Drywall Crack: Structural Problem?
LESLIE: Barb in Florida is on the line with a drywall question. What’s going on at your money pit?
BARB: Hi there. Well, we have an old, like about a 1920s American Foursquare house in Ohio. We actually live in Florida but we do have a house back there. We recently did a major renovation on it and one of the things we did was open up a wall between the living room and the dining room and put in the header – well, I didn’t but the contractor put in the header with the supporting posts and all that kind of thing. Our problem is the room above this area continues to have one place where the drywall seam continues to crack.
And my concern is: is the header not done correctly? Should I be worried that – I mean we have remudded and repainted that one section multiple times and it’s been about six months. So, you know, I know things have to settle a little bit. But my concern is is I don’t know if I should get somebody in and I don’t even know what kind of expert you would get in to see if the header is done right.
TOM: Well, so, aside from – you said “remudded,” so I presume you’re talking about – you put spackle over the crack and then you paint it. Is that basically what you do?
BARB: Yes, yes.
TOM: OK. So that’s not doing anything, alright? You’re not dealing …
BARB: Well, right. But my concern is nowhere else in the house do we continue to have drywall open up.
TOM: No, I know. I understand. But what you’re describing is normal. An expansion and contraction is pretty normal.
TOM: And unless you’ve really repaired this properly, which basically means sanding down all that extra mud that you put on there and then putting a fiberglass tape on it – which is like a perforated mesh kind of tape – across the seam and then spackling three coats on top of that, that can help sort of bridge that gap.
BARB: OK. Right. OK.
TOM: Because basically, if you just fill it in with spackle, that wall is expanding and contracting.
TOM: And it’s just going to open up again. You’ve not done anything to change that dynamic.
BARB: But you wouldn’t necessarily be concerned that there’s a structural problem with the header or something, the fact that it’s cracking right there.
TOM: Where the crack is above the doorway or the window?
BARB: Yeah. No, it’s above where the header is between the living room and dining room, where we opened up the wall.
TOM: OK. Right. But in that intersection? Yeah.
TOM: That’s a pretty typical place.
LESLIE: So that space just gets a lot of movement on its own.
TOM: Yeah. That’s a pretty typical place. The corners of those archways very typically open up with cracks.
BARB: OK. OK.
TOM: So, that by itself doesn’t tell me that – doesn’t give me concern.
TOM: And the reason it’s showing is probably because it was never repaired right.
BARB: OK. So, yeah. Because the rest of the house, we’ve not had any drywall problems.
BARB: And so I just was a little bit nervous with it being where we did open up a wall and obviously, that’s a big structural area. And I’m like, “Do I need to get an engineer or somebody in there just to make sure that that header is done correctly?” Or is that maybe just – it was a bad place for that drywall and it just hasn’t been repaired properly?
TOM: Well, you certainly could do that and I think that would probably give you peace of mind. But what you’re telling us doesn’t indicate to me that it necessarily is a structural problem, because I know that so many homes have these types of cracks in them.
BARB: OK. Well, OK. OK. I guess because this was the only one we got, maybe I should be glad this was the only crack we got.
TOM: Yeah. Maybe you got lucky, huh?
BARB: Yeah, maybe we did. So, OK. Well, that definitely gives me some peace of mind. So we’ll first try repairing it correctly. And then if we still seem to have a problem, then we maybe should have another expert in just to make sure that they did the header correctly.
TOM: Sounds good. I think that makes sense.
BARB: It seems like they did but I’m not an expert in that area. So, don’t want to have a problem with structure, obviously.
TOM: That sounds like it makes sense. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.