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Ceiling Cracks: When To Worry?

Chances are you don't look up at your ceiling very often. But what should you do if you spot a crack there? Don't panic and call for an emergency home repair. We have done the research on this problem for you and will share answers in this post!

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You should be concerned about cracks on your ceiling if the damage looks structural. This means that the integrity of the building and your ceiling is compromised. You will have to identify and remedy the crack appropriately. Here are some types of cracks that could be dangerous:

  • Large cracks
  • Several cracks across the ceiling
  • Cracks with sagging
  • Gaps or cracks between wall and ceiling

Other cracks in your ceiling such as hairline cracks or spiderweb cracks should not cause you much alarm. Despite this, you will still want to take a closer look at your ceiling. Even if there is no need for any repairs, it is best to make sure that the cracks are only superficial.

Of course, there is more to ceiling cracks than just their description at first glance. You might be wondering how exactly you are supposed to identify what type of ceiling cracks you have, or even how to fix them. In this post, we will go over what might have caused your ceiling to crack and its remedies, so keep on reading to learn more!

Closeup on a crack in a white ceiling of a generic, unidentified old house, resulting from water leak. Ceiling Cracks When To Worry

Is It Normal For A Ceiling To Crack?

Yes, ceiling cracks are perfectly normal! Ceiling cracks can and will happen one way or another, so it is only a matter of checking up on your ceiling from time to time. Ceiling cracks are often a result of everyday things. 

For example, as the weather and seasons change, parts of your house will be prone to wear and tear. Usually, cracks in the ceiling are just chips in the paint or plaster.

Sometimes, your building will even move as the earth moves. This results in little cracks here and there. In general, if the building you live in is structurally sound, then these cracks are not a problem at all.

Another thing to look out for is moisture, which is bound to affect your ceiling and cause it to crack. These types of cracks should alert you a little more.

Whether or not moisture cracks are a concern depends on their source. Sometimes, leaking pipes within your ceiling can cause damage and mold growth or drips and leaks. Or you may live in a rainy area, and the rain can get through your roof to the ceiling.

Whatever the case, the material your ceiling is made of also contributes to how likely it is to crack. We will go over this in more detail in the next section of this post, so check out that bit if you are interested.

Water leak from the cracked ceiling

Why Are Cracks Appearing In My Ceiling?

As mentioned, cracks can appear on your ceiling for a variety of different reasons. Figuring out the cause behind the cracks in your ceiling is a good step to understanding how exactly you are meant to fix it.

Take note that while this list is by no means exhaustive, one or more could be possible causes for the cracks on your ceiling.

Not Enough Plaster On Drywall

Most modern ceilings in American households are made of drywall or gypsum. Sometimes, not enough plaster was used to cover up the drywall, resulting in cracks after the plaster dries.

The weather plays a big role in this phenomenon. Humid weather or weather where there is a high moisture content in the air can cause the plaster to expand or contract.

House Settles Unevenly

Your house moves. How? Well, as time goes by, it can sink and settle into its foundation. The whole house shifts as this happens, and its walls, ceilings, and fixtures will shift with it. 

A more extreme cause for cracks with house movement is in the case of earthquakes. If you live in an area that is prone to earthquakes or is along a faultline, your house settling unevenly is not surprising. Your house should be built with proper safety standards in mind, but your ceiling is not guaranteed as crack-proof.

Moisture

As we briefly mentioned earlier, moisture can come from different types of sources. Humidity, rain, and leaky pipes are common sources of moisture. Your ceiling can be more or less susceptible to water and moisture damage depending on the material it is made of.

water ,moisture damaged ceiling, room corner

Structural Damage

Structural damage is one of the more alarming causes of ceiling cracks. If you notice a crack in your ceiling larger than 1/10 inch, or deep or long cracks, you may be facing an example of structural damage.

This is when something in the integrity of your house is at risk. You will want to call a professional for this immediately.

A bulging ceiling can also mean structural damage. Your ceiling bulges when there is too much weight on it, whether from sediment or moisture problems.

You will notice the same thing with a sagging ceiling. If accompanied by cracks, all three of these descriptions can spell disaster.

Human Error

This may seem like a broad term, but in reality, human error does account for a few problems you could have with your ceiling. People can cause damage to things unintentionally or through mistakes, so be careful.

A poor installation job for your ceiling can cost you in the long run. Incompetent ceiling installation will result in any number of problems like those listed above.

You can also have a perfectly good ceiling that forms cracks if somebody accidentally damages it. Tossing a ball too hard at the ceiling can create cracks.

How To Repair A Ceiling Crack

Alright, you have cracks on your ceiling, but how should you fix them? Unless the damage is too severe or beyond your capabilities, you could probably fix ceiling cracks yourself.

If you are not confident that you can repair your ceiling on your own, get the help of a professional. You should not sacrifice your safety in favor of a poor repair job.

Practicing correct methods of repair and safety measures will keep your ceiling looking good for longer. It will also prevent any future problems. With these warnings in mind, here are some ways you can fix the cracks in your ceiling:

Painting Or Filling

Shallow or superficial cracks should be an easy fix. A quick paint job is sometimes enough to leave your ceiling looking smooth and finished again.

However, you may have to use filler to address any deeper cracks. Plaster filler is a great option for patching up cracks in the ceiling. You could also use spackle or caulk.

male hand holding a trowel on weight closing up cracks in the ceiling

Whichever way you choose to paint or fill, make sure you prepare the ceiling properly. Prepare the ceiling surface by smoothing out any imperfections before painting or filling.

Clear out your room so that you do not damage any of your things in the process. You can also remove any ceiling fixtures that will get in the way.

Click here to see Spackling Compound on Amazon

Replace The Damaged Part

Drywall ceilings can be fully or partially replaced. You can do this if you think your ceiling is a little too worn out for painting over—for example, in the case of some minor moisture damage that has left a stain.

First of all, address the source of the water damage before working on your ceiling. Once you have done this, you can proceed. Again, depending on your skill level, you can replace the piece of drywall yourself or call a professional.

broken ceiling showing internal structures, moisture damage

How To Avoid Ceiling Cracks

As the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure. While gypsum board and drywall are the more common, economical ceiling choices, there are sturdier alternatives. For example, classic brick and masonry, plaster, or concrete.

Granted, you will not always have a say in what material your ceiling is. You do, however, have control over your ceiling maintenance.

Taking care of your ceiling can go a long way and save you from future unwanted costs. You can prevent water leaks before they happen, or simply be active in the upkeep of your ceiling. Some would recommend using joint tape or fiber mesh tape for setting up drywall ceilings if you have them.

Click here to see Drywall Joint Tape on Amazon

Worker hands using spatula and plastering ceiling with putty. Mesh on split. Ceiling Cracks When To Worry

Wrapping Things Up

Cracks in your ceiling are normal, but sometimes the damage can be too big to ignore. Before doing anything, assess the type of crack you are dealing with. Make sure to call a professional if the crack is a result of structural damage. Otherwise, you should be able to repair superficial or aesthetic cracks on your own.

Before you go, check out these articles:

What Color To Paint Porch Ceiling? [7 Awesome Ideas!]

How High Are Ceilings In Houses? [Old Vs. New]