When To Start Worrying About Cracks In Your Ceiling (Honest Answer)

Last Updated on October 9, 2022 by Barry Gray

When I looked up at my ceiling one day and noticed a large crack had appeared, I was immediately concerned. After extensive research, I discovered that ceiling cracks could be relatively common in older houses. However, a crack in your ceiling could also indicate that there has been some structural damage. So, when should you start worrying about cracks in your ceiling?

You should only start worrying about ceiling cracks when the cause is structural damage. If the crack is due to the natural process of a house settling, it is usually cosmetic, and the crack will be easy to fix. You can hire a professional to determine the cause of the crack if you are unsure. 

Many times, a crack in your ceiling is caused by the natural movement of the house as it settles. However, as ceiling cracks could potentially be quite dangerous, I recommend hiring a professional who can rule out any structural damage. The severity of any potential damage will depend on the ceiling crack’s location, type, and size. 

When To Start Worrying About Ceiling Cracks

The only thing you’ll need to worry about when it comes to cracks in your ceiling is whether the crack is the cause of structural damage. You can assess the ceiling yourself before hiring a professional by looking for quite thick cracks in size. 

Since structural damage or subsidence does not get better over time, you must hire a professional to assess the cause of the crack. This is because it could prove extremely dangerous if the cracks in your ceiling have the characteristics of cracks caused by structural damage, and are left to worsen.

Signs you need to call a professional: 

  • Cracks that are thick in size (larger than 3mm in width)
  • A large number of cracks in the same area
  • Cracks in the ceiling accompanied by sagging
  • Cracks where the wall and the ceiling meet
  • Very deep cracks

The Different Kinds Of Ceiling Cracks

Before you start worrying about the cracks in your ceiling, you should first identify what kind of ceiling crack it is and whether you will need to hire a professional to assess the damage or if you can fix the crack quickly yourself.

Small Spiderweb Cracks

If your ceiling cracks look like tiny spiderwebs spread across the ceiling, then there is no need to worry. Small spiderweb cracks can be caused by a thicker than usual application of the joint compound. The cracks appear in all directions due to the drywall compound shrinking once it dries.

Spiderweb cracks are easy to fix yourself, so there is no need to be concerned or hire a professional. If you wish to cover the cracks, you can apply a layer of drywall compound and spread it out thinly over the existing texture. Another option would be to sand down the surface and apply the new compound layer yourself. Do not apply thick layers, as the spiderweb cracks may return.

Discolored Ceiling Cracks

If the crack in your ceiling appears to be discolored, then the cause of your crack could be a moisture problem. If any water gets in-between a ceilings drywall panel, it could cause the tape to become loose. The loosened tape can create the appearance of a ceiling crack; however, there will be brown or yellow water stains around it. 

There is no major concern about discolored cracks, so you do not need to worry. However, they mean you have a water leak somewhere that you will need to fix. You should find where the leak from the ceiling is and fix it before trying to repair the cracks in the ceiling, as more moisture may ruin any repairs you have done. 

Straight, Fine Ceiling Cracks

A fine, straight ceiling crack could be because of a joint that was not adequately taped. If the person installing the ceiling did not use enough drywall mud during the installation process, the paper tape would not have enough mud necessary to stick to the wall correctly. There is no real need to worry about this type of crack, and if the appearance does not trouble you, you can ignore the crack. 

Large Cracks Found On A Bowed Ceiling

These are the type of cracks that you should be worried about, as they require immediate attention. A crack could appear if your ceiling bows or sags because of improperly removing a load-bearing wall. Another reason for cracks with a sagging ceiling would be installing something heavy in the room above, such as a pool table.

I recommend calling a professional such as a reputable builder or structural engineer to immediately assess the ceiling. They will examine any potential damage that has been done and construct a plan to handle the situation safely. 

Wall And Ceiling Cracks

Ceiling cracks that appear in the same room as wall cracks could be the natural movement of the house due to settling. However, if you notice that the cracks are wider than 1/8-inch, you should start to worry and call a professional to assess the ceiling. You should attend to these types of cracks as they could indicate an underlying structural problem.

Causes Of Ceiling Cracks And When To Worry

Most ceiling cracks are purely cosmetic, and therefore there is no need to worry about them. However, structural damage can be the cause of some cracks. To determine whether or not you should be concerned about a ceiling crack, you’ll first need to find out what caused it. 

Your House Aging Is Causing Ceiling Cracks

You wouldn’t expect your grandma to look and feel like she did in her 20s, so you shouldn’t expect the same from your house. As a house ages and experiences general wear and tear while the building and foundations settle, ceiling and wall cracks may appear naturally. This process is widespread, and there is nothing to worry about when your house settles naturally. 

Ceiling Cracks Could Indicate There Is Moisture Damage

A common cause of ceiling cracks is moisture damage. The water could be leaking through the roof or the room floor above the ceiling where the cracks are. There might’ve been a recent storm that was powerful or a plumbing leak in the room above. There is no real need to worry if that is the case, although I recommend finding and fixing the leak.

Cracks Caused By Foundational Problems 

Very rarely, underlying severe structural damage can cause cracks in your ceiling. If that is the case, you should be worried as this could be extremely dangerous. I would recommend hiring a professional to assess the house, as it is much better to discover structural damage early on.

If your area has recently suffered from a natural disaster such as an earthquake, your house may have sustained structural damage. 

Conclusion

Most cracks in a ceiling are purely cosmetic, and besides a bad appearance, there is nothing about them that should make you worried. However, in certain instances, the cracks could be caused by structural damage, which is very dangerous. In this case, I would recommend calling a professional immediately to assess the damage. 

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Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.