If you are indoors at your home and happen to look up, chances are you won’t see cracks in your ceiling. That’s not always a good thing, though, as our eyes tend to naturally filter out most of what they see. That natural filtering can mean we do not see the warning signs that could indicate:
- A structural problem with load bearing walls or other building materials
- Faulty ceiling joists or roof trusses
- Drywall compound that has been compromised by movement
- A plumbing leak that’s creating moisture damage but has not yet led to water stains
- Foundation issues from too much weight or other causes not caught by a structural engineer
- Former home improvement projects gone wrong
- Or something else entirely
The truth is that you would likely need expert-level eyesight to discern most ceiling crack issues, let alone be able to tell the difference between a cause for concern and natural house settling. Foundation experts train themselves to see details most people overlook, but you can train yourself to spot ceiling cracks and signs of trouble as well.
Here’s a quick guide to what you need to know to understand if your home or other structure is just showing its age or in need of repairs or maintenance.
Identifying Ceiling Cracks
It’s important to be able to identify ceiling cracks in terms of both how they look and what might be causing them. Most may not indicate major structural concerns, but knowing what to look for and how to tell the difference between minor ceiling cracks which will not affect the safety of the building and those offering you the first telltale signs of impending disaster (both physical and financial) is critical.
The most common ceiling cracks you will see include:
- Crack Line Between a Wall and the Ceiling
Such cracks could offer a strong indication of possible structural damage caused by foundation settlement. It’s a good idea to call a professional to examine and address these issues, as reparations should not be performed by inexperienced homeowners.
- Vertical Cracks Along the Ceiling and the Wall
When you discover a long crack that not only runs across the ceiling but also heads down the wall, this is almost always due to structural issues and requires immediate professional attention. Such problems can start out small, but become large cracks that sometimes end up being an inch wide or more over time — especially in very old homes.
- Bowed Ceiling Cracks
This might represent the worst kind of situation, because the ceiling cracks are accompanied by sagging and the chance of a collapse is higher than average. The problem is often the result of long-term water leaks that cause the ceiling drywall and surrounding structure to expand and contract, meaning such a condition demands urgent professional care and repair.
- Spiderweb Cracks
These hairline cracks are common occurrences, often due to lines in drying plaster or paint or, over time, the paint itself cracking or peeling. The sign of such cracks is truly the best case scenario, as there are no structural problems to worry about when you discover these kinds of ceiling cracks (aside from an issue with these homes’ aesthetics).
Learning what you can about these four common cracks can be a game-changer in terms of keeping your stress levels low as a homeowner. It will mean being better able to read any cracks you find in your home’s ceiling to learn the messages they are sending, along with the appropriate action you should consider.
The Most Common Causes of Ceiling Cracks
Simply stated, ceiling cracks usually occur due to one of two conditions: normal home settling or the building is showing the first signs of potential structural damage. A deeper dive will help you figure out why cracks in the ceiling occur, plus give you necessary clues to manage potential issues which could arise in the future.
Here’s what to keep in mind about common foundation and other items that cause cracks.
Everything ages, but some things handle the process more gracefully than others. Factors that can contribute to the aging of a structure include building materials used, external influences such as weather, and typical wear and tear.
That said, it doesn’t hurt to have expert contractors perform a thorough inspection whenever a building or is showing its age. Inspecting your basement and it’s health is important for ensuring your home’s structural integrity as well.
- Drywall Problems
Walls do the “heavy lifting” when it comes to supporting ceilings, which means they take on more of the stress of the building over time — and commonly shows its effects with spidery cracks running along the walls and parts of the ceiling.
This minor problem typically occurs when insufficient mud is used in the drywall work or when drywall joints weren’t tape properly, and thus doesn’t point to deeper concerns like foundation problems. If those cracks and dried out spots really bother you, perhaps it’s time for a new coat of paint to bring back a fresh look and feel.
- Foundation Problems
Any problems with your foundation are serious and require immediate attention. Perhaps the biggest sign that your building is suffering from foundation settlement are larger and wider cracks in your ceiling, especially where walls and ceilings converge.
When you discover these signs, take them as serious messages from house to homeowner that a professional is needed without delay.
- Heavy Upper Floors
When constructing multi-story structures, adding heavy items on the upper floors will create additional stress which the lower walls and ceiling must adequately support.
Storing heavy chests and furnishings in your attic or crawlspaces can take their toll over time, as can installing luxuriant and weighty items like bathtubs in upper stories. Doing so requires advanced planning.
- Moisture Damage
Buildings are not fans of moisture, since it softens surfaces and materials while swelling and weakening the entire structure. If you run across water spots along with ceiling cracks, you don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that water is damaging your building and requires immediate care and prevention by a seasoned and trustworthy professional. Probable causes of moisture damage can be external forces, like heavy rains and storms, or an internal structural issue, such as a broken or leaking water pipe.
Knowing the internal and external factors that can cause ceiling cracks and possibly incur deeper damage will mean homeowners are more likely to uncover the right solution the first time around. That knowledge can often pay off with great savings, too, since time is often a critical factor in preventing further damage.
When To Call In Professional Contractors to Fix Ceiling Cracks
If, during your ceiling inspection, you find any of the following types of ceiling issues, it’s time to call in a proven professional.
1. Large, long ceiling cracks
When it looks like your building is ready to split into two due to long ceiling cracks that run across your room or extend down the walls, believe the message your home or structure is sending and get a pro on the job ASAP.
2. Multiple small ceiling cracks
One or two small, spiderweb cracks may not indicate larger problems, but a network of ceiling cracks is a strong indicator of greater needs which can be properly assessed by an experienced professional.
3. Sagging ceiling cracks
This could point to water damage, but almost certainly suggests a serious and deep structural problem that demands the attention and skills of a professional.
Now that you are learning the signs of potential structural damage, you should also trust your gut when it seems like something is not right. You are better served by bringing in a professional who can ascertain if larger concerns are looming than hoping you just had an uncomfortable feeling.
Get Help with Your Ceiling Cracks
So, how do you choose the right professional contractor? At LUX Foundation Solutions, we thrive under challenging situations and always go above and beyond the call to ensure our clients are satisfied and know the job was tackled right the first time. Our team is all about transparency and collaboration, taking that extra step to treat our customers like our neighbors.
If you have concerns about cracks in ceilings, a wall, your foundation, or anywhere else in your home, contact the experts at LUX Foundation Solutions. We can’t wait to answer your questions about ceiling cracks, structural issues, and more.