Excessive drywall cracks

Please see attached photos. Saw several drywall cracks. One observable hairline crack on the exposed edge. Pulled carpet near the damaged areas. Saw no cracks! What might have caused this? Sorry for the picture quality…




Hey, Tab.

Those look like common stress cracks, especially for Yuma.

Homes are built with lumber that has a moisture content up in the 25-50% range. That’s way too high for building a wood-framed structure, but that’s what we have to deal with.

Once all that lumber is inside the walls, it starts to dry out. Eventually, especially in Yuma and over here in San Diego (and other deserts), the lumber could get down to the 3-5% moisture content range. Going from 25-50% to 3-5% will cause the lumber to twist, turn, and shrink. When it does, anything that is attached to it will also twist, turn, shrink, crack, etc.

The best builders will let the wood dry out at the site for as long as possible before using it in order to minimize cracks like those in your picture. Those cracks don’t cause me any structural concern unless you can find ground movement or exterior cracks or conditions (trees) that could exascerbate the common cracks. Depending on how old the house is, you can re-drywall and you should be okay unless you get some interesting weather conditions, such as earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, etc. If the house is still new, and that means less than five years old, you’re probably going to still get some twisting and turning, so wait until the house is older than that before re-drywalling or trying to make permanent repairs.

Russel, That’s what I concluded, but I guess I wanted re-inforcement. I have never seen cracking to this extent without some other condition that could be the cause. Thanks for the reply!

Hey, Tab.

The extent of common stress cracking will depend greatly on the moisture content of the lumber when the home was built.

I find stress cracking more in individual homes built by the homeowner than I do in large subdivisions. The reason is because the individual goes down and gets lumber as he needs it. Many times he chooses the straightest lumber and the lumber that smells the best. Both of those indicate that the lumber has a high moisture content.

The subdivision builder orders thousands of two-by-fours and they sit around and dry out before they get used, resulting in fewer stress cracks.

Russel, This particular builder builds a house every once in a while, so your theory would apply.

I’ve been in the construction trades for 27 years. I’ve seen a lot of things. I have hung a lot of rock. One thing I have never seen, is cracks in drywall that appear like the ones in your photo’s.
If the rock was hung properly, any cracking would normally be of a vertical nature above windows and doors and sometimes, albeit rarely, of a horizontal nature along the flats or bevel joints.
I have seen cracking of the nature shown on lath and plaster and on structurally unsound buildings.

One thing I do question though, is the need to spray-texture entire walls. In my experience, that’s usually a sign of poor workmanship, or a cover-up of previous problems.

Come on down to San Diego and I’ll take you on a tour of Kensington and Mission Hills. You’ll see enough cracks like those in the picture to last you a life time, and then some.

Brian, The practice of spray texturing an entire wall is common here. How do they texture walls where you are from? I did not observe anything else that would cause me to say that it was a structurally unsound building. The horizontal crack appeared to be at the the top plate of the wall.

We spray texture entire walls and ceilings out here, too, especially in the higher end subdivisions because it gives it a more customized look and feel.

I* saw where the crack started, but I also see that one of them makes an angular beeline to the corner of the door. I’m not saying the structure is unsound, I"m just saying that if I saw that kind of cracking up here, I’d look real close at the structure.*

Hey, Brian.

The structure includes the twisting and turning of the green 2x4’s as they dry. If I had never seen it before, and if I had not studied the effects in Forestry at Texas A&M University, I would look real close, too. But after 30 years of construction, re-construction, renovating, flipping, buying, selling, and inspecting, those specific types of cracks in the pictures aren’t causing me any structural concern because I’m 99.9% certain that if there are no indications at the exterior (cracks in the foundation), it’s green lumber twisting and turning. I might even convince myself of 100% certainty since Tab is in Yuma, a very dry area.

Lumber in non-“very dry” areas, such as the Gulf Coast, up and down the Mississippi River drainage plain, etc., usually settles in at about 15% moisture content. It’s not unusual at all for lumber here in San Diego, and from here over to West Texas, to settle in at 3-7% moisture content. All that twisting and turning is going to cause stress cracks, and it can be better or worse depending on the age of the tree, the type of cut (radial or tangential), and the overall moisture content when it leaves the lumber mill.

Tab does have to put other clues together, though. For example, if there is a foundation crack there, that can be an additive cause, if not the major cause.

I’ve worked throughout the desert area from here to West Texas, and cracks like those in Tab’s pictures are part and parcel of the excessive dryness we have here, especially if we start out with 2x4s with 50% MC, which is common when it comes from the lumber mill. That’s why we leave lumber sitting around for extraordinarily long periods of time here in the desert, whereas back where I grew up along the Texas Gulf Coast, we bought it and used it the same day, or at least the same week.

Some of the subdivision builders here will order the lumber and store it outside in the far reaches of the subdivions under construction for months at a time to really let it dry out. Then they discard the overly warped lumber. Of course, the homes where they practice such building methods cost in the millions of dollars. However, they will never have a crack in the walls unless we have an earthquake.

In other areas here, where the homes are more reasonably priced (i.e., for us here, anyway,) at a median $455,000, cracks like those in Tab’s pictures are part and parcel of the cost of the house.

For Tab, and others in desert environments like me here in San Diego, here’s a document that I wrote for my Clients here. It’s part of my SOLUTIONS real estate library that all my Clients have access to. It won’t necessarily apply to Brian in his area, or people along the Gulf Coast, up and down the Mississippi River drainage area, or up at 14,000 feet in Colorado.

Thanks RR, that has to be the longest definition of a drywall crack I have ever heard, ha. ha.:wink:

Thanks, some of that will be helpful to most.

Marcel :slight_smile: :smiley: