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It's always easier to do it right the first time around when it comes to wall cracks

QuestionAbout five years ago we enlarged an existing room of our 1907-ish home to create a "family" room with 10-foot peaked ceiling. It was built on a new concrete foundation. With normal settling and small earthquakes, both peaked walls in the room have developed cracks. Is there something else we can do besides apply spackle to the cracks and paint over them?

AnswerThank you for allowing me into your home to view the situation. It appears that the addition has experienced some settling, or heaving, with only minimal damage to the home's interior, on both interior and exterior walls and in the ceiling peak area; the 0 to 3/16-inch wide cracks are not excessive. Frost heave is anticipated, which is why the building code requires a minimum 24-inch deep footing with a 6-inch foundation wall extending a minimum 6 inches above grade.

During my exterior inspection I saw the shed roof design and was curious as to how an A-design vaulted ceiling was achieved on the home's interior. When I looked into an inspection hole, I could see what was going on. It was clear that the shed roof design did not contain engineered trusses. The span is on two-foot centers for 2x6s, a design I would not recommend for the length of the 2x6s used. The other leg of the A design that connects to the 2x6s to create the inside peak doesn't appear to have any real lateral support.

It might be a good idea to add blocking to the intersections in between the rafters to help to tie the lower part of the roof design into a complete system. The cracks that appear in the peak a foot in from the interior and exterior walls may have been caused by some settling or heaving, but I believe most of the fault lies in the roof design and the overall framing of the addition.

Additionally, the cracks creeping down the walls from the peak indicate that this is where the new addition was tied into the existing home. Here the exterior wall was framed in 2x4s, also on two-foot centers. A few extra studs placed 16 inches on center wouldn't have added much to the overall cost. Professionally speaking, I believe the overall framing should have been done differently to comply with building and energy codes; however, at this point you still have a couple of options.

You could add blocking to shore up the roof and ceiling within the attic space. To fix the vertical cracks, you could remove the wallboard in the areas and check to see that the new addition was correctly tied into the existing building and that the rafters and ceiling joists have been properly fastened together make sure they don't increase the cracks. Look for double studs in these two areas and if they were fastened together. Perhaps there's nothing in this area, in which case framing members can be added.

Since the settling is minimal, the four visible cracks are a normal size (under 1/4 inch), and because both the ceiling and walls have a hand texture, I would try repairing the cracks. First scrape the texture back about 7 inches away from both sides of the crack (14 inches total width). Clean the cracks of loose material and fill with a water-base white adhesive caulk and let it set up for at least 72 hours before taping. Once it has cured, tape these areas following normal taping procedures: apply taping compound, followed by tape, followed by topping coats, followed by sanding, followed by texture, followed by painting.

If the cracks reappear after this, then I recommend that you correct the framing areas as discussed earlier.

Copyright © 2005, 2006, & 2007 LAF/C.R.S., Inc. All rights reserved.
Question answered by Leon A. Frechette.



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