What I'm Seeing Now

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The Fabled Diagonal Crack In Drywall

Why a post on the fabled diagonal crack in drywall?

Simply because during home inspections I often get questions as to drywall cracks - are they bad?  Are some worse than others?

They all have a source!  It could be poor fitting together of two pieces.  Or tape without enough joint compound (AKA mud) underneath.  Even normal expansion and contraction of wood.

Truly, some drywall cracks happen because of a structural issue.  But some structural issues are worse than others.

This is during a one-year inspection of a new house.

These two photos are of a double door between the master bedroom and bathroom.

The vertical crack over the left side of the double door is because of what is causing the diagonal crack over the right side.

The wall is 16' long in the bedroom.

It is not a load-bearing wall.

But underneath this wall is over the ceiling between the kitchen and family room.  That span is 21', and would be represented by the L in the diagram below.  That is a long span.

From the bedroom it is possible to see a slight bulge downward under the right side of that door.  In the diagram below that location is in the Moment Critical Zone, and it can flex.  It can also bounce!

In the bathroom, to the left of that door is one of the bath sinks and cabinet.  To the right of that door is the shower.

I suspect that underneath this wall is an array of supportive floor I-beams, wide to be sure, but singular in their array and spacing.  And it is likely that the distance between them is 16".

Even though this is not a load-bearing wall in the bedroom, it is still a long wall.  Possibly the support underneath needed to be doubled up, with two I-beams sistered side by side.  If that wall rests between two I-beams, then each it rests between probably should have been doubled up.

A singular I-beam underneath would have sagged somewhat, hence the diagonal crack.  The vertical crack to the left is the joint between two pieces of drywall.  In that location the joint is properly done, but cannot withstand the flexible movement to its right and has separated a bit.

Over time can these cracks open up wider?  Maybe, at least a little.  But there will always be something of a bounce where the bulge is happening under the door and repairing that diagonal crack may be hard to do.  It will "want" to reoccur.  The structure probably needs shoring up under that wall!  But what to do is not my department.  I observe and report, and maybe give what verbal evaluation I can.

My recommendation:  sometimes evaluation needs to be a combination of observation and experience, coupled with a little knowledge as to structural components.  In this case the structural components visible in the basement are composed of floor I-beams and paralaminate beams and posts.  Those same components are likely used in the structure above.  When used in a maximum span arrangement floor I-beams can bounce!  And if I had to say, my opinion is that this is what's happening and causing that diagonal crack above!

 

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 49 commentsJay Markanich • July 08 2013 03:15AM

Comments

Thanks for the info Jay.  See these in most houses at some point.  Like to hear your thoughts on basement and foundation cracks as well.

Posted by John F Muscarella, Broker/Owner, Venice, FL, Florida's Suncoast (RIVER FARM PROPERTIES, LLC) about 7 years ago

That would be hard to do in a post comment, or even in one blog John.  Those are numerous with severities that run the gamut!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Jay, great information here. I see the most cracks in drywall in a raised ranch between the living room and kitchen areas. I don't know why that is.... but it is.

Posted by Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties) about 7 years ago

These cracks seem so common most folks just sort of accept them as cosmetic flaws. Sounds like the reason is much more than cosmetic. Thanks for the education, Jay.

Posted by Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty, Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County (Bucci Realty, Inc.) about 7 years ago

I can't picture what you are talking about Andrea, but cracks happen for a reason!

Gary - it depends on the crack!  Some are clearly structural.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Seems those long I joists aren't all they are cracked up to be.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) about 7 years ago

There you go Jay another lesson learned here in the Rain.  Thanks and congrats on the feature :)

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) about 7 years ago

Is good one Jim!  Cracking down means they aren't cracked up?  I know ducks face downward when they fly so they don't quack up.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Thank you James.  I see these long spans sagging now and then.  Sags happen with time.

As we all know...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

When buyers ask about such cracks, I always defer to an expert such as yourself. I wear many hats, but home inspector is not one of them :)

Posted by Doug Rogers, Your Alexandria Louisiana Agent (Bayou Properties) about 7 years ago

Jay, I can see this happening over time. Doubling up the I-beams seems like a logical solution. Before the fact!

