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We recently did a comprehensive remodel of our very old condominium. Its a four unit row house from the 1890's. I noticed that there is a long crack going up the corner of a back room. Is this a common thing when a new coat of compound and paint is applied? Or is the building settling because of the cold weather, or is there a major structural issue? I'm noticing a similar thing with the grout in the floor / wall corner of the bathroom. Kind of cracking an separating a bit. Any ideas?
A new crack in a wall is always a bit scary. 'Before worrying, look for indications that may suggest it is benign. For example, if cracks have been repointed but have not opened up again, it is an indication that movement has ceased. In some cases, despite doors, windows or floors being at odd angles, they have settled into their new position. Providing there is no sign of fresh movement then the problem has likely stabilized,' says Roger Hunt.
If your home is a new build, cracks may appear as the buildings settles into its foundations. These cracks will be very fine and will not grow over time. Simply patch up with spackling paste and repaint. Once filled the cracks should not reappear, if they do, then consult a structural engineer.
'Cracking in old homes is more likely to occur where hard, modern plasters, cement renders and mortars have been applied to flexible old walls, but superficial cracks up to about 1/32 inch wide are unlikely to be of any great concern,' explains Ian Rock, chartered surveyor and the author of several popular Haynes House Manuals (opens in new tab).
However, any cracks that are larger than 1/32 inch this should be investigated more thoroughly, especially if they start at ground level and appear wider at the top. These could be the result of more significant structural movements.
You can reduce the amount of cracks in your plaster by reducing its drying time, this can be achieved by keeping the room dark and free from breezes. You can also wet the wall before plastering. If it's your first time plastering, be sure to research how to plaster a ceiling as well as the walls to help to achieve a flawless finish first time around.
As well as causing the signature dark marks on walls and ceilings, damp can also cause cracking. Usually these two symptoms will appear together and should be investigated, especially if they have occurred after heavy rain or flooding. 'Cracks and loose plaster can arise from damp caused by structural issues, and should be repaired with appropriate materials,' says Roger Hunt.
Untreated cracks, especially on exterior walls, can also be a cause of damp problems further down the line, which in turn will cause more cracks. 'Cementitious mortars tend to be of low permeability and are brittle, allowing rainwater penetration via hairline cracks. Repointing may be required using a suitable lime mortar or, in a more extreme case, the application of a lime render or other protective finish may be needed,' explains Douglas Kent.
If you have confirmed that your ceiling cracks are simply the result of plaster shrinkage, then you'll need to learn how to fix ceiling cracks to achieve a flawless finish without depending on costly professional help. Alternatively, knowing how to patch a drywall ceiling may be necessary if this is part of the ceiling structure.
Tree roots are a common cause of cracks in homes. As the trees grow the roots expand outwards and often venture underneath houses which can cause subsidence. 'Some of the worst offending trees are broadleaf species such as poplars, oaks, willows, ash, plane and sycamore trees, as well as fast-growing leylandii and eucalyptus. But trees can also be an indirect cause of subsidence where moisture-seeking roots invade underground drains causing them to leak,' says Ian Rock.
Any changes to the weight of your house can cause movement. For example when walls have been moved or removed or windows have been replaced, cracks may appear as the masonry settles into its new position. Unlike cracks caused by subsidence these cracks will not continue to grow over time and once settled can be filled in.
'Settlement commonly gets mistaken for subsidence, however, unlike subsidence this is not usually a serious concern because most buildings gradually settle over time as the ground is slowly compressed adjusting to new weights imposed upon it, for example, from major structural changes like a loft conversion,' explains Ian Rock.
'Climbing plants should be carefully monitored. Ivy in particular will destabilize walls as its roots find their way into cracks and crevices, especially where pointing is defective, and as the tendrils grow and expand they force the masonry apart,' says Roger Hunt. 'If they start to cause a problem, established plants should be cut off near the root and poisoned. Then, once the foliage has died back, it can carefully be removed.'
If you want the effect of growing the best flowering climbers up the front of your house, why not train them up one of these trellis ideas to reduce the likelihood of them causing cracks. You can also grow them in a pot to reduce the effect of the roots on the ground underneath your home.
Large horizontal cracks are usually caused by structural movements and as such should be treated seriously as they are often a result of severe foundation shifting or water damage. Always ensure these cracks are investigated by a professional.
