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Do Cracks in Walls Indicate a Structural Problem?

By: Danny Lipford

Do cracks in my walls indicate a structural problem? -Rachel

Most small cracks in drywall or plaster walls are not serious and are caused by seasonal expansion and contraction of the wood framing in your house over time. They’re often found at the corners of window and door frames, and can be patched using spackling or joint compound.

Larger cracks in your walls, however, can indicate structural or foundation problems. If the cracks in your walls exhibit these characteristics:

  • The crack has a 3/16” or wider gap.
  • One side of the wall is higher than the other.
  • Your doors no longer close in the frame.

You may have a structural problem and should have your house examined by a foundation specialist.

Watch this video to find out more.

Further Information

Print   Video Transcript

Rachel Asks: I’m seeing a lot of small cracks in my walls. Do I have a structural problem?

Danny Lipford: It’s very unlikely that those small, hairline cracks that you see on the walls in your home, maybe above doors and windows, are actual structural problems. It’s usually just a little thermal expansion that can be repaired very easily by just using a little lightweight spackling.

But the type of crack you really need to be concerned with are those that are little wider than that, maybe three-sixteenth of an inch or more, and where one side of the crack is not level with the other side of the crack. That can indicate some active structural movement.

Also, if you have any doors in your home that don’t fit the jams quite as well as they used to, another tell-tale sign. Either of those situations you need to call out a foundation specialist and allow them to look very closely at that area of your home.


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15 Comments on “Do Cracks in Walls Indicate a Structural Problem?”

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  • Cheryl Says:
    September 28th, 2017 at 5:30 am

    I had an external concrete staircase put in with balustrades. I have noticed that where the railing meets the wall on both sides, at the top of the staircase, there are vertical plaster cracks. How can I fix this?



  • Jackie Says:
    September 14th, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    new house built only 10 months old. Exterior outside my house near the bedroom window has a long line crack that goes straight down from the corner of the window then makes a line turning left then goes back down. I have the same problem outside in my backroom window . Please advice, My carpet in my bdrm window is wet like if I had spilled something and the baseboard on the top edge looks like its unglued with bits of the paint on top of the baseboard separting from the wall. We just had hurricane Irma when I noticed this issue. Plse advice.



  • Averil Hislop Says:
    February 7th, 2017 at 6:56 am

    Four years ago I purchased an1860’s stone built cottage. It has an extension to one side (added about 40 years ago) which houses the kitchen.
    Recently, a crack appeared, at ceiling level, about ten inches from where the extension joins the house. It is now running from the initial crack, right down to the skirting board at a rather jaunty angle (a bit like this /)
    It’s certainly not a wide crack, but it’s visible…should I be worried?



  • Kathy amaio Says:
    January 5th, 2017 at 11:43 am

    I just had an inspection on my house which was stopped immediately because the inspector found a horizontal crack at the corner of my foundation so the buyers backed out. He said that it wasn’t worth fixing because it will just crumble. How can he say that by just looking at it. I want to know if it is fixable. The house was built in 1995. thank you kathy



  • Bernadette Says:
    December 25th, 2016 at 4:59 am

    I have been in my house for 23 yrs now, think was built in early 50’s. Recently I have seen vertical cracks in my walls seems to be between the drywall panels. Is this just a easy fix by repatching with tape and mud or spackling?



  • Ashley Says:
    November 23rd, 2016 at 10:36 am

    My house was built in 1953 and a small one room addition was built in 2009. We’ve lived here for one year and after a few months of denial; I’m ready to admit we have significant cracks in the wall of our addition. It must’ve been built on a slab (no crawl space). The cracks are mostly on one wall, they are vertical and horizontal. The widest cracks are in line with a window frame. The corner of the room (shown in the picture) is cracked from the floor to ceiling. There is one vertical crack on an adjacent wall.

    Sewer line was replaced just under addition prior to move in. Sewer guy claims he only removed dirt outside of the house, so a guy could get down in the hole. From there they supposedly pushed a 3″ pipe through a 4″ pipe and didn’t excavate dirt from under the house. Wonder if the lack of packing dirt outside the house is causing this?

    Is my addition falling off? What to do!? Thanks!



  • Jessica Says:
    November 4th, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    My unit has 5 cracks from floor to ceiling. Does that means a structural problem..and will the wall collapse due to this issue.



