Noticing a crack in your wall can be alarming, especially since there is no real way to determine if there’s a bigger problem without having it inspected by an expert. Fortunately, there are still things