Hot Topics: Interior Wall Cracking and Bubbling

Cracks and bubbles in an old wall covered in paint.

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When a homeowner notices cracking and bubbling on the interior surfaces of their 1930s home, they turn to our seasoned home improvement pros in the forum for some answers. The forum members share some potential causes for the surface damage on the wall, one of which may be failed waterproofing and the effects of moisture. Read on for the discussion and the potential solution!

Original Post: cracks and bubbles in wall?

mvoong Member

Just wondering if anyone can tell me where these cracks and paint bubbles are coming from in my basement walls? Is there something I need to fix?

The cracking and bubbling of an interior wall next to stairs.

XSleeper Group Moderator

That generally is a symptom of years of water vapor trying to escape from behind an old painted surface, which is acting like a vapor barrier. Without knowing anything about what the wall is made of or what is behind the wall, it's hard to make any sort of recommendation.

stickshift Group Moderator

It looks like there's rust on the corner bead, which would be another symptom of moisture coming through the wall.

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

I agree it looks like a moisture issue. What is on the other side of those walls?
mvoong Member
It's brick and insulation behind the drywall. Does the fact that it's winter have to do with cracks?
marksr Forum Topic Moderator
What is on the other side of the brick? is it earth or another room? Masonry can hold moisture and it would be good to determine where that moisture comes from so that can be rectified.
mvoong Member
It's in the basement, so I'm assuming its just earth on the other side of the brick. It's an old place, so the exterior of the brick probably isn't waterproof. Could that be the problem?
marksr Forum Topic Moderator
The foundation was probably waterproofed at one point, but it sounds like the waterproofing has failed. Ideally, you'd excavate the exterior side, waterproof, and install a weeping tile to remove any water that gets down there. But that is a lot of work! Sometimes just making sure the downspouts are piped away and the ground is sloped away from the house is enough to remove the moisture.
mvoong Member
The place is pretty old. I think it was built in the 1930s. I'm not sure if they even used exterior waterproofing back then, but thanks for the advice.