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My wife and I just moved into a “new construction” house in Philadelphia. A few weeks ago I noticed a hairline crack on the kitchen ceiling. A few days later when working from home I saw the spot in a different light and noticed how raised the area is around it. What I want to know is if it’s water damage or just a crappy drywall job by the builder. There are other raised portions in the vicinity, but this is definitely the worst/most noticeable. It’s not soft, and the crack doesn’t seem to have gotten any worse after rain/snow the past few weeks, there’s also no discoloration.

I’ve included pictures of the spot at two different lighting situations

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  • Looks to me like something has moved since the taping job was complete. Have you been in the attic to check for roof leaks? – isherwood Dec 24 '17 at 13:42
  • This is on the second floor of a three story home. There is a bathroom nearby on the floor above this spot, but it’s 4/5 feet to the left of where I took the picture. There’s no visible leaks anywhere and I’ve yet to see any discoloration. Also, we do not have a physical attic to go into – Sean H Dec 24 '17 at 13:51
  • With it being that raised in other areas, I would first say it's a bad drywall job. As far as the hairline crack: Is it in a spot where a wall might have been at one time before an "open concept" was created by demolishing the wall? Previous owners in my home moved a wall, but left the top plate in place without being secured anywhere except the edges, so it sagged a little under weight from insulation over time and created a hairline crack. Not sure that's it, but certainly a possibility. – statueuphemism Dec 24 '17 at 15:03
  • the crack doesn’t seem to have gotten any worse after rain/snow the past few weeks = not water damage; at least, not from a leaky roof. – Mazura Dec 24 '17 at 18:28
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Appears to be a very substandard mud (drywall compound, thus, drywall joint) job, probably put on without waiting for each layer to cure, possibly also poorly reenforced, thus the cracks. The "Visible hump" is from lack of skill or care in properly feathering the joint.

Question will be whether this is the best the builder can manage, so having them do it over is pointless (as that's certainly sub-par for new construction) or whether you say the heck with them and fix it right either yourself, or by hiring someone actually competent. You might also want to take a harsh, glaring light to other drywall surfaces in the home to see if this is really the only bad spot.

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    This might be standard for the builder's initial crew, but enough pressure should get the builder to send a competent mud guy. I would never in a million years think this is acceptable quality in a new build. I'm getting a little long for a comment, but the builder might push to have all their punchlist items dealt with at once, say, a year after sale, but I'd do everything possible (including a threatening letter from a lawyer) to get them motivated to fix now. (And all this is from someone in the trades. Can you tell I hate poor quality?) – Aloysius Defenestrate Dec 24 '17 at 17:00
  • Thanks for the great answers on a Holiday weekend all. You’re kind of backing up what I suspected all along, but after having water issues in another house I wanted a sanity check. Considering the other cut corners we’ve seen elsewhere in the house, a sloppy job is not a surprising outcome. Our builder has a reputation in town that we discovered after we bought the house, so I’m not holding my breath on ever getting this fixed by him. Still, I can live with a cosmetic issue for now. Water would be a different story. – Sean H Dec 24 '17 at 17:59

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