Home Improvement Month: Are Your Walls Cracking?

By Hope Walborn | May 30, 2024 | 3 min. read

Did you know May is Home Improvement Month? It’s important to think about the overall health of your home, and the cracks in your walls can tell you a lot about it.

“Some cracks can appear within the first year as your house settles and dries out, but timing and severity of certain cracks depend on factors like your home’s construction type, building quality, foundation and soil conditions,” Courtney Klosterman, home insights expert at Hippo home insurance group, says.

“Small cracks? Not an immediate issue. Big ones? Don’t let them become big problems. Catch them early and you may save yourself time, money and stress,” she adds.

Here are the four types of cracks you should be on the lookout for in your home and how to address them.

1. Hairline Cracks – Low Urgency

The most common drywall cracks are thin, spiderweb-like hairline cracks that measure less than one millimeter wide. They’re caused by normal house settling or minor fluctuations in temperature and humidity. They do not require immediate attention.

“If you notice the crack growing wider or longer, consult a professional structural engineer for evaluation to assess the cause and recommend any necessary repairs,” Klosterman advises.

Hairline cracks can be patched and repainted using a joint compound that can be sanded when dry.

2. Vertical Cracks – Low to Moderate Urgency

Vertical cracks are a result of foundation settlement and temperature changes. They generally pose minimal concern if there are no significant length or width increases.

“Hairline vertical cracks are generally low priority, especially if they haven’t changed,” Klosterman says. “Cracks wider than three millimeters warrant a professional evaluation.”

Consult a foundation specialist if your vertical cracks widen or if you detect dampness.

3. Horizontal Cracks – High Urgency

“Horizontal cracks running along the wall plane can be a serious sign of foundation issues and potential structural drywall cracks,” Klosterman notes. “These cracks are often the result of structural movement as expansive soil builds up against the foundation wall. They will progressively widen without proper care, potentially causing complete wall failure.”

Regardless of width, consult a professional if your home has horizontal cracks. Horizontal cracks signify movement or pressure on the foundation walls, and early detection and intervention are crucial to prevent further damage.

4. Diagonal Cracks – High Urgency

Diagonal cracks run at an angle and, regardless of size, need immediate, professional attention. They can be caused by poor soil compaction, changes in moisture content and inadequate drainage.

“Early intervention is key since diagonal cracks are a sign of foundation settlement, often as a result of the earth pushing on the concrete basement wall,” Klosterman shares. “Early detection and intervention are crucial to preventing more extensive damage to your foundation and the overall structural integrity of your home.”

When Should You Worry?

“Not all cracks are created equal,” Klosterman says. “The size and location of wall cracks are key factors. Large cracks wider than five millimeters are a cause for concern, especially if they are diagonal, horizontal or above a door frame. These cracks could indicate foundation movement, stress on structural supports or settling issues. It’s helpful to get a professional opinion in these cases.”

“While not always a cause for alarm, cracks in your walls or ceilings are fairly common,” she adds. “They might seem visually alarming, but understanding them can help identify the difference between a minor cosmetic imperfection and a more significant structural problem.”

This Home Improvement Month, check for cracks in your walls and assess your home’s overall health. You can use a home maintenance checklist to help monitor changes in your home and plan repairs like foundation work.

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