Cracking the Code – Drywall Seams vs. Structural Defects


The sight of cracks snaking across your walls can be a real heart-stopper.  Are they a minor cosmetic issue, or a telltale sign of a deeper structural problem? At Fairchild Renovations, we understand the concern that comes with these unwelcome blemishes. Our team will equip you with the knowledge to differentiate between a simple drywall seam separation and a more serious structural defect, empowering you to take informed action.

Drywall Seams: Understanding the Usual Suspect

Drywall panels are large but not limitless. To create smooth, seamless walls, installers connect these panels with joint compound, creating seams. Over time, various factors can cause these seams to separate slightly, resulting in hairline cracks.

Here’s what could be causing those cracks, and how to identify them:

•Settling and Shifting: New homes can experience some settling in the first few years. This minor movement can stress drywall seams, leading to hairline cracks.
•Temperature and Humidity Fluctuations: Drywall naturally expands and contracts with changes in temperature and humidity. These fluctuations can cause the seams to separate slightly, resulting in cracks.
•Improper Installation: While less common, improper installation techniques during the drywall finishing process can also contribute to seam separation and cracking later.

Signs of a Drywall Seam Separation:

Drywall seam separations can be identified by their location, size, and movement. Cracks typically appear in straight lines or spiderweb patterns along the seams where drywall panels meet, outlining the panels underneath. These cracks are usually thin, less than 1/8 inch wide. If you gently press the sides of the crack together and they move slightly before returning to their original position, it’s another sign of a separated seam. Additionally, the separated area might feel slightly raised or uneven compared to the surrounding drywall.

Structural Defects: When Cracks Signal a Deeper Problem

While most cracks are nothing to panic about, some situations require a professional assessment. Here’s how to distinguish a structural crack from a harmless drywall seam separation:

•Location: Structural cracks can appear anywhere on the wall, not just along seams. They may run diagonally across doorways, windows, or even ceilings, often following a jagged or uneven path.
•Size and Pattern: Structural cracks are often wider than 1/8 inch and may be uneven or jagged in appearance. Unlike drywall seam cracks, they can grow larger over time, becoming more noticeable.
•Movement: Carefully monitor the crack for any changes. If it widens or shows significant movement when you press the sides together, it could be a structural issue requiring immediate attention.

Don’t Hesitate to Call a Professional

If you’re unsure about the nature of the crack, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. At Fairchild Renovations, we offer comprehensive consultations with experienced professionals who can diagnose the problem and recommend the best course of action. Contact Fairchild Renovations today for a consultation, and let our experts guide you towards a safe and worry-free solution.