wall (like for an interior wall partition?)? They are built with two 2 x 4's that are held apart by 3 1/2 inch blocks nailed in between them, out to the front edge of the 2 2 x 4's. Then another 2 x 4 is nailed to those blocks. Now, suppose someone never nailed that last 2 x 4. Do you know what could happen, in theory, to the sheetrocked wall at this corner if it weren't nailed? The one adjacent wall could move in or out, with humidity changes, or initial wood shrinkage and open up a gap between the sheetrock on *that* wall and that of the adjoining wall where that 2 x4 was never nailed to the other adjacent wall's 2 x 4 (blocks).

And I suspect this is what you have going on, is something like this.

If you analyze your sturcture in the area of your worst problem, and feel there could be a framing issue like I mention, you may want to decide if you might be better off by making a hole in the ceiling (or whatever), big enough so that you can get into the cavity and try to *screw* together adjacent lumber.

A picture of your problem though would be most useful to all of us here and then I'm sure we could almost know for *sure* what is going on.
 
  #14  
Old 05-02-06, 09:44 PM
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Photos of my drywall problem

So I got some pics of the drywall problem I previously described and I've included the links below. To see all of the pics, go to http://people.msoe.edu/~hilla/share/.

This first pic was taken this past winter before I fixed the wall the first time. The corner was cracking and the stress crack was running along the wall. I removed the lose drywall pieces, sanded down the edges of the cracks, put down a vinyl mesh tape on the corner and spackled, texturized, and re-painted. It looked exactly like the rest of the wall at that point.http://people.msoe.edu/~hilla/share/...irst%20fix.jpg The other side of the hallway looked like this: http://people.msoe.edu/~hilla/share/...%20fix%202.jpg I never got to fix this side but you can see how the drywall has bowed out above the seam and it caused a stress crack to form (the top crack shown).

Here is the hallway now with the cracks on both sides. http://people.msoe.edu/~hilla/share/...%20present.jpg You can see the craks at both corners of the stairwell and the cracks have slightly expanded onto the ceiling of the lower level (although they are small hairline cracks).

Here is a picture of the crack I had previously fixed. As I mentioned before, it blended in with the wall, but with the warm up of weather and having our windows opened, this was what re-appeared over 2-days with the warm weather. Here it is from front http://people.msoe.edu/~hilla/share/...nt%20front.jpg and here it is from the side http://people.msoe.edu/~hilla/share/...ent%20side.jpg You can clearly see how it has bulged back out and looks like the distorition is about 1/2" to 3/4". It looks as if it got compressed from above. However, I will add that there is no issues up at the ceiling joint where these walls hit the ceiling. Other than some nail pops on the upper floor in the ceiling, there have been no other major issues.

Here is the other side of the stairwell now at it's present. Actually, with the warmer temps, it is less bowed out now and the stress crack on the top is a little less noticeable. Still, there is obviously a very similar issue on this side as well. http://people.msoe.edu/~hilla/share/...nt%20front.jpg

Hopefull these pics will give you drywall experts a better idea as to what is happening and might be able to tell me what I need to have done. I'm really hoping it's nothing to major, but at this point, it is a pretty big eye sore and is in the main entry way. I don't know if it is related or not, but here is a pic of some small stress cracks I've tried to patch before in the same hall entry way above the main entry door. They might be related to the same issue, but maybe not. I've tried to spackle, texturize, and re-paint these as well but have had no luck here either. http://people.msoe.edu/~hilla/share/...r%20cracks.jpg

Thanks in advance for all your help and I'm open to even the slightest suggestions as I have no drywall experience to date... but it looks like I'll be getting some in the near future.

Thanks,
Aaron
 
  #15  
Old 05-03-06, 07:58 AM
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Contrary to a post I read here yesterday or 2 days ago:

I was hanging new vertical blinds in a rental yesterday. Guess what *I* saw? A straight vertical crack in the sheetrock coming up from the window. Was it at the top right or left corner of the window from someone piecing in sheetrock as this poster suggested should not be done?...but rather should be cut out around the window? Well, in this case the sheetrockers most likely DID cut out around the window, and it cracked at that butt joint, anyway!
 