  • Jennifer Says:
    November 3rd, 2016 at 7:13 am

    Two narrow cracks have appeared on the upper rear external wall, running from my house to the nextdoor neighbour’s house. I had a condensing boiler installed a few years ago which involved knocking a small hole through the back bedroom wall for the pipework to go through. The internal wall wasn’t cemented very well and I’m wondering whether this has caused these vertical cracks to appear on the outside walls.



  • Ian Says:
    September 18th, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    I have noticed small cracks on my wall numerous on both sides. They are not opened just noticeable when u look closely. I don’t want my wall fall on us. What should I do? Should I be concerned or should I putty it?



  • JR Says:
    September 8th, 2016 at 11:00 am

    This is a very good article, you definitely want to pay particular attention to the larger cracks. If you suspect any kind of structural damage, I always advise people to contact a structural engineer before getting quotes from foundation repair contractors. The engineer will let you know what needs to be done and that kind of information will save you a lot of money when dealing with contractors.



  • Linda Says:
    July 6th, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    The interior door from garage to kitchen won’t latch when it rains a lot. A very thin crack appears from corner of door frame to ceiling (about 9 inches long)on garage side of wall appears. Once things dry out, it disappears and my door latches fine. I wonder if it could be a serious foundation problem. There are no cracks on the outside of the house walls and none in the foundation.
    We live in South Central Texas and it’s either feast or famine when it comes to rain. We had an exceedingly wet spring. Now it is June and things are dry.

    Linda



  • Trish Says:
    July 3rd, 2016 at 2:22 am

    Hi, Every summer in one corner of my bedroom a knocking sound occurs in the wall cavity and then wakes me earlier and earlier, eventually coinciding with the sun coming up – so for about 3 months the knocking starts at about 5.30am. I can almost pinpoint it. It carries on during the day with less frequency and then as the house cools it starts up again but not quite as bad. I have to move into my guest room for that period of time. This sound then stops after about 3 months despite temperatures still being in the 30’s (Centigrade that is) – heat soaked? It is a tiled roof and there are no pipes or anything like that in that corner of the bedroom and nowhere near any plumbing. There is movement in that corner in that there has been cracking and then severe cracking, all of which has been fixed (3 times)but cracks have reappeared, not severe though. What could it possibly be??? The house is 6 years old. I bought it when it was 3 years old and immediately had solar panels put on. 18 months later the knocking sound started. So for 2 summers this noise has been going on. I would be so grateful if anyone has ever heard of anything like this. Remember, it is a knocking sound, not creaking, metallic, cracking or clanging. Knocking. PLEASE HELP. Do I have to knock a great big hole in the wall?

    Trish



  • Tshenolo Says:
    June 15th, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    I have replaced the roof of my house which was covered with roof sheeting by replacing it with concrete tile and now notice the house is showing a lot cracks especially on the coners inside the house,how can I fix this problem.



  • renee benedict Says:
    February 24th, 2016 at 7:45 pm

    ok, ranch home facing west, built in 1959. furnace/laundry room, facing west, front/side of home. hot water tank, washer and chimney in room.no clothes dryer. 7 yrs ago, plaster walls cracked,peeled and blistered. chimney contractor installed new flash and came back 3 times to other repairs until nothing else he could do. mind you, inside walls plaster cracked,peeled and blistered. the furnace,chimney, water tank and vents wall and entrance wall are two walls effected. Mostly cracks on wall at ceiling, peels and blisters. few blisters started 4 to 6 inches from ceiling. After chimney repair, walls replastered. fixed until 3 years ago, same problem with same walls. roof repaired,new windows on outside walls. did not repair walls yet and seems walls are getting worse what in the world causes plaster inside walls at ceiling to crack, peel open and blister???? now there is a crack in the bathroom wall at ceiling , which hasnt been used in years. can a pipe in the wall do it? condensation? furnace room hot and cold? mystery water leak? foundation? old age? poorly mixed plaster? we dont want to fix the walls until we know the source. Roof guy said not the roof. Chimney guy says not that. handyman said condensation from pipe in wall,contrater didnt know.HELP!!! a 94 yr old NANA owns and lives in the house and would like it fixed. what should we do? Thank you



  • krna Says:
    May 22nd, 2015 at 7:11 am

    I got a kind of crack in my ceiling which appeared after a earthquake and in the walls, also, which both are plastered. Is it due to earthquake damaging structure of building?


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Do Cracks in Walls Indicate a Structural Problem?