Textured ceiling cracks?

Discussion in 'Walls and Ceilings' started by nova, Feb 26, 2012.

  1. Feb 26, 2012 #1

    nova

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    Hi All,

    I'd appreciate any thoughts on how to repair some cracks in my living room ceiling. They've been there for about a year, but have started to grow substantially this winter -- they must have doubled or tripled in length.

    I've completely ignored these cracks, but now that they're expanding, I wonder if what steps I can take to stop the progress.

    For reference, the attached image shows an area of about three feet across.

    Thanks!

    IMG_4587.JPG
     
  2. Feb 26, 2012 #2

    oldognewtrick

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    How close is this to an outside wall? What is directly above this area, attic or living space, any plumbing or vent pipes near by?
     
  3. Feb 26, 2012 #3

    nova

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    The attic is directly overhead.

    I do not believe there are any pipes or sources of water in that area.

    I'll go take a peek in the attic, just to make sure.
     
  4. Feb 27, 2012 #4

    oldognewtrick

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    How close is this to the outside wall? What part of the country are you in? Go up in the attic and look for wet insulation and damp spots on the underside of the roof deck.
     
  5. Mar 5, 2012 #5

    sandbuoy

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    If I had to guest from the picture alone, I would say you have a small leak. Just enough to dampen the insulation and get the cieling moist.
     
  6. Mar 6, 2012 #6

    Rwh56

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    The discoloration on some of the cracks strongly suggests moisture is the cause. If it is moisture, then you will need to stop the leak and let it dry out before you can stop the spread or begin a repair.
     
  7. Mar 11, 2012 #7

    nova

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    All,

    Sorry for the delay. I went up into our attic, which is directly above the cracks. The area is dry; the eaves above the spot as well as the pink insulation were both dry. (That's the area shown in the closeup picture, just "north" of the recessed light fixture. The difference in color is due to a nearby window. Up close it's all the same).

    wonder if poor insulation didn't cause the cracks. As the attached pics show, the insulation in my attic leaves something to be desired. We bought this house after a renovation, including a new roof. However, it appears that new insulation was not part of the renovation. Perhaps the difference in temperatures between a chilly attic and a nice, warm house led to expansion cracking? The cracks are right next to some recessed ceiling light, perhaps also leading to some heating of the surrounding ceiling?

    I'd appreciate any thoughts as to:
    (1) my theory;
    (2) how I can/should fix the cracks;
    (3) whether/how I should upgrade our insulation.

    Again --many thanks to all for your help!

    2012-03-10_17-48-26_982.jpg

    ResizedImage_1331431866664.jpg
     
  8. Mar 11, 2012 #8

    joecaption

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    Check to see if it's just the drywall compound that's failing.
    Is it A plaster ceiling?
    Often times people try and just cover up failing plaster with a texture instead of taking the time to fix it right.
     
  9. Mar 20, 2012 #9

    AHoward

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    Hi,

    It may be related to your lack of insulation in the area of these cracks though not due to the thermal expansion you mentioned. Ideally your attic is a cold air space, if it is properly insulated.
    During the winter it may have become so cold that you got some condensation against the drywall causing sagging and cracking and the appearance of your moisture.

    If this is the case replace the damaged drywall and plaster and also have the space properly insulated to prevent a repeat next winter.

    This is just my educated guess however :)

    Alan

    http://civdesignr.tumblr.com/

    https://twitter.com/#!/oOGladiusOo
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2012
  10. Mar 21, 2012 #10

