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So I recently purchased this home and moved in about four months ago. These cracks have been showing up and slowly spreading. I don't remember them being present during inspection or during walk through and moving in.

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    1 - Could have been painted shortly before the sale/inspection, covering up old damage. Which would not be a good thing, and which could be cause for compensation if you can prove it (which is not so easy, of course); 2 - What is above this ceiling? – manassehkatz Dec 7 '18 at 16:25
  • The attic. It is an open attic, unfinished with a HVAC unit. This was a two family which was converted to single family. – Chris Kramer Dec 7 '18 at 16:28
  • Which rules out - lots more use of the room above than previous owners, causing settling, etc. Unless the HVAC unit was recently replaced and isn't mounted securely, causing vibration, etc. – manassehkatz Dec 7 '18 at 16:31
  • The people who lived here did the conversion about 7 years ago and were actively living here, so nothing has changed in terms of usage since I moved in. The HVAC unit was installed in 2011. – Chris Kramer Dec 7 '18 at 16:33
  • Are you sure the cracks recently appeared, or are you just now noticing them? They're fairly severe for something that's just now happening. – isherwood Dec 7 '18 at 16:51
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There is a very good chance that these cracks were covered up before you bought the house. From the general looks of it, they look cosmetic.

What is causing them is the change in temperature of the attic.

Now the co-conspirators here could also be a little moisture (I am doubting the venting of bathrooms are the culprits on that front), could be bad tape job, and I am going to guess the biggest is that extra weight.

I am going to guess you have a standard attic with joists either 18 or 24" spaced. I am going to guess that they put a pad down for the HVAC but the rest of the attic has no subfloor. It is this subfloor that helps bind and disperse weight through the joist system causing less variance during seasonal movements. Me thinks these cracks started appearing 7 years ago and they basically ignored them before. Looking at your pictures and I would need better ones but looks like there are perpendicular mud or paint strokes by the cracks (should have been taped).

So what can you do?

  • You can put in cross braces for the joists to disperse movement. You could certainly put in a subfloor but that might be overkill.
  • Then you also want to make sure this space is very very insulated. This is probably the easiest thing to do.
  • Then when the cracks are at the worst, and you have insulated and put in cross braces around the joists in question - tape and mud. And in a different question you can get techniques and mud types best for this.

Or you can just look at your cracks because it is just drywall. You have to understand this isn't a huge deal, you need more information to fix it right and quite frankly to fix it right might cost a bit and I doubt someone will give you a 100% warranty the cracks won't somewhat reappear.

  • The problem I have with doing anything in the attic is because of the vermiculite insulation. It's unevenly distributed everywhere up there probably because of the HVAC guy just shoving things around. I'm also experiencing horizontal cracks in my walls as well. – Chris Kramer Dec 7 '18 at 21:23
  • Also, there is almost no ventilation up there. No soffit intake vents and only two cap vents at the top. I had a humidity problem on the second floor this summer when I was reaching 75% or higher. – Chris Kramer Dec 7 '18 at 21:40
  • @ChrisKramer - Even if you fix the insulation issue there is a pretty good chance you are not 100% in the clear. It seems to be the first logical steps are a ridge vent which is pretty cheap to do - and can be DIY and then insulation. If those two things are helping you can then work on mud/taping the cracks. Also where is the HVAC outputting? I know this might sound ghetto but a low cost solution is to do something then paint - maybe light mud no tape. If the cracks come back right away with no temp variance you have a movement/weight issue. – DMoore Dec 7 '18 at 21:55
  • Unfortunately I can't do a ridge vent because my roof basically is a pyramid shape. The ridge is is only about four feet long. My only option is the square vents near the top of the roof on three sides. – Chris Kramer Dec 7 '18 at 23:19
  • Also, the HVAC unit is located directly in the center of the attic, this room is on the corner so I don't think it's a weight issue. – Chris Kramer Dec 7 '18 at 23:42

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