Your home is a huge investment, right? You’ve spent a lot of money and time on it, and you wish for everything to be safe and beautiful about it. This is why any small crack in the ceiling can be a source of concern. When you spot it, you immediately wonder how it happened, how serious it is, and most importantly, how you can fix it! It’s not just in the ceiling. Cracks may appear in brick walls, which you also have to repair.
Even if you’ve chosen the best quality construction materials, you might see some visible cracks in the ceiling a few years down the line. However, there is no need to panic; most of them are superficial and can easily be repaired. Wondering how? Maybe you know all about painting the ceiling or even treating damp walls, but you don’t know how to manage the cracks. Keep on reading for some more information and a step-by-step guide to fixing ceiling cracks!
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Causes of ceiling cracks
They are a common type of damage that all homeowners should monitor. If you wonder why they happen, there are 2 main causes; structural damage or the natural settling that occurs when a building ages. That’s why you find them more often in old houses. Here are the most common factors that result in cracks.
- The age of the house.
- There is high moisture along the underside of ceiling joists, trusses or wall studs.
- Water damage.
- There is something heavy on the floor above the cracked ceiling.
- The drywall joints aren’t taped adequately because the handyman didn’t use enough drywall mud while taping the joints.
- There are foundation problems.
- Movement of the building because of an earthquake, strong wind, heavy rainfall or storm, and temperature fluctuations.
Types of ceiling cracks
There are various types of cracks. Some indicate a more serious structural problem than others. This is why you must know how to spot each one. Here is a list of ceiling crack types.
- Thin, spiderweb cracks, also known as hairline cracks. These appear in the ceiling plaster or paint and are usually not a problem to worry about.
- Cracks that run across your ceiling and down the wall. These cracks are almost certainly the result of structural issues, and you or a structural engineer should fix them as soon as possible.
- Large cracks between the wall and ceiling with a noticeable gap. This case is almost always a result of foundation settlement, and you should call a professional to fix the problem as soon as possible.
- Cracks followed by sagging are not a good sign and should be looked at immediately.
Step-by-step guide: How to repair cracks in the ceiling
Have you noticed a crack in your home’s drywall ceiling? Don’t worry; you can fix this relatively easily. Keep in mind that this DIY project should take about 30 minutes, plus 1 hour of drying time. Are you ready for a ceiling repair?
Step 1: Put a sheet of plastic down under the crack
It’s wise to put down a large sheet of plastic while you’re repairing your ceiling crack. This way, after you’re done fixing the damage, you can just throw it away and not have to worry about cleaning the floors.
Step 2: Set up an A-frame ladder
Set up an A-frame ladder to have stability as you stand on it to reach the ceiling. You should make sure that all its 4 legs are flat and stable on the floor before you climb up. Also, avoid making sudden movements while you’re on it. If the ladder has a fold-out section across from its top rung, you may use this to hold your repair supplies. Before you start, you should wear a dust mask and goggles to protect your eyes, nose and mouth from the dust.
Step 3: Scrape away loose material with a drywall knife
- Position your 15 cm drywall or utility knife against the ceiling near the crack.
- Slide it up under any loose plaster of drywall paper that is torn near the crack.
- With the knife, slice these off, but be careful not to damage the drywall beneath.
Step 4: Apply mesh drywall tape directly over the crack
- Use long strips of this adhesive tape to cover the entire gap.
- Position the tape so it’s centred over the crack, and press it onto the ceiling.
- Apply only 1 single layer of tape.
- Use a rolling pin or can to go over the tape a few times to smooth it out.
Step 5: Mix 5-minute mud powered with water
- Shake out 0.45 kg worth of dry mud into a big plastic container.
- Add lukewarm water.
- Keep the container over your kitchen sink, and use your putty knife to mix your 5-minute mud thoroughly.
- Keep on adding water and mixing until the mud is similar to the consistency of mayonnaise.
