Drywall cracks in a new home: Causes and easy solutions

You bought a new home, and you were excited about the prospect of moving into an entirely new house. But, after moving in, you saw cracks developing in certain areas of your home, and you are left disappointed because you thought that it could be signs of structural issues or that your new home was not built properly. So, what are these drywall cracks, and are they a cause of concern for you?

Drywall cracks are fairly common both in new and old homes alike. This happens when the house is “settling” but this is minimized if the house was built the right way. Settling often lasts for about three years but you can resolve them yourself by re-taping the joints, which are the seams where the drywall panels meet.

Most of the time, these drywall cracks that you notice in your new home can easily happen and are really quite normal. There are quick and easy fixes that you can do to minimize the cracks. However, there are actually cases where the drywall cracks can be signs of bigger damages. In any case, read on to find out more about what you can do with these drywall cracks in your new home.

Is it normal for houses to have cracks?

Imagine a scenario where you had to save a lot of money to pay for equity on that new home while building up good credit to get a good mortgage. After the construction on that new house has been completed, you decided to move in with your family thinking that you are going to be living in a perfect new home that is free of any damage or cracks because, as mentioned, it is still quite new and it hasn’t even been half a year since it was completed. 

However, you begin to notice cracks developing in the walls of your home for one reason or another. The cracks begin to make you think that the construction of your new home was poorly done and that you have been cheated out of your money. But, while there is a chance that the cracks are the result of poor construction and even structural damage (albeit both cases tend to be rare), it is actually normal for houses to have cracks.

It is far too common for people who have bought new houses to notice some drywall cracks developing in different areas of their new homes. These cracks may differ in terms of their size and location but the one thing that’s for sure is that this is actually fairly common regardless of whether the house is old or new.

In that sense, what we are pointing out here is the fact that it is normal for houses to have cracks. These drywall cracks are fairly common even if the house is still new or even if it is already several decades old. The causes of these cracks may differ but the umbrella term often used is “settling”. That is why these cracks are often called “settlement cracks”.

What causes drywall to crack?

So, if settlement cracks are quite normal, what is the cause of all of this settling that is happening all over your house? Is it something that is structural or is settling a cause of poor construction on the part of those who worked on your house?

Well, for starters, settlement cracks are not really indicators that your house has suffered structural damages. They are not also signs that your house was poorly made by the construction company that worked on it. Instead, these settlement cracks are the results of something so simple and quite normal in many different houses all over the country.

If your house was built using a lot of lumber, settlement cracks will be more common than usual. The reason is that new lumber or “green lumber” still contains a lot of moisture that hasn’t escaped or evaporated from the lumber yet. After the construction of your home is completed, that is when the moisture will begin to evaporate and escape from the lumber as the green lumber used to construct your home also begins to dry out.

When this happens, the air and the moisture will find a way to escape the walls of your home thereby causing small cracks to develop in drywall. As such, the drywall cracks you can find in most newly built homes are caused by air and moisture trying to escape from the green lumber found within the inner walls of the home.

Meanwhile, for older houses, hairline cracks found in different parts of the home are also caused by a different kind of settling. As houses age over time, they will also begin to move around ever so slightly due to how the ground they were built on also moves around gradually and subtly. 

The drying and shrinkage of the materials found within the walls will also cause the house to move slightly. Because of that, different small fractures may begin to develop in certain areas of your home, and it is more likely that such cracks can be seen in the weakest parts of the house.

In case you didn’t know, some of the weaker parts of a house are the walls above the doors and the windows because their vertical support tends to be weaker than all of the other walls found in your house. As such, if these areas are the ones that are the first to develop cracks, there is a good chance that these cracks and some of the other cracks found in your home are caused by settling.

When should I be worried about wall cracks?

Now that you know what these settlement cracks are, you might be wondering whether you should begin to worry about them. After all, cracks are usually the first signs of damage that can potentially become serious enough to even destroy the entire house.

While it is perfectly normal to be worried about cracks, there shouldn’t be any cause of concern when it comes to settlement cracks because these are perfectly normal and are simply caused by moisture escaping the walls of your home and when the different materials begin to subtly shrink and dry thereby causing slight movements in your home

However, there are some minor cracks that should make you a bit worried. When the cracks are accompanied by discoloration, it could mean that there was a leak in one of your pipes and that you should promptly work on them to minimize any more damage to your house.

In any case, settlement cracks shouldn’t make you worry a lot except when the aesthetics of your new home matter to you so much.

How can you tell if a crack is structural?

While smaller cracks that aren’t too big shouldn’t make you worry, we cannot say the same when it comes to bigger cracks. That’s because these cracks may be indications that your house has suffered from structural damages because of certain reasons such as poor construction on the part of the company that built your home or natural occurrences such as earthquakes or typhoons. Termite damage in one of the foundational structures of your house may also be a cause of such structural damages.

If you notice cracks that are quite large or are jagged, it could mean that your house’s foundations shrunk or shifted due to several reasons, man-made or natural. Cracks that are also quite wide and are at least a quarter of an inch wide should be indicative of possible structural damages in your new home. 

So, the moment you notice such cracks, it is time for you to call an engineer to assess the situation and to find a quick remedy that would minimize any damages to your home in the future. It is only after the structural damages have been resolved that you should begin to fix the drywall cracks found all over your home.

How do you fix drywall cracks in the house?

If you want to fix drywall cracks in the house, you don’t need to rush. If the drywall cracks are settlement cracks, wait for at least a year from the completion of the construction of your new home to have those cracks fixed because settling may still occur during that one-year span. Meanwhile, for those with structural damages, it is best to resolve such issues first before fixing the drywall cracks.

The best way to repair a drywall crack on your own is to re-tape the expansion joint, which are joints found in your walls to ensure that the different parts of your walls can move freely without affecting the overall integrity of your walls. It is best to ask the structural engineer where the expansion joint is located because the location of these joints may differ depending on how your structural engineer designed the house.

After you have found the location of the expansion joint, fill the cracks with a drywall compound to fix the aesthetic portion of the problem. What you have to do then is to use drywall tape to re-tape the crack. Cover the tape with two to three thin coats of drywall compound to complete the repairs.