  #16  
Old 05-03-06, 05:49 PM
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I looked at the pics.

What are those knockdown textured blue walls made of again? Plaster? Plaster and lath with sheetrock over it? Just sheetrock?

Have you tried to check the corners of the opening to see if they are out of square? And... if across the top of the opening if it is out of level and/or bellied in the middle? And check the side of the opening for plumb.

Let us know what you find.

You said to repair these cracks you used a vinyl paper and spackle? Spackle? That won't hold anything. Spackle makes a great filler, but has no strength. Paper tape or fiberglass mesh tape with something like Durobond setting-type joint compound does.
 
  #17  
Old 05-04-06, 10:19 PM
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The walls are drywall and the textured effect on these walls is simply this spray on texture from a can that the previous owners used and painted white paint over. The walls are not plaster.

The corners of the opening are square from the measurements I've taken. The side of the opening also appears to be plumb. I'm not sure what you mean by across the top of the opening unless you mean the ceiling over the stairwell??

The original repair I did was indeed done with spackle because I thought they just needed to be filled. It wasn't until a few weeks back when it warmed up and completely distorted all the patch work I had done that I realized that these walls needed more than just being filled with Spackle and some vinyl joint tape.

From the looks of these pictures, do I need to add more drywall screws to lock down this piece? Is it possible that the piece needs to be completely replaced? Or do I just need to use this durabond joint compound on these cracks.

Thanks,
AaronC
 
  #18  
Old 05-05-06, 03:56 PM
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By across the top, I meant across that big doorway that is in your picture to the right of the stairs, where the horizontal crack goes off to the left of that opening. I thought you could place a level across the underside of it, to see if it was level.

You said the opening appeared plumb. "Appear"? Did you actually place a level on it? And did you actually use a square or something large that is known to be square in the corners of the opening?

But regardless; it doesn't appear to me that there is going to be any quick fix/cheap fix solution here. And it's anybodys guess as to what exactly happened at this point. Do you even know if there is sheetrock tape at a joint in the sheetrock (crack) there? For all I might know, some handy guy did a quicky on that lower level, with the intention of selling, and never bothered to tape. Or taped with top coat mud.

I would go the route of the Durobond (setting type...that dries like cement practically) and tape method over these areas, and then see what happens.
 
  #19  
Old 05-08-06, 08:02 PM
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Thanks for the advice and input DaveBoy. I'll go through with a level and check the ceilings and walls and see if anything structurally is unsound. I plan on having a local "expert" come in and take a look and see what they recommend. Thanks for informing me about durabond and I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Thanks!
Aaron
 
  #20  
Old 05-12-06, 07:54 PM
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Thanks for all the prompt replies with helpful info. The house was built in the 1940s and I'm inclined to go with the poor sheetrock answer not only due to the house's age but also the fact that there has been some fairly extensive termite damage within the sheetrock itself (I was told that termites will digest the glue that holds the paper backing and gypsum togeather). Re-sheetrocking is easier and cheaper than foundation work, so if that works I'll be thrilled. Thanks again.
I to have a 1940's ranch style home. Mine is Pier and Beam and yes I do have cracks in my sheetrock. The funny thing is I looked at you wall pictures and the doorway one is one that I have on my front door and a bedroom door. I bought this house, being my first home bought in my life, and I thought it was going to be great. Well, I have plastered the wall and it still is cracking. I to have thought about getting a Pier and Beam contractor out to my house to take a look but from what people have the Texas soil is always contracting and expanding in the DFW area.

Also an interesting point is that I think that the person that refinished this house, basicly gutted the place and put all new wiring and sheetrock up, did a quick job with the sheetrock because I am having small hair line cracks by the two doors mentions and I have a couple that are by the window ledge on the inside. Is this from bad sheetrocking, because if it is I would love to fix it.
Another thing I have learned is that if you do have window cracks check outside the window and see if the sealent is still good if not replace it with new sealent. It worked for me on the area of getting to much moisture in the walls which enturn made my house "breath" to much.

that is my 2cents.
 