- You can also use joint compound, decorator’s caulk, crack filler or mud with a longer drying time to secure the ceiling crack. However, using the 5-minute mud, you will save time plastering the wall, and it will also set more firmly than the jointing compound and the others.
- Using a spray water bottle, spray the ceiling to help the mud adhere to the existing plaster.
Step 6: Apply a layer of the mud to your ceiling crack
- Apply a single, smooth layer of mud with the broad edge of your putty knife.
- Cover the mesh tape entirely with mud and work quickly so it won’t dry.
- Wait 30 minutes for the mud to fully dry once you are done with the first layer.
- If the mud layer looks uneven, smooth it out before it dries with a wet sponge.
Step 7: Add texture to the mud if your ceiling is textured
Texturizing the mud will help it fit in with the rest of the ceiling.
- If you have a swirl textured ceiling, recreate the pattern in the mud with a soft paintbrush.
- If the ceiling has a knock-down texture, replicate the texture by pressing a firm, wet piece of paper into the mud.
- If it has a popcorn texture, use a popcorn ceiling patch spray to spray over the mud.
Step 8: Sand the first layer of mud once it’s dried
Sanding the mud in between layers is essential to make your final result look smoother and more professional. Using a sander, sanding sponge or sandpaper, gently rub any rough patches, working in a back-and-forth motion.
Step 9: Mix a second batch of 5-minute mud
- For the second coat, add more water from your kitchen tap to the same amount of sand so it will be thinner than the first.
- Mix the batch until it’s roughly the consistency of sour cream.
- Use the putty knife’s corners and edge to scrape out any dry sand pockets from the corners or edges of the mixing container.
Step 10: Apply a second coat of the mud
- Using the same technique you used for the first coat, fully cover the mesh tape with the mud.
- You don’t want this layer to be visible after you are done with the ceiling, so it should cover up the tape’s grid pattern.
- Wait 30 minutes for the second layer to fully dry.
Step 11: Sand the layers of mud with a sanding sponge
It’s now time to smooth out the rough patches.
- Run the sponge over the area you’ve covered with mud.
- Use a back-and-forth motion until the dried mud covering the former cracked area is flush with the rest of your ceiling.
- If you have a very flat surface, mix the last mud coat a little more watery than the first 2 coats and apply it to the ceiling with a trowel. This will fill in the low spots making a flatter surface.
Step 12: Find a paint colour that matches your ceiling and paint the portion of the ceiling you’ve sanded
- You should paint the portion that you fixed to match the rest of the ceiling. If there is any paint leftover from when you painted it initially, use this to paint over the repaired crack. If there isn’t, you’ll need to visit a home supply store to find a matching coat of paint. It may be helpful if you bring a paint sample to your local paint store or home improvement centre and have them match the colour for you.
- You can now paint from one end of the patched crack to the other. When you are done painting your ceiling, your ceiling should have a single texture and colour.
Cost of fixing ceiling cracks
Fixing cracks yourself can cost you a lot of money, but less than hiring a professional to do the job. Most homeowners spend from £50 to £100 to do it themselves, but sometimes you need a handyperson or engineer. A professional will charge £40 to £60 per hour to make repairs. The cost of ceiling repair varies depending on these factors:
- The size of the room: the larger the damaged section, the highest the cost.
- The type of ceiling: the cost will range from £150 to £200, depending on if you have lath, plasterboard, gypsum plaster, or lime plaster ceiling.
- The finish: the cost will widely vary depending on whether you wish to simply have a hole patched with plasterboard or to have the repair plastered and decorated.
- The extent of the problem and type of damage: the cost will vary widely depending on whether you wish to have a surface drywall repair or a structural problem.
Sometimes cracks and stains on the ceiling can be signs of more costly and extensive problems, like structural and water damage. The longer you wait to deal with these issues, the more you risk making the situation worse. But in most cases, they are superficial and can easily be repaired. So, stress no more; all you have to do is follow our instructions and get up there as soon as possible! Next? Learn how to keep your ceiling free of water stains!