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Is It Normal For Drywall To Crack?

Yes, small visible cracks in your walls are absolutely normal and are caused by seasonal expanding and contracting of your wood frame over time. Especially in the northern part of the country, you’ll see more extreme heat and cold temperatures.  When this happens, the cold causes contraction and the heat causes expansion throughout the entire house.

The rule of thumb is that cracks with gaps of 3/16” or less are normal and can generally be covered up through the use of spackle or join compound.  This is an aesthetic fix and regular applications over time may be necessary, though these applications on your drywall cracks are simple and quick.

For gaps that are larger than 3/16” you will want to consult with your local contractor or engineer to see what the cause may be.  There is an underlying issue that will need to be resolved before the normal cracking of drywall can be fixed.  You  should also call a contractor if one side of the wall is higher than the other, or if your doors no longer close in their frames.  In short, it is normal for
drywall to crack, though you’ll see it happen more frequently when going from summer to winter, they can appear at any time of the year.

How To Determine If A Crack In The Wall Is Serious

If you’re unsure if a crack in the wall is unsafe or not, we always recommend getting a contractor to come and inspect your walls for safety, but short of that, you can do a quick inspection of your walls to see if it’s a small blemish, or an immediate safety concern that needs to be addressed.

Again, if the gaps in the cracks are greater than 3/16” then you should consult your contractor.  Here are a few more things to consider:

Direction -

the direction of the crack can tell a lot about what could have caused it.  Vertical cracks are generally benign, if they travel up and down and begin towards the apex where the wall and ceiling meet then its probably a sign that some settling has occurred and a simple cover up with spackle will conceal the blemish.

However, if the crack runs horizontally across the wall or if it runs at a jagged 45 degree angle then it should be more concerning.  These marks can indicate signs of foundation distress, severe shifting or even water damage.  Consult with a local engineer
right away to see what can be done to remedy the underlying cause.

Door test -

as previously mentioned, during changes in seasons you’ll definitely notice that anything wood will expand and contract, doors are no exception to this rule, but it should only happen to a certain extent.  Doors may stick a little, but you should never be able to see a large gap in any corner of the door frame nor should a large beam of visible light be able to creep through when the door is closed.  Worse yet, if the door won’t even close in the frame then that’s too much of a swing to have been caused by changes in weather.  If you’re experiencing any of the above then make sure to get it checked by your local contractor.

Nails -

If you see cracks in the wall and suspect that there could be structural concerns then checking for nails could be an added confirmation that something concerning is going on.  When foundation walls shift, they bring the frame along with them, as that happens the drywall will begin to pull away from the studs causing the nails to “pop”or “nail popping”as it is commonly referred to.  Seeing a nail pop here and there can be normal but seeing many can be an additional sign that you could be facing a structural issue.

How To Prevent Drywall Cracks

Preventing drywall cracks is something that needs to be done before the fact rather than after the fact.  The best way to prevent cracks is by doing a solid installation, which is tough if you didn’t install the drywall in the first place.

To make the hanging of drywall as strong as possible, you need to make sure that the seams get the most adhesive mud available for the first coat.  There are many on the shelves but don’t skimp out of the quality for the first layer as you’ll regret it later down the road.  Once the strong adhesive has been layed down for the first layer then the subsequent layers can be applied with the lighter adhesion.

Using the proper drywall tape is also extremely important, don’t use fiberglass mesh tape as all professional drywall contractors will agree that the paper tape is stronger and will adhere better and do an overall better job at preventing cracks than a mesh tape will.

Keep in mind that the finishing touch that is given when two sheets of drywall come into contact with each other is purely an aesthetic one, since walls are looked at throughout the day, you’ll want to pick good products that give walls the professional finish you’re after, not an amateur finish you’ll regret.  Get the good stuff, it’ll pay off!