Drywall cracks in a new home: Causes and easy solutions

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You bought a new home but after moving in you see cracks developing in certain areas of your home. Is this a sign of structural issues or that your new home was not built properly?

What are these drywall cracks, and are they a cause for concern?

Key Takeaways
  • Drywall cracks are common both in new and old homes.
  • In a new home cracks can happen when the house is “settling” but is minimized if the house was built the right way. Initial settling of a house takes about three years.
  • Cracks also happen when a house’s foundation shifts due to weather or underground activity.
  • Any wall or ceiling effected by movement will cause cracks to appear on the drywall.

Most of the time, 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 repair the cracks. However, there are actually cases where the drywall cracks can be signs of bigger damages – like structural issues.

Is it normal for houses to have cracks?

After the construction on that new house has been completed, you move in. You begin to notice cracks developing in the walls of your home. The cracks make you think that the construction of your new home was poorly done and that you have been cheated out of your money.

While there is a chance that the cracks are the result of poor construction and even structural damage, it is actually normal for houses to have cracks.

It is common for people who have bought new houses to notice some drywall cracks developing in different areas of their new homes.

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?

Settlement cracks are not really indicators that your house has suffered structural damages. They are not also signs that your house was poorly built by the construction company that worked on it.

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.

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.

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?

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.

There are some minor cracks that should make you concerned. That is when cracks are accompanied by discoloration. It could mean that there was a water leak and that you should promptly work correcting the issue to minimize any more damage to your house.

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. 

For those larger 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. It is only after the structural damages have been resolved that you should begin to fix the drywall cracks found in your home.

How do you fix drywall cracks in the house?

Man sanding back some drywall plaster
Man sanding back some drywall plaster

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.

For hairline drywall cracks you can use a small plaster filler, just spread into the crack. This method does not stop it from cracking again though.

The best way to repair a drywall crack is to re-tape the joint itself, which found where the different drywall boards connect together.

After you have found the location of the joint, remove the old tape, use new drywall tape to re-tape the join. Cover the tape with two to three thin coats of drywall compound to complete the repairs. The repair process can be messy and difficult if you haven’t done plastering before.

If you’re not confident in the DIY approach, contact a local plasterer or builder for some extra help.