Home Care Library
Foundation Wall Cracks
The Home Wizard app calculates your ideal home care program to avoid problems with your Foundation, but sometimes trouble can still occur. Here are answers to questions about foundation wall cracks.
QUESTION FROM Heartmom
What is the best way to get rid of cracks in the walls or ceiling of a house? If you can't get rid of them, what is the temporary "Fix," and how often must this "Fix" be done?
ANSWER FROM HOME-WIZARD
Let me respond to the second part of your question first. Your question about what to do if you can't get rid of cracks in your wall or ceilings, and how often a “temporary fix” might have to be repeated, is very important. The reason it is important is that it gets at the need to determine WHY the cracks are forming in the first place. Usually, cracks result from a house naturally settling on its foundation, or periods when you house may have experienced large changes in temperature or humidity, etc. Small cracks created by these events can be successfully repaired and should last for a long time. But if your repaired cracks end up showing up again in just a few months, getting bigger, or are joined by cracks in other parts of the wall or ceiling, then this may be an indication of a bigger problem, such as: the wood framing in the walls or ceiling may be flexing due to excessive moisture; or the structural integrity of your house might be compromised; or that your home needs a humidifier for the winter; etc. If this is the case, then it would be best to talk to a building contractor who can diagnose the problem before more serious damage is done to your home.
Now regarding the first part of your question, the initial step to fixing a crack in the wall or ceiling is assessing whether you have plaster or drywall (drywall is also known as sheetrock, plasterboard, or wallboard).
With plaster, you will need to check to see if the metal lathe on which the plaster is applied needs to be secured with some additional nails. The cracks can then be filled with plaster compound. After it dries, you can sand it and paint the affected area, and carefully “feather” it out to the surrounding areas.
For repairing drywall wall or ceilings, the patch compound you will use is called “joint compound” (also sometimes call “spackling putty”). Applying drywall joint compound typically involves putting several coats on, and sanding in between each coat. Use a sanding block to help keep your work flat and smooth.
Sometimes larger cracks both in plaster and drywall need to have the crack area enlarged to remove loose pieces. This can be carefully done with a utility knife. A very wide crack will need more reinforcement to help it stick properly. And this is where patching tape (also called joint tape) will be helpful. If the section is very large, then you may even want to cut back the wall or ceiling all the way back to the middle of the studs or ceiling joists (the middle of the studs so that you still have something to nail to), and then adding a new section of drywall (and then patching the seams with drywall tape.)
One important note is that textured ceilings installed before around 1979 may contain asbestos, which is hazardous to breathe when disturbed. If your house is more than 25 years old, you should have the ceiling tested. And if the test comes back positive, then you will need to have a licensed asbestos abatement contractor tell you what your options are. Do NOT work on it yourself if you suspect that there could be asbestos involved.
We hope this helps.