Why Does Drywall Crack? Common Causes and Solutions

By thewriteDuffy •  Updated: 06/07/24 •  7 min read

Freshly finished and painted drywall looks great. However, it is not uncommon for drywall to crack a few months after installation, especially in a new-construction home. 

In this article, we will explore the common causes of drywall cracking so that you’ll know what’s going on and how to approach fixing them. 

Causes of Drywall Cracks

1. Movement in the Building

The seam between two sheets of drywall, called a joint, is a weak point in a finished wall.

When sealing joints, drywall mud and tape are used. You can think of drywall tape as a bandage for the joint, which is glued on with the drywall mud.

After the tape is applied, more thin layers of drywall mud are added on top of the joint to smooth out the seam and make it blend into the rest of the wall.

During settlement, these joints are often the first to show cracks, especially if they are weak or there has been excessive movement.

Of course, any large movement of the house caused by something natural like an earthquake, or out of the ordinary like an impact can also cause cracks at these seams. 

2. Poor Construction

Significant cracks in drywall are often the result of design deficiencies. A building is expected to settle and move over time. Engineers often design solutions that mitigate major movement while allowing a building to move slightly without causing damage, such as expansion joints.

When significant cracks develop that a drywall contractor can’t fix, or that keep occurring, it might be time to consult with a building engineer to look into other solutions to prevent movement so that when the cracks are repaired, they won’t happen again.

3. The Use of The Wrong Type of Drywall Mud

Another cause of drywall cracks along joints is using the wrong type of drywall mud for taping.

Some drywall mud has more adhering ability and should be used when taping, while some other types of drywall mud should be used only for finishing. Specifically, some drywall mud products are made to be used for the second or third finishing coats only.

Mesh Drywall Tape vs. Paper Tape for Drywall Cracking.
Mesh Drywall Tape.

4. The Use of The Wrong Type of Drywall Tape

The use of mesh tape for drywall taping is not recommended by some drywall professionals since it’s not as strong as paper tape. Others will use mesh tape, but only with quick-set drywall mud. We have done for repairs in the past without a problem, though it was only for small repairs on an existing home. 

There is usually a cracking problem when you use all-purpose drywall mud or lightweight drywall mud with mesh tape.

You can learn more about when to choose paper or mesh drywall tape in my article on it here.

5. Improper Installation of Corner Joints

Improper installation of corner bead is another common cause of drywall cracks. Corner bead is a material used to reinforce the corner joints of drywall and give the wall a clean and finished look. 

There are a ton of different types of corner bead available, each with specific installation methods. 

For instance, vinyl corner bead can be installed with spray adhesive, but if the wrong type or not enough adhesive is used, cracks can show up when the building settles. 

Metal corner bead is another option, which requires screws or nails to give the corner sufficient strength. However, if not enough fasteners are used or they are spaced too far apart, it can lead to cracking during settling. The screws themselves are also prone to popping out, which I’ll talk about below. 

Where we live, paper-faced (“tape-on”) corner bead is the most commonly used corner joint and it’s generally thought to be the strongest and least prone to cracking. A paper-faced corner bead installed with an all-purpose drywall compound is most common here and it usually provides a strong, smooth corner. 

Overall, it is essential to ensure that the corner bead is installed correctly to avoid any potential cracking in the future. If you notice cracking in areas with corner beads, it’s really best to consult with a professional drywall mudder to assess the problem and repair it properly.

Does Temperature Cause Drywall Cracks?

Temperature changes can also cause drywall cracks. In areas with extreme temperature changes, such as hot summers and cold winters, drywall can expand and contract, causing cracks to form. This is particularly true if the drywall was not installed with enough space for expansion or contraction.

The relationship between temperature and drywall cracks is not always clear-cut, as there are many other factors at play. However, in general, it is best to avoid extreme temperature changes in the areas with drywall to reduce the risk of cracking.

Tips to prevent drywall cracks caused by temperature changes include installing insulation in exterior walls and using vapor barriers to regulate humidity levels. Additionally, installing a HVAC system that maintains a consistent temperature can help to reduce the risk of drywall cracks.

Assessing and Fixing Drywall Cracks 

Not all drywall cracks are serious, but it is important to know how to assess them. In general, cracks that are wider than 1/8 inch or run diagonally across the wall may indicate a more serious problem, such as structural damage.

If you are unsure whether a crack is serious or not, it is best to consult with a professional. A drywall contractor or building engineer can assess the situation and provide guidance on how to proceed.

For minor cracks, you may be able to repair them yourself with some drywall tape and joint compound. However, if the cracks are extensive or if you are unsure of your ability to repair them, it is best to call a professional drywall taper/mudder.

Nail Pop in Drywall.
Nail Pop in Drywall.

Nail and Screw Pops

Nail pops are another common drywall problem that occurs when the head of a nail breaks through the paper of the drywall and separates the paint. Nail pops usually happen in the first year after the drywall was installed.

A nail pop looks like a small round circle the size of a nail head.

For drywall to be securely fastened to studs, screws or nails are used. The screw head presses against the paper on the drywall’s surface creating an indent, which is then smoothed over with drywall mud (usually at the same time as the joints are being taped).

If the wall shifts during settling, that nail can sometimes move outward, pushing on the mud and popping out.

Nail pops are kind of to be expected. They can be prevented a bit by using construction adhesive on the studs below the drywall and then using nails or drywall screws to hold the sheet until the glue has time to dry. When this is done it reduces the number of nail pops. Although this is an excellent prevention method, it is not a perfect one, and it is really too expensive due to the extra time that it takes, in comparison with how straightforward it is to fix nail pops.

Conclusion: Preventing Drywall Cracks

n conclusion, drywall cracking is a common problem that can be caused by a variety of factors. By understanding the common causes of drywall cracks, you can take steps to prevent them from happening in the first place.

Some key takeaways to keep in mind include using the correct type of drywall mud and tape, ensuring that corner bead is installed correctly, and avoiding extreme temperature changes in areas with drywall.

If you do notice drywall cracks, it is important to assess them to determine if they are serious or not. For minor cracks, you may be able to repair them yourself, but for more extensive damage, it is best to call a professional.

By taking these steps, you can ensure that your drywall remains in good condition for years to come. Remember to always hire a professional for drywall repair and to prioritize quality installation and maintenance practices.

thewriteDuffy

At home, April is a mom, wife, and DIY darling. Among other home projects, she helped her husband Dan renovate their 1986 bungalow and is currently designing and decorating the 2023 custom home they are building themselves. Professionally, April is a writer, author, and online marketer with 15 years of experience writing for newspapers and magazines, building online authority websites, and publishing books.