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Every winter, we get cracks like this where the walls meet the ceiling in certain rooms. We just got our bathroom redone, so it's most bothersome here. When springtime comes, they "seal" back up. Why does this happen and what's the best way to fix this? Or should I just hire someone? How much would this run minus painting?

Update: thanks everyone for your answers! ultimately, I think the best answer is the "cover it up with crown moulding" since that will look prettiest, add some value, and fixes the issue for the long term. But is that what I did? Of course not!! I went the "caulk it and hope no one notices" route, and, honestly, it looks pretty OK now. I used Lowes White Lightning Latex Caulk and filled in the gaps, then painted. I think there is still a question of how it will look in the spring when it closes up, and if it will "bead" when it compresses. I guess we will see. (FYI there's more info on why this happens in this article I found -- he also endorses the caulk solution: http://www.chicagotribune.com/classified/realestate/sns-201401131900--tms--askbildrctnab-a20140124-20140124-story.html)

  • Is there evidence of, or do you know if they used, tape or some corner material? Jan 23 '15 at 2:34
  • 2
    Both of the options listed below are good. The crown molding option is (at least from my experience...can't stand drywall work) easier, less messy, and will take less time. The right answer is probably to redo the drywall but you will essentially need to empty the room cut the necessary sheet rock out and redo it, which can be a pain
    – James
    Jan 23 '15 at 16:31

The reason why this is happening is the structural members are expanding and contracting with the temperature/humidity changes.

There is no good solution to fix the issues, but you can cover it up.

The quick and dirty solution would be to put up quarter round over the seams, and attach it to the studs only- That is not to the ceiling. This would allow for the expansion/contraction to remain covered.

Other options would be to install Cove moulding.

Cove moulding

or Crown Moulding

Clip on Crown moulding

Note that the Crown shown here is clip on, and the clip attaches to the wall only. Again, this allows for expansion.

These can all be DIY projects if you're comfortable with finicky work. It's a bit tricky to get the corner mitres looking nice and tight, and you'll need a compound mitre saw.

  • I'm having DNS issues with stack.imgur Do the pictures show? Jan 22 '15 at 19:11
  • Thanks so much Chris. I see the images. You wouldn't consider getting some latex caulk up in there? That's a bad idea?
    – spalt
    Jan 22 '15 at 19:19
  • I have the same problem and tried the latex caulk option for part of it. In one area where the crack was small, it did ok, but in another where the initial crack was larger, it pulled away again. May do the crown moulding eventually, but haven't convinced myself it will look good on the cathedral ceiling. Jan 22 '15 at 19:33
  • Yeah, I thought about caulk, but if the movement is too great it will come undone. Jan 22 '15 at 21:38

From the picture it seems that the walls were done and the ceiling last and trying to meet the walls. Normally (if done right) the drywall on the ceiling would rest on the drywall from your walls. In this case even if you had a lot of contraction throughout the year you would have a very minor crack at most (which could be fixed with plaster or even caulk).

Picture below illustrates how to do this. Note that the wall would adjust horizontally up to a half inch (width of drywall) and then the only issue would but if the wall contracted up or down which the floating part takes care of.

enter image description here

Since your drywall was not installed correctly you could redo the last two feet and sit your ceiling on your walls. This is relatively free from a materials point of view (minimal drywall, mud, and ceiling paint) but could take a lot of time. Chris offers another option which probably takes more time and has expensive materials. If your house will look significantly better his option is better. If you are really worried about it and want to keep the same look, my option is better.

  • For clarity -- are you talking about the last two feet of ceiling? Or wall? Jan 22 '15 at 21:40
  • @ChrisCudmore - Last two feet of the ceiling edge on the suspect cracks. Probably would have to slice off an inch of the top of the walls so it fits to the studs (or close to them). Also the ceiling shouldn't be screwed/nailed within 8-10 inches of the walls. This allows for the ceiling to sit down on the walls and won't be expected by the normal temp/humidity changes.
    – DMoore
    Jan 22 '15 at 21:48
  • The corner should also be mudded and taped. Looks like the contractor skipped taping the joint on the OP.
    – BMitch
    Jan 28 '15 at 2:11

I had a very similar problem happen to me. Someone had left a gap between the drywall on the ceiling and the drywall on the wall. I bought the Spackle that has latex in it. I filled the crack, do not over do it because that stuff is very difficult to sand. Another part of the problem was they did not put any seem tape on the seems. After I got the crack filled in pretty good and left it dry I taped the seem and used regular spackle to even it all out. Haven't had a problem since and it has been five years.


Buy a bucket of sheet rock mud, a roll of tape, and a taping spatula. Fill the cracks with mud after temperatures warm up a bit, and roll the tape over the mud. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhMqYJNUgkU Once it's really dry, like wait a week until it's chalky white, then lightly sand with a taping sponge, then you'll have to repaint it.

If you don't have the money to repaint, but can match the paint that's the wall now (e.g. have a half-full bucket with formula label on top) then get a good 3" natural bristle brush and paint just the tape, as you 'feather' the paint lightly onto the wall and ceiling. Most people would not be able to detect the tape overpaint once you get good at it, but with the gloss paint on your walls, you will always see the marks.

Then as others have pointed out, at some time in the future, hire a subcontractor who specializes in trim work. It requires a $300 saw and months of practice to get a double-mitered corner joint correctly. Not worth the time and expense, unless you want to learn a new skill, but you'll never be able to compete, so you'll never get the $s back.

  • 1
    A couple of points on your crown molding comments: It doesn't require a $300 saw, and it doesn't take months of practice. Caulk can go a long way towards hiding slight imperfections with painted crown molding as well. Here at DIY.SE, our goal is to enable homeowners to DIY whenever possible. Installing crown molding is definitely a DIY-friendly task and does not require hiring out.
    – Doresoom
    Jan 27 '15 at 15:32
  • Re-spackling this isn't going to help. Next season it will just crack again. Jan 27 '15 at 17:46

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