    JPLSTER

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    Yes, It does appear to be a condensation problem. The edge of the cracks appear to be discolored. If you have a sheet rock sealing. go in the attic and pull up the insulation around the offending area. Check the paper on the back of the sheet rock for discoloration, compared it to an unaffected area. You will see a water stain. Yes your attic is under insulated, unless it is on a breezy tropical island.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2012
  11. Apr 10, 2012 #11

    turneyreed

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    Check as JPLSTER (is that Jet Propulsion Lab?) and joecaption suggest. It would take a significant amount of condensation in order to cause the damage that's seen in your photo. The question that follows that would have to be-Why, if the damage is caused by condensation, are there no other damage in other areas with the same lack of sufficient insulation? Or is it a patch over a plaster ceiling as joecaption asks? I'm West Coast, so am not as familiar with plaster, but have done remodels that had lath and plaster. Your photo shows a cracking pattern that suggests that the ceiling material has become wet enough to deform due to water and gravity; it's 'drooping'. Can't help but feel that you have had some sort of water leak that was significant enough to saturate the drywall to the point of losing it's integrity and deforming due to that loss and gravity. If it was only condensation involved, I don't think that it would have caused as much damage as what is shown; more likely that it would have been restricted to the paper backing of the drywall with resulting mold and mildew evidence. Check the attic side of the damaged drywall area. Does it show water stains on the paper backing? recognize and solve the source of the problem first; then you can probably place some blocking between the joists to screw the damaged drywall to and 'flatten' the 'droop'. Then a bit of new texture with a stipple brush and a coat of a water stain blocking primer. (My first post here, so- over thirty years in construction, anything and everything residential with some commercial, three years teaching Construction Trades at Community College level, now having the resulting overuse injuries affecting my body...)
     
  12. Apr 12, 2012 #12

    hartzog86

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    Let me tell you one I had that looked simular. house built in 73 and originally used electric heat in the ceilings which consisted of a layer of sheet rock, heating wires stapled on then another layer of sheet rock. I bought the house in 99 and did away with the electric heat and installed a gas pack. In the master bedroom I ran a small window AC unit to cool the room and to provide a masking noise since I work nights and sleep days. I also installed a ceiling fan and it ran on high all the time.
    Now that I have set the scene, in 2010 I noticed some cracks such as yours about half way between the ceiling fan and the wall, about 6 months later I get a call at 3:00am from my wife screaming that the roof had fell in on her. Well she was half right. The lower of the two layers of sheet rock had let go and practicly the whole width and length fell on her in the bed leaving the first layer and the old electric heating wires still attached.
    The insurance adjuster took samples and about a week later came in with this story. The ac unit had dried out the sheet rock to the point it was loosing its coheasiveness along with a minor vibration from the ceiling fan caused the lower layer of sheetrock to crumble around the supporting nails and falling leaving a small disc of sheetrock with a nail in it spaced about every 18 inches apart all over the room.
    I have since taken samples from all the other rooms in the house and the sheetrock is fine every where else. Just a strang combination of circumstances and a unusual construction method came together to turn my wife into chicken little yelling the sky is falling.
    Old sheetrock in a dry environment will try to turn back into the dusty powder it was made from, that may not be leak problem but may be a two dry problem.
    Oh I have also seen a real heavy stipple coating crack with age also.
     
  13. Apr 12, 2012 #13

    turneyreed

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    hartzog86- I have to say that that is one of the strangest set of occurrences I've heard yet. I wonder what the probabilities are on your string of conditions and failures would be? I used to work on a set of late 70's condos that had electric radiant heat such as you described in all the ceilings. It was almost a steady job making repairs to the drywall cracks. But that was in a near coastal area, no problems with ever drying out too much. Typically, drywall doesn't have much of a moisture content as manufactured, around 5% or so. Are you located in an area with high humidity? If so, then the drywall could have had a higher moisture content prior to your use of your AC unit. An AC unit will definitely dry that air out though. And for the AC unit to transfer enough vibration over the years to the three or more ceiling joists and then to all the nails and basically pulverize the surrounding two layers of drywall. Man oh man! I can imagine that insurance adjuster talking your claim over with the other guys; and I have to give him credit for finding his way through to a cause. And even more credit to your wife not to move out of the house until all the ceilings were replaced! Do you remember if there was the discoloration similar to that shown in the photos? If so, then I need to dig deeper, it seems. With an over-dry condition I would not expect to see a discoloration along the crack, seemingly at it's lowest point where moisture would tend to concentrate. A trip back to the photos...
     
