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I have 3 year old ranch home in Ohio that developed a couple of cracks in a wall 6 months after closing. It was taped and mudded by a professional but reappeared and the same process was repeated. The third time they cut out the crack, pieced in drywall, taped and mudded. The 4th time they cut out a larger section to nail/screw the boards together then repaired the drywall. Six months later the crack is back and the builder says there is nothing he can do. What could be causing this so we can attempt another repair? There are no other issues in the home except this one crack.

This is a support wall, main floor over a basement. We get some snow but not heavy and we do have trusses. This is a temperate climate so extreme cold is not an issue. I have also checked with others in the neighborhood and I am the only one with cracks.

enter image description here

see picture

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    since this is a stem wall between two openings one can guess that it is a load bearing post and that it is settling forcing the drywall to crack open as it settles. is this ground floor? what structure is in the stem wall? What structural loads is the stem wall carrying. often they put expansion gaps in drywall covered by trim to account for expected settlement as wet wood dries and shrinks. 3 years old you'd expect the movement to be done. is there a dip in the floor at that point, the floor is also settling around this post? Jan 29 at 0:32
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    You probably need to consult with an engineer to get to the bottom of why this is happening. The builder claiming "there is nothing they can do" might be something you have to sort out in court, if they won't take the required corrective measures once you figure out what those are. This is not anything that looks like a normal and unconcerning level of cracking in a 3 year old house, IMHO
    – Ecnerwal
    Jan 29 at 2:19
  • Movement is causing the cracks. Perhaps seasonal movement. Solution would be to incorporate expansion/movement gap in the problem area and cover with trim.
    – kreemoweet
    Jan 29 at 4:07
  • It is probably caused by movement or settling of the foundations. I would first consult with an Engineer, to ensure that is going to stay safe. Then put in a flexible join. Jan 29 at 5:38
  • That one image demonstrates the cracking nicely, but not the bigger picture. What does the cracking look like as it wraps around the corners? But step back some to capture the structural features around the cracking. At this point I think that I might be looking at a window to the left of a door with a patch of drywall between them, but I'm not even sure on that.
    – popham
    Jan 29 at 6:21

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Here's what's happening: As your trusses move up and down (wind pulling up, snow pushing down, and/or wood moisture changing seasonally), the wall is restraining one location of the truss against moving with its neighbors. The wood is flexible enough to go with the flow, but the relatively brittle drywall can't take all of the movement.

truss movement

I looked up Columbus, OH for seasonal variation in relative humidity, but saw that it sits pretty steady around 75% to 80%, so I'm skeptical that wood moisture is your root cause. That leaves the other two unless maybe you're hosting rooftop parties.

My strategy for papering over the problem would be to redo the drywall again like last time, but use cement board and setting type joint compound. Maybe this is drywaller blasphemy, but I might first try fiberglass mesh tape. Just cover that area vertically with the stuff 2 ft above and below the cracking. Hit it with setting type mud, then put a few 1.5 ft pieces diagonally at the two interior corners. Hit it with setting type mud. Then finish the drywall like regular. I'm embarrassed to post the suggestion, but I think that I would try it. (The cement board strength comes from its fiberglass reinforcement, so why not use fiberglass reinforcement on the gypsum?)

I really dislike the random bending load introduced by the wall into the truss members along that wall by the as-built condition (assuming that I'm correct about the cause of your cracked drywall, where I would want to confirm before thinking too far ahead). Realistically, though, your detailing between wall and truss is very common. That much cracking isn't, though, so maybe it's signalling that you have a structural problem that warrants attention. If the problem was showing up along that entire wall (the one running perpendicular to the plane of your image), then I would worry more. My instinct is that the change-in-ceiling-elevation quirk is the unusual condition that caused the problem, not some out-of-the-ordinary structural condition.

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    I think your truss assessment is correct, but setting type joint compound won’t fix this problem. And btw, fiberglass tape is always supposed to be used with setting type compound or it will crack. Feb 27 at 2:48
  • @Erik, the fiberglass reinforcement is worth a shot. The idea is to spread the strain over a much wider area, where hopefully that keeps the total strain low enough to inhibit cracking. In a structural lab I've seen the real thing (fiberglass plus epoxy) rehabilitate hopelessly under-reinforced concrete panels for seismic upgrades. I don't share your pessimism. Given that the wall has almost certainly been constructed tight to the truss, the detail here should be tried first before shortening that wall to arrive at the modern detailing.
    – popham
    Feb 27 at 3:11
  • @Erik, looking at it a second time, I can also imagine going into the attic and applying OSB sheathing to the surface of the truss for a few feet to either side of this problem spot to stiffen the member above the wall. Adding a new panel point on top of the wall would basically be the same idea. I wouldn't make either recommendation without thinking long and hard about the strength implications for the particular truss, though.
    – popham
    Feb 27 at 3:18
  • if it’s the truss and you put a plywood plate on, it’ll probably pull up at the floor, which may or may not be desired. I’ve seen so many houses taped with fiberglass and drying type compound that have cracked that I’ve become pessimistic. I’ve heard of a pro? that only taped one house with setting type compound(no paper or fiberglass) and some years later there were no cracks yet. Feb 27 at 11:09
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We had a similar problem with a truss floor and a supporting post in the middle.

Our temporary quick workaround was to mount the doorbell over the crack.
It's not been a problem for several decades now:

Similar image to the OP's, but with doorbell covering the crack.

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I believe popham's assessment about the truss moving up and down could be correct if the area shown is tied together to the truss. It could also be basement floor movement pushing up for some reason.

Realistic solutions could be:

  1. Insert an expansion joint there.
  2. Find an artistic way to cover that with trim.

Drywall has limitations, cracks like that are always structural related. Not necessarily faulty or dangerous, but just.. things builders didn’t think about how things move around.

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