Diagonal cracks in walls are usually caused by structural deterioration. This could be the result of by subsidence, termite damage or the collapse of supporting wood timbers. Diagonal or jagged cracks are one of the most concerning and should always be checked by a professional.
Vertical cracks are usefully found at the point when the wall meets the ceiling and are often the result of settlement. These cracks, unless they are growing length or width-wise are usually nothing to be concerned about. However, if there is water ingress, signs of damp or the crack appears to be life, it is worth getting investigated to be on the safe side. Also get them assessed if the crack is greater than ¼ inch wide.
A singular hairline cracks on interior walls shouldn't be a cause for concern. You can simply fill with spackling paste, allow to dry and then repaint. However, if there are several around a central point, it will need further exploration. The same applies if the crack continues to grow over a short period of time. If a crack is more than ¼ inch wide, 'you should consult a structural engineer as the foundation could become weak and might even lead to a collapse,' recommends trade experts at MyJobQuote (opens in new tab).
Any cracks that are on an exterior wall should always be investigated as it may be a sign of structural issues. They can also be an entry point for water which will cause damp problems further down the line.
Any type of building can be viewed as a set of lungs that inhale and exhale throughout the year, taking in warm air and expanding, then contracting to expel cold air. As a result, says Nippon Paint, there is a natural level of cracking and expansion that will happen on a yearly basis and over the lifetime of a home, leaving behind cracks in places where two walls meet. These cracks will never go away, but you can maintain them to keep the walls looking crack-free at all times.
Latex-based paints are the best solution if you have a painted surface. These have special additives included in the mixture which allow for greater levels of elasticity, or the ability to expand and contract without actually giving way and cracking. They can be used alone if all you have are spiderweb cracks up the corner, but if the cracks are larger you will want to caulk them first and then paint to cover the caulking as well as old layers of paint.
There are really only two solutions for unpainted textured walls that crack up the corner. You can try to find a matching caulk that will cover the cracks as well as possible, or you can caulk the corner and cover it with a new layer of stucco.
Half Corner 18m VS (4b)R. Cole. M. Smith. 4/12/78.Although short, sustained and awkward. Start 1 m left of the left-hand side of the above mentioned archway. Climb the wall and crack to the underside of the archway. Move up and left round a roof to the top a ledge and continue easily to the top.
Kram 25m VS (4c)R. Cole. M. Smith. 30/3/79.A short crux but steep climbing on good holds. Start at a point between the two cracklines in the centre of the wall. Climb the wall to a bulge, surmount this (crux) and climb the blocky wall above. Variation Left-hand Finish VS (4c) M. Smith. R. Cole. 7/6/80. Up the wall to bulge but traverse to the left-hand crack and pull over the top (loose flake).
Kissing Kerry 25m VS (4c)W. Poots, A. Walker. 11/9/88.Start at the base of right-hand crackline below the overhang. Surmount the overhang to reach a large ledge. Climb the crack until it fades in a bulge at half-height. A high reach right allows further progress.
Left Arete 12m E2 5cC. Torrans, D. O'Sullivan. 7/11/87.Follows the left arete of First Corner Gully and the climbing is more imaginative than the name suggests. Climb crack in gully wall. Swing left and mantelshelf up onto ledge. Climb the wall just left of arete finishing up short crack.
Meat Grinder *** 25m E2 (5c)P. Douglas, M. Smith, W. Holmes. 7/80.A fine route which just merits the grade and easing after the crux which is moving between the off-set cracks. Start at wall below obvious crack in the wall 5m right of First Corner. Up the short steep wall to gain the first crack. Climb this to reach good horizontal break and gain the crack above (crux). Then more easily up this crack and wall above to the top.
The Great Treacle Sponge Robbery * 24m El (5b)E Cooper. 7/8/82.Start as for Meat Grinder. Climb the wall to the crack. Move right to the arete (crux) and up arete keeping left at top, as for Overdue. Variation Direct Start E3 (5c/6a) E. Cooper, A. Moles. 1989. Start on a ledge 3m off the ground beneath some obvious holes at the base of the vague arete right of Meat Grinder. Climb up and right of these before moving back left to join the original route 2b1af7f3a8