LESLIE: Jane in Alabama’s got some cracks in the ceiling. Tell us where you see them, what they look like.
JANE: The biggest crack is in my living room. My living room measures about 30 feet long by 12 feet wide. And it’s across the width of the room. One side of the ceiling where it’s cracked hangs down, I’m going to say, about a half inch lower than the other side.
LESLIE: Is it a straight line? Does it seem like it’s two pieces of drywall that have become separated or is it all zig-zaggy and crazy?
TOM: Or is it a very old house where you have plaster cracks?
JANE: It’s an older house. It’s probably about 40 years old. I don’t know what the ceiling is made out of.
TOM: OK, because if the plaster is cracked and it’s hanging down like that …
LESLIE: It’s going to fall off.
TOM: … it could fall and it’s pretty heavy, dense stuff. So if it’s loose in any way, you’re going to want to pull that down before it comes down on its own. And then you’re going to have to replaster that space.
Well, is this the only place you’re seeing a crack in the ceiling?
JANE: Two summers ago, when it was very, very dry and we didn’t get any rain, I got two other cracks; one – both of them in the living room on two different walls. The cracks are kind of zig-zaggy.
TOM: Well, those are very common places for cracks. I would suggest this. Repair the cracks the best you can. And that means if the – if it’s plaster, pulling it down and replastering it. If it’s a simple drywall crack you’re going to want to use a perforated drywall tape, cover the crack and then respackle over it.
LESLIE: Yeah but if it’s a sheet of drywall that’s hanging down, you’re going to want to put some new screws in it and suck it back up to those ceiling joists.
TOM: Yeah, the repair advice really depends on what kind of material it is. But if it’s a 40-plus-year old house it’s more likely to be plaster or plaster lath than it would be drywall. Alright, Jane?
Now in terms of the cracks and whether or not it’s an ongoing issue, the best thing to do there is to consider having the home inspected by a professional home inspector who could take into account a lot of the factors that might be impacting that and make some suggestions to you as to how to stabilize it. It could have to do with your foundation, your grading; things of this nature that can make that space unstable. The kind of cracks, however, that you’re describing to us, don’t signify to me that you have a major problem. It sounds like pretty much normal wear and tear on an older house. They’re always going to open up – those cracks are always going to open up, especially around windows and doors. That’s the weakest part of the wall and that’s generally where it moves.
I would go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors – it’s ASHI.org; A-S-H-I.org – put in your zip code, find a home inspector in your area and those guys are the best in the business.
JANE: OK, great.
TOM: Alright, Jane. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.