drywall crack

What Are the Different Types of Ceiling Cracks to Be Aware Of?

In Residential Blog Posts by John Topa

Cracks in your ceiling may be unattractive, but do they pose a serious threat? In most cases, unless there’s water coming out of the crack or black mold surrounding the area, they can be repaired. On the other hand, if a crack is a certain width and forms certain patterns, this is a sign that indicates a serious problem, and it should be addressed sooner than later. A ceiling crack can be formed by foundation problems, lumber contractions, vibrations from ceiling fans, concrete failure, poor craftsmanship, and soil erosion.

ceiling crack

States like Florida are at the highest risk for soil erosion because Florida’s peninsula is supported by porous carbonate rocks like limestone. These rocks move groundwater, but they also store it. Therefore, when sand, clay, and dirt become too heavy for the rocks to support, the ground can collapse and create a sinkhole.

Use the guide below to educate yourself on the different types of ceiling cracks. Identifying a crack by its shape can help you determine if they can be repaired or if you should contact a soil remediation repair company in Florida before something more serious occurs.

Gypsum Wallboard Applications

Gypsum wallboard is also known as drywall or sheetrock. If you have a drywall ceiling and see a crack, this can be attributed to a few different factors like seasonal expansion, lumber contraction, foundation issues, and poor installations. Some of these cases are quite normal as a new home settles. They’re usually hairline thin and run vertical or horizontal where the drywall tape was used to cover the seams. They can be repaired by using paper tape and drywall compound.

A large crack (3/16” or wider) in your ceiling indicates that you may have structural damage or a foundation problem, especially if the crack isn’t on a drywall seam. They can form in a straight line or have a lightning bolt shape. If you see this type of crack in your ceiling, you should contact a foundation repair specialist immediately.

Plaster Ceiling Applications

Plaster ceilings in Florida were first used during the early 18th century and continued to the middle of the 20th century when it was superseded by gypsum wallboard and other plasterboard techniques. It works on the premise of wooden laths installed close together across wall studs and ceiling rafters. Then, a coat of plaster is hand-applied to fill in the gaps until a uniformed and flat surface is created.

If you live in a home built during this era, you can expect some cracking in your ceilings. Changing humidity conditions can move the laths and cause a ceiling to crack over the years. Additionally, plaster is also prone to shrinking and both of these situations can be repaired by filling the crack with drywall compound as long as the crack is less than 18” long and 1/8” wide. If you have a crack in a plaster ceiling bigger than this or if it has a stair or V-shape? You should have your concrete inspected for damage or signs of soil erosion.

Water Damage

Water damage from an upper-level plumbing system or leaking roof can send you a fast warning by making a crack appear on your ceiling very quickly. If the drywall around the crack is discoloring, this is a sign of mold and an intermittent leak. If the area around your crack is sagging, looks like a spiderweb, and is dripping water? This is a sign of a serious plumbing problem and needs to be addressed immediately.

This type of damage can be rectified by repairing the leak and cutting the damaged drywall or plaster into a larger square-shape and installing new materials.

Truss Uplift

High winds and tropical storms are quite common in Florida; therefore, when the wind gets under the eaves, it can create significant uplift on your roof’s trusses. Additionally, these structural members are connected on top of wall plates with framing nails. Naturally changing temperatures and humidity can pull the trusses away from the plates, which will create a crack along the corners where the walls meet the ceiling.

You can correct this problem by installing metal connecting ties on the wall plates where the trusses rest or you can install a variety of interior trim work like crown molding and other decorative moldings. Using caulking or drywall compound in the crack is only a temporary fix unless you reinforce your roof’s structural integrity and decrease truss uplift.

Foundation Settling

All new foundations and homes go through a period of settling, especially within the first couple of years of being constructed. Contraction and expansion with cold and hot weather changes can change the alignment of the walls and ceiling. As a result, cracks can appear in both of these areas. As mentioned above, a ceiling crack will follow the seams in the drywall, and they’re generally thin and long. These are not serious in nature and can be repaired with drywall tape and compound.

Tips for Repairing a Ceiling Crack

The most common mistake that can cause a crack in drywall is in the craftsmanship. In some cases, the drywaller doesn’t fill a large crack with a type-setting compound before applying the first coat of mud and tape. Drywall compound straight out of the bucket isn’t strong enough to fill large gaps, therefore, it will sag under the tape as it dries, eventually causing a crack to appear down the road.

The best way to fix a large crack in your ceiling is to use a type-setting compound. Type-setting compounds come in powder form and are mixed with water until the right consistency is achieved. It also dries fast and rock-hard like concrete. Use a type-setting compound in the gaps and let it dry before you apply the first coat of mud and paper tape. You should not use a mesh tape unless you are using a type-setting compound; however, for the best results, use paper drywall tape because if a crack does reappear, it will be hidden under the tape and out of sight.

It’s important to remember if you have a large crack or an unusual shaped-crack in your ceiling, there’s a good chance that your house is warning you of structural damage, soil erosion issues, foundation problems or possible impending sinkholes.

If you start to notice large cracks or unusual shaped cracks in your ceiling and want to get to the root of the problem, contact the foundation repair experts at Helicon!