In 1789, Benjamin Franklin once wrote that, “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes and that your drywall will one day crack.”
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Okay, we might have taken a little liberty on that quote, but the truth is even the best-built houses, and the most professionally installed drywall, may develop cracks.
Cracks, or hairline cracks, as contractors often call them, are common occurrences often found in older homes. They will appear in the areas where your property or structure has the most stress, often on the corners of doorways or windows, where two pieces of drywall come together, wall openings, where two walls meet, and so on.
Where do drywall cracks come from?
There are a few reasons why your drywall has cracked.
If you’re in a northern climate, one reason may be frost heaving, which is an upwards swelling of soil during freeze-thaw conditions. As the soil or sediment freezes, it expands towards the surface, shifting the foundation of the building.
Another reason may be the quality of wood used in framing. Using wet lumber or poor quality lumber may cause your framing connections to move, shift, or settle, which can lead to cracks, tears, or drywall joint separation.
Be cautious of your property’s moisture levels. While many experts believe the most important factors in drywall cracking are framing, wood shrinkage, or structural integrity, it’s no secret that drywall can and does expand as moisture levels vary. It’s possible, given enough moisture, to create cracks at least 1/16” wide in your drywall.
It’s also the reason why you’ll notice cracks in the upper corners of a lot of older bathrooms.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, structure and foundation settlement contribute the most to gypsum board cracks and damage. Foundations made of concrete or beams and piers are the most common types that are likely to cause cracking in your drywall.
For the most part, while cracks in your drywall can be frustrating, they aren’t a cause for concern. There are, however, some red flags to look out for when you notice cracks in your drywall:
- Extremely wide or horizontal cracks
- Cracks in the foundation of your home
- The bowing or leaning of your home
- A sagging roof
- Sticking doors or windows
Other than that, it’s simply time to call your local drywaller, or if you’re feeling adventures, take on the DIY challenge.
How do I fix my own drywall cracks?
In this section, we’ll run you through the 10-step process to fixing your own drywall cracks.
You’re going to want to gather the following tools together:
- Dust Mask
- Mud Pan
- Painter’s Tape
- Taping Knife
- Utility Knife
- Paper Drywall Tape
- Pre-mixed Joint Compound
- Setting Type Compound
Cover any woodwork you want to protect with masking or painter’s tape.
Take your utility knife and cut a ⅛ to ¼ inch V-notch along the length of the crack. A V-notch is two cuts, on an angle, one representing either side of the ‘V’.
Remove any loose wall material from the area.
Using a 6-inch taping blade and joint compound, embed moist paper tape across the V-notch.
Note: to avoid bubbles, press hard on the blade to squeeze excess air and compound from under the tape.
Apply an additional thin layer of joint compound over the tape and feather it off approximately 2 inches on either side of the tape.
Apply a second coat of compound, smoothing it out 6 or 7 inches on either side of the tape and let dry. If your compound hasn’t neatly feathered to the wall on the second coat, try a third.
Once dry and flat, sand it smooth, but avoid exposing the tape.
And there you have it. Your drywall looks as good as new.
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