Jumping off from Why does the plaster crack beneath the window sill? question, and the calm/collected answers therein.

When (if ever) should I be concerned about the absolute number of cracks around doors and windows, their appearance and growth. I have cracks radiating from the tops of many of my doors and windows, and they have been becoming more noticeable AND numerous over the past couple of years.

Again referencing the above question, when/how would I know if I really do have a structural issue, instead of normal settling? And if I do have such an issue, what kind of expert do I need (what keyword to search for)?

For reference my house is drywall with a complete skim coat of plaster (odd, yeah I know), not merely taped/mudded. The soil when I dig down I would describe as clay-ish, but I am no soil engineer!

  • How old is the house? You can expect some settling when it's young, but if it's a sudden change in an older house, there's more to worry about
    – Niall C.
    Commented Jun 10, 2011 at 12:53
  • House built in 1969
    – sdg
    Commented Jun 10, 2011 at 12:56
  • Do the cracks go all the way through the plaster, are they deep? Or mostly on the surface? Commented Jun 10, 2011 at 14:40
  • could you please post some pictures.. clayish soil is very unpredictable :( also your best bet is the get the original building plans and check what kind of foundation your house has. The best for clay is (i think they called stock piles?) basiclly 3-8metre poles driven into the gorund and it sits on that- or a 'choclate-block' foundation that drifts on the moving soil... if its just a slab- sell your house and dont tell anybody.. ufff :( :(
    – Piotr Kula
    Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 21:31

2 Answers 2


The important thing about cracks is not necessarily their absolute number or size - though if you've got a particularly long one it can be a sign of problems, but whether the number of cracks is growing and/or the existing cracks are getting longer and/or wider.

A new crack should be monitored over a few days/weeks to see if it gets longer and/or wider and how quickly. If it's changing quickly then call in an expert sooner rather than later.

Who's an "expert" in these cases? Well for less serious cracks a builder should be able to advise you. For larger, wider, deeper cracks I'd go for a surveyor as they'd be more experienced in this area and should look harder for the underlying cause. A decent builder should also recommend a surveyor if they think things are particularly bad.

  • An expert "what"? What section yellow-pages or other local directory do I need please?
    – sdg
    Commented Jun 10, 2011 at 15:32
  • @sdg - Sorry - either a builder or surveyor. I'll update the answer.
    – ChrisF
    Commented Jun 10, 2011 at 15:35
  • 1
    helpful - now I just have to translate UK English to Canadian English! :-) "Builder" is perhaps a "General Contractor" and "Surveyor" is more like a "Structural Engineer"?
    – sdg
    Commented Jun 10, 2011 at 17:20
  • @sdg - Something like that ;) A builder is the guy who builds stuff (well durr) from walls, through extensions, to houses. He might still do some of the work himself - his knowledge is practical, acquired over the years. A surveyor is someone who probably has more theoretical knowledge acquired through college and university.
    – ChrisF
    Commented Jun 10, 2011 at 18:37
  • Surveyor is surveyor- its the bloke who stands with the thing that looks like a telescope and points it to another bloke that holds a stick-- a surveyor.. i doubt they will be helpful here. A builder.. not a general maintance guy.. like in a person who builds houses.. he will be more helpfull
    – Piotr Kula
    Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 21:34

Sounds like someone put the drywall seams in the wrong place to me. We avoid putting the seam of two drywall boards along the edge of a door or window precisely because it can result in cracking. Directly over the center of a door/window is ok if necessary, but typically we aim for 16" or more away from the edge to get to the next stud.

As for when to worry, Chris has the answer. But should you ever redo the drywall, make sure to put the seams in a better place.

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