  #21  
Old 05-12-06, 08:06 PM
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Originally Posted by AaronC
Thanks for the advice and input DaveBoy. I'll go through with a level and check the ceilings and walls and see if anything structurally is unsound. I plan on having a local "expert" come in and take a look and see what they recommend. Thanks for informing me about durabond and I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Thanks!
Aaron
Do that. It is always nice to hear back from people posting their problems, to see what the real problems were and how they made out. And it makes those of us suggesting things feel like our posts aren't in vain.
 
  #22  
Old 05-18-06, 07:14 AM
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I am in a similar situtation - 50's brick ranch

with identical looking cracks ALL starting at doorway/window corners and travelling at some angle away from the door/window - I have been in there a month - and am thinking that the cracks are appearing daily (or maybe I am just now noticing them. The only cracks I have in my ceiling run the short lenth of my house (it is a rectangle foot print) at both ends - about 3 feet in from the exterior wall - and those cracks span 2 rooms on each end.

My neighbors have all said - oh, the cracks, don't bother fixing them they will just come back when the season changes (they are saying summer/winter and winter/summer.

I live in durham NC, and the base soil is clay. The exterior of the house has also shown signs of cracking, however I did have a structural guy (only one though) took a look under the house and said that there had been some settling in the past, but that it had been re-supported, and seemed sound now.

In a fit of decorating mania, I patched all the cracks prior to painting - using joining (jointing???) compound - in full anticipation that the cracks will reappear - is there anything else that I could use that would hold up better witht he movement that apparently occurs with the changes in the seasons?

I do not have a water issue under the house, but the property does slope toward the house - would putting french drains in to direct water around the house in a controlled fashion be a bad idea or could it possibly help? Currently the water pooles up near the house until it soaks into the soil so I imagine that the soil below the surface level of my house is pretty moist - perhaps it is the moisture that causes the clay to expand and contract?

Any thoughts???
 
  #23  
Old 05-18-06, 05:41 PM
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How many doors and windows are involved.

Tell us where each one is located. Be very specific if these are not all located along one side or wall of the house, for example.

Tell us what is beneath each one for support (i.e., concrete foundation, interior floor joists, or a beam that holds up the floor joists, etc.)
 
  #24  
Old 05-19-06, 08:59 AM
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Wink location of cracks

Now that I take a long hard look around my house, I have cracks in every single wall, above and/or below all windows and around most doors, both on interior walls and exterior walls. Most cracks are tiny hair line cracks that go from the frame to the ceiling sometimes on a diagonal going away from the frame, and sometimes going up - but in a crooked dogs leg fashion. There was one door way - in the center of the house near one end (not on an exterior wall) where the cracks were large.

The foundation is brick, and I will have to double check the floor joists, they are 16 inches apart - I know that from measuring for insualtion, but couldn't tell you off the top of my head how they are constructed --- I know I have a number of piers under the house - and some have been added since the house has been built - I will try and take a look tonight and repost...

One other thing of note - I have been in the house for just over a months, and I have had doors that were sticking when I moved in no longer stick, and ones that didn't stick when I moved in are now sticking - and those changes (which have happened now perhaps 4 times) happen overnight, so I know there is significant movement frequently in the house - does that sound like water causing the ground to contract and expand that often?
 
  #25  
Old 05-20-06, 12:48 PM
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Keep us updated on what you find. Several posters on this board are interested about this type of thing and like to respond. It sure does sound like you sure have some issues going on below. Your cracks that run ziggety zag at diagonals are actually fracturing the sheetrock and this is quite not good. We are dealing with forces here that go beyond simply trying to pull apart a sheetrock taped joint. You don't have plaster do you? I can't remember and am in too much of a hurry to go back and look. Plaster could very easily fracture in crooked ways. But for sheetrock to be doing this means something is moving bigtime.
 
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