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Some weeks back I woke one morning to find a large flake of spackle(?) had cracked and almost come completely off the wall in my apartment entrance:

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According to the board of our housing cooperative there have been multiple reports of similar damage in other apartments, and it seems the building suffers from some foundation shifting.

Behind the flake the wall seems to be solid concrete. Here's a close up of the flake material from a small piece I broke off:

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Looks like it's just paint on spackle on old newspaper?

I have never done much DIY work before, so any advice on how to repair this would be greatly appreciated.

My initial thoughts would be to:

  1. Carefully remove the flake and any loose bits around it (hopefully avoiding having to remove the clothes rack).
  2. Fill in the hole with some flexible(?) spackle (there may be more movement in the building foundation in the future)
  3. Paint over

Location: Norway

Building construction year: 1933

My DIY skill level: Complete novice

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    First of all, are you sure this is due to "foundation shifting"? It doesn't look like that to me. Secondly, I don't think this is "spackle" which is used to patch small areas like nail holes. This is some sort of application to cover a problem perhaps? Anyway, I don't think there is any saving this. Tear it all off, fix the underlying problem(s) and then hang drywall. – jwh20 Mar 18 at 16:54
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    If this is a rental apartment, go see the landlord. – JACK Mar 18 at 17:22
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    I own my apartment. Not sure about the cause or the material to be honest. Just my assumptions. But if the underlying problem really is shifting - does that mean I need to wait until that has been fixed before I do anything here? That could take years. – o01 Mar 18 at 17:26
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    What country are you in? That helps us recommend a solution based on local laws and building codes/practices. Are you having any other structural issues, such as sticking doors or windows not opening easily? If not, it might just be a shoddy installation of wall covering/plaster. Pull off as much as easily possible and inspect for cracking in the underlying wall. If really bad, get the heck out of there before the building collapses. – George Anderson Mar 18 at 17:56
  • I'm in Norway. I've had no other problems with any doors or windows getting stuck. – o01 Mar 18 at 18:00
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I'm going to suggest that this is not structural. I have done many foundation inspections and repair designs and I have not seen this before, it is not what I expect to see from a settling foundation.

Two things stand out, it's an area of the wall that failed and it's warped in the middle. This all screams moisture. Moisture will compromise the plaster, dry wall mud, or glue and cause it to detach and buckle as seen. Look for a source and borrow, buy or rent a moister meter to test the wall vs other areas of your apartment, they should be the same. A FLIR camera will also work great, the moist area will be clear as day since it will be a cooler temperature.

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    Oh, I didn't even consider that. But now that you mention it I actually had a very big water leak from the apartment above me about 3 years ago. But after that we had lots of people come and investigate the damage. Could they have missed this? And could a 3 year old leak really be the cause here? After that leak I had to have my entire kitchen floor changed (which was thankfully covered by our insurance). – o01 Mar 18 at 20:38
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    Yes, that's possible and almost surely the issue. I would double check that the issue hasn't returned... – Ack Mar 18 at 20:42
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    Just a quick update on this: You were absolutely right. Just had a surveyor from the insurance company inspect the damage - and he agreed that this was probably caused by that three year old water leak. Thankfully the insurance will therefore cover the repairs. You probably saved me thousands of dollars. – o01 Jun 26 at 8:51
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Obviously, this is a structural issue with the building and not something that you can correct. All you can do is make a sort-term fix which you can probably do with drywall.
However, it sounds as if this apartment is part of a cooperative. Are you an owner in the cooperative or are you only renting? The owner(s) should be responsible for the damages in your apartment and the others. If you as an owner are responsible then you might want to work with the co-op to try to find (A) solutions to the structural issues and (B) a common approach to handling damages.
In the meantime any drywall repairs will only be topical and probably short-lived.

Edit

Whatever action you take should depend on what the co-op board is doing and how quickly. In the short-term, if the concrete wall has furring strips on it you could just cut out that bad section and mount a piece of drywall to the strips. Mud and tape the cracks and ten paint. YouTube can show you how to do that. If there are no furring strips, I would mount only a few with concrete tap screws and attach to that. I would not use adhesives to attach the drywall to the concrete since any additional minor shift will probably crack it again. The less contact you have between the drywall and the concrete the better the chance it won't crack - but nothing is certain in this situation.
What I would do is hang a picture or tapestry up there until the co-op board comes up with a real solution.

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  • The board has hired some specialists to investigate the cause of all this. That work is ongoing - and will probably result in some major work on the structure to stop the shifting altogether. But that might take years to complete. They have already said that individual owners are responsible for fixing damage inside their own apartments. – o01 Mar 18 at 17:12
  • Suggestion - Read your by-laws and declarations. Saying it doesn't make it so. – HoneyDo Mar 18 at 17:17
  • Our chairman of the board is a hired external lawyer (non-resident). So I think the board has all their bases covered when they make decisions like that. Challenging them on this would probably involve taking them to court. – o01 Mar 18 at 17:36
  • Don't count on the fact that the board hired a lawyer to be any indication that they are looking out for YOUR best interests. Their lawyer is looking after THEIRS. In some cases you are responsible only for the space inside the walls, in other cases you are responsible for more than that. It might make sense to consult your own lawyer who is familiar with this type of law. – jwh20 Mar 18 at 18:02

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