  14. Apr 13, 2012 #14

    DepotProTom

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    First I have a question. You state that the house was recently renovated. Did they put a new roof on the house? I have worked on numerous "old houses" with this same problem and each time it had a new roof recently put on. The old homes had a solid roof ( be it slate or shingle) and the attics were warmed "some" from the homes heat leaking through and they were dry. Really dry. Dry meaning no humidity or night time outdoor dampness. The new "better improved "roofs are ventalated at the top of the roof so as the keep the roof from building up mold and thus not rot but the problem is that they allow the outside air to directly infiltrate into your attic! This brings in the cold winter air directly to your attic causing it to now come in contact with the old lathe and plaster as it filters down! The now " really cold" wall contracts, cracks and picks up the dampness from the air causing the discolored cracks. The new roofing code requirements are wrong for older houses with lathe and plaster walls and ceilings but thats another story...
    Your choices are this: Tear down the old lathe and plaster ceiling and walls and replace them with dry wall making sure to do it properly. Make sure to insulate the outlets well. Or you can place drywall over top of your existing ceiling making sure that you use long enough screws to get through both the exising lathe and plaster and into some solid wood. Do not waste your time trying to repair the damaged plaster as it will not work and only frustrate the dickens out of you... Hope this helps. Tom
     
  15. Apr 16, 2012 #15

    hartzog86

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    zog wrote: Fairly humid, eastern NC


    zog wrote: Yes there was some, not much but enough that when it first appeared I checked the attic for leaks, not finding any I figured it was either old damage or thick mud like bondo on a car does.
    I have some photos I will try and find and post.

    Zog
     
  16. Jun 22, 2012 #16

    aureliconstruction

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    I have worked with plaster for over 20 years. I can tell you that the crack is getting worse because most probably you have a calcimine ceiling. You have had a leak in that area and even if it were dry, once calcimine gets wets, it is over! Double check the roof and attic to make sure there are no leaks of penetrations. After you have confirmed that their are no holes in your roof or leaks, blue board and plaster, or sheetrock and tape over the ceiling.
     
  17. Jun 22, 2012 #17

    turneyreed

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    Aureli, I was unfamiliar with the name 'Calcimine', so looked it up. As far as a description goes, it is a chalk, glue, and water coating that was used to paint over plaster. It says that it is indeed very difficult to paint over, and that removing it is a problem. However, it does not mention that it is anything but a coating, not an ingredient of the plaster. I can see that the peeling of the calcimine coating might continue to occur, but in what manner does it affect the crack in the plaster itself? Asking about this for my own knowledge. Thanks..
     
  18. Jun 23, 2012 #18

    nova

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    Thanks All. I suspect the issue may arise from old water damage (as suggested by several folks) and Tom's advice about new roofing. The house was built in 1951, and the roof was replaced in 2008, just before we bought it. There had been a leak in the vicinity, but it had been fixed with the roof replacement.

    My problem only occurs in the winter -- rain doesn't seem to have any effect, but temperature fluctuations do. Thus, I suspect Tom's theory about moisture differences due to a "new roof on an old house with plaster ceilings" may be the issue.

    Now the question is how to fix this. This is the only spot in the entire house that is cracking; it's been two years, and this one has doubled in that time. I'm not inclined to replace the entire ceiling (well, have it replaced would be more honest -- this job's beyond me, at least to do right). Any thoughts as to how to fix this?

    Thanks, all!
     
  19. Jun 28, 2012 #19

    Underdog

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    I'm a paperhanger and I have one solution I believe in and that is wallpaper liner. It keeps spider cracks from returning and secures the other areas. While it is wet it relaxes and when it dries it draws tight but you should float the deeper valleys before hanging.
    If you use vinyl over vinyl adhesive in the pre-paste it will adhere to glass if need be, much less plaster.
    They have textured wallpaper liners that are ready to paint.

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    [​IMG]
     
  20. Aug 15, 2012 #20

    chefman45887

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    insulation(alot) ridge ventilation if not in new roof line. or louvered attic vents with power fan on each end of house. make sure you replace the darker looking insulation is has lost its complete insulation value.
     

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