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA about 7 years ago

Hi Jay,

I see these cracks in homes that are on slabs as well. The home seems to have moved a bit to cause the cracks. I call it the "Boogie dance". But after they are repaired they stay gone. Shifting of the home took place early in the age of the home.

Have a good day in Bristow and congrats on the Featured post my friend.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) about 7 years ago

I see so many of these. .mostly on townhouses and I always wondered. .

great explanation Jay

Posted by Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group, 301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA (Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001) about 7 years ago

Jay, you always give us some great information! I love to increase my working knowledge, but I also remember to defer to the experts when we need to... 

Posted by Tom White, Franklin Homes Realty LLC, Franklin TN (Franklin Homes Realty LLC (615) 495-0752 or www.FranklinHomesRealty.com) about 7 years ago

Very nice explanantion and as usual you have taught me sometihng again!  Great way to start a Monday.

Posted by Marc McMaster, Putting my clients before myself (RE/MAX Centre Realty) about 7 years ago

The corners...in cellar foundations of concrete, sheetrock sheets...they happen like varicose veins when frost happens, water freezes and contracts or lack of heat is the situation in northern climates.

Posted by Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573, Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker (MOOERS REALTY) about 7 years ago

Jay, long spans definitely need additional support or else the trampoline takes over. Nice post

Posted by Ed Silva, Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally (RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 ) about 7 years ago

Better support will help avoid cracks in the long run. I see this a lot in Arizona homes.

Posted by Harry F. D'Elia III, Investor , Mentor, GRI, Radio, CIPS, REOs, ABR (RentVest) about 7 years ago

I suppose the settling never stops and then there are the earthquakes from time to time at least here in California...A crack always brings out the worst in people who observe them...

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) about 7 years ago

It seems like every crack has a reason. That's why they call on experts like you to figure out that reason!

Posted by Suzanne Otto, Your Montgomery County PA home stager (Six Twenty Designs) about 7 years ago

Thanks for the information.  I have a crack in my upstairs ceiling along the joint.  The crack is about a foot long and just refuses to stay healed when repaired.  Obviously from something shifting.  The weird thing to me is that this seam is anchored to the ceiling joist for both sheets of sheet-rock.  This is the only trouble spot in the entire house.  Do you suppose it could be from the 80+MPH winds we get every two years or so?

Posted by Roger Stensland, Let's Move! (Keller Williams Realty Puget Sound) about 7 years ago

Thank you for the explanation of this common issue.  Your post is very useful to agents so we go ino an inspection with some understanding.  

Posted by Ruth Lerner (William Raveis Real Estate) about 7 years ago

Great article...one to share w/buyers and sellers!  It's a very common issue, one that can be seen in more homes than you would expect...and causes much worry!

Posted by Crystal De Raffele, NYS Lic. Real Estate Salesperson (www.MyDutchessRealtor.com) about 7 years ago

Thanks for your good explanation about cracks in the drywall. Your blog gives me a better understanding of that problem now.

Betty

Posted by Team Honeycutt (Allen Tate) about 7 years ago

Jay -- we see those sometimes here, when the earth shifts (quakes) causing some settling of the homes.

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) about 7 years ago

What I like is a post with some substance and relevance because I sure as heck wouldn't know what to do with those cracks.  They would scare me.

Posted by Morris Massre, Real Estate Instructor Broward County Florida about 7 years ago

Seeing cracks in a home someone is considering buying can leave they buyer with an unsettling feeling ot say the least; but it is reassuring to everyone involved when experts like you are able to explain the source and if possible, a solution. Thanks for the good information.

Posted by Ralph Gorgoglione, Hawaii and California Real Estate (310) 497-9407 (Maui Life Homes / Metro Life Homes) about 7 years ago

From what I have found on newer houses is that they use green lumber today and the builders do not take the time.  The house is pretty and that is what the buyer see's.

Posted by David Opoka about 7 years ago

I like your evaluation of the problem Jay. Why is it that I told by many that it can be fixed with caulking and paint?  :)

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366) about 7 years ago

People do not understand that drywall (sheetrock) is indeed that. it will bow side to side somewhat but not the other way. The horizontal crack definitely is an indication of settling or sagging, the crack on the seam is pretty common due to poor installation or a bad tape job, if there were no other clues. 21 feet is a long span! It likely will reappear if repaired without more structural support. You did a great job of explaining that! You quack me up!!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) about 7 years ago

Corinne - you probably get asked about cracks as much as about anything!

