Noticing a crack in the ceiling can feel like a cause for alarm, but many times these minor fractures are of no concern.
There are many reasons for ceiling cracks ranging from a poor drywall job to structural damage. But most of the time, ceiling cracks result from the normal settling of a home. Here’s a look at the leading causes and when you should be worried.
Why Are There Cracks in My Ceiling – Top Causes
Most cracks are cosmetic, but large cracks, discoloration, and bowed ceilings may signify a bigger problem.
Peeling Drywall Tape
What it Looks Like: Thin, straight cracks.
During the drywall process, if there isn’t sufficient mud to keep the tape in place, it can lift. Drywall mud shrinks as it dries, which sometimes allows the edges of the tape to peel away.
These types of ceiling cracks are cosmetic. The complexity of fixing this job depends on the design of your ceiling. In the best-case scenario, you can apply drywall mud to the tape to keep it in place. In the worst-case scenario, you need to refinish a portion of the ceiling. You can also choose to ignore this type of cracked ceiling since it doesn’t affect the integrity of your home.
Cracking Plaster, Drywall Mud, or Ceiling Paint
What it Looks Like: Spider web cracks or hairline cracks.
Cracks that look like small spider webs are usually nothing to worry about. These can happen with time, as the paint, plaster, or drywall mud ages or the home settles a bit. Slight shifting of your home is a natural process.
If the spider web cracks bother you, you can redo the ceiling finish or add a layer of drywall compound.
What it Looks Like: Discolored cracks.
Water damage on a ceiling looks orange, brown, or yellow. Although, in the case of mold, the spots can look black, green, or brown. If the crack in your ceiling is discolored in any way, moisture is the likely culprit.
To remedy this problem, first, find the source. If your ceiling is under a bathroom or plumbing, check for leaky pipes. Also, check for roof leaks. After fixing the leak, you can replace the ceiling and any compromised material.
Aged Plaster Cracks
What it Looks Like: Fine cracks in a plaster ceiling.
Plaster is a rigid material, more likely to crack with age than drywall. Plaster will crack with normal home settling or extreme fluctuations in temperature.
Unless severe or indicative of structural damage (see below), plaster cracks are cosmetic. You can fill them in and repaint the ceiling.
What it Looks Like: A crack between the wall and ceiling, cracks larger than ⅛ inches thick, sagging ceilings, or a crack that runs from the ceiling down the wall.
Slight shifting in a home is normal and can lead to minor ceiling cracks. But, if your crack is substantial, it could signal your home has foundation issues. Anytime you see a gap that separates the wall from the ceiling or runs from the ceiling clear through the wall, have your foundation checked.
If your ceiling is sagging, it could be due to water damage, foundation issues, or something heavy on top of it (like a bathroom), and it’s not strong enough to bear the load.
Other signs of structural damage include uneven floors, cracked drywall, doors, and or doors that don’t open. Consider hiring a seasoned contractor to inspect these situations.
What to Do About Recurring Cracks
If you’ve repaired a ceiling crack only for it to come back, consider getting an assessment of the structural soundness of your home. A foundation expert will identify issues and propose solutions to prevent further damage.
While structural damage isn’t always the cause of recurrent cracks, it’s better to spot a potential problem early than to wait until your home is in need of dire repair.