Doug - I do too!  And realtor is not one of them!

Mike - that is indeed the time!  It could be they were specified by the architect and never put in.

Clint - so do I, but if the floor continues to flex the crack will never repair permanently.

You're welcome Fernando.  Drywall cracks are exceptionally common!

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Tom - glad you enjoyed it and can find the post useful!

Marc - a mind expanded by a new idea cannot return to the previous dimension.

Cracks are common Andrew!  They all have causes, some structural and some not.

Ed - and this was a tramp of first order!

Harry - of course support is support!  And foundation is the beginning of that - leading upward from there.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Richie - we have had earthquakes but not like you all!  And we crack up here too!

Suzanne - they all have a reason!  Some worse than others too...

Roger - wood framing will always expand and contract and high winds will contribute greatly to movement.

That's the idea Ruth!  I come to AR to learn and I learn something useful nearly every day.

Crystal - all cracks have reasons.  And truly some are worse than others.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Betty - I'm glad you found it useful and hope you can share this with buyers when the issue comes up!

Steven - not much you can do about cracking that happens when the earth shakes!

Morris - and that is exactly the reason I come to AR and find stuff every day I can use!

Ralph - it's best to conquer such things with information.

David - green wood dries and shrinks over time.  That all by itself will cause cracking.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

It can Tom, until the flexing begins again!

Fred - ducks face downward so they don't quack up!  A little substance in a post can go a long way from time to time.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

I'm not sure that's the kinda substance we are looking for here...lol, Shhh, the cops are coming!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) about 7 years ago

Thank you for a very informative blog tha is a real help. I will save this information for future reference, but it is in my head to stay. People do react to cracks.

Posted by Jimmy Faulkner, The Best Of St. Augustine (Florida. Homes Realty & Mortgage) about 7 years ago

We see that "fabled diagonal crack in the drywall" frequently here in San Jose, Saratoga and Cupertino (Silicon Valley, Calif.) due to our expansive soil.

Posted by MichelleCherie Carr Crowe Just Call...408-252-8900, Family Helping Families Buy & Sell Homes 40+ Years (Get Results Team...Just Call (408) 252-8900! . DRE #00901962 . Licensed to Sell since 1985 . Altas Realty) about 7 years ago

Even the cops can use the kind of substance I try to put in my posts Fred!

Jimmy - and when they do it's best to have an understanding.

Michelle - we have very expansive clay soils here, so these cracks are not unusual.  But the structure here was most relevant.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Ahhh...another case of the crack is just not "plaster deep"  !

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) about 7 years ago

This one is another floor deep S&D!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

A house is an assemblange of materials that expand and contract at differnt rates as well as are affected differently by settlement.  In most cases it is a matter of when not if.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 7 years ago

I think you're right Blue!  This house is 10 1/2 months old, and this was the one year inspection just in time for the 11 month anniversary.  Get it?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

impressive! See, THIS is why a home inspector is needed!!!

Posted by Barbara-Jo Roberts Berberi, MA, PSA, TRC - Greater Clearwater Florida Residential Real Estate Professional, Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Safety Harbor (Charles Rutenberg Realty) about 7 years ago

Thank you ma'am!  That, maybe, and a thousand other reasons!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Jay, we've all seen these cracks and to some degree offer our own opinions...good to hear it coming from someone with a better knowledge base...great post and well deserved feature.

Posted by Nick T Pappas, Madison & Huntsville Alabama Real Estate Resource (Assoc. Broker/Broker ABR, CRS, SFR, e-Pro, @Homes Realty Group, @HomesBirmingham & Providence Property Mgmnt, LLC Huntsville AL) about 7 years ago

Grathiath theñor Neeck!

They are common, all cracking is, but sometimes they have a hidden reason!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

it just goes to show that you need to check references and there's people out there that can't be trusted.

Thanks for sharing your experience Jay.

Posted by Cooper Jacobs, Real Estate Brokers - Seattle (Looking For A Seattle Realtor? COOPERJACOBS.COM) about 7 years ago

On this one-year inspection there wouldn't be anyone to check with CJRE.  But the homeowner does still have the opportunity to get this addressed by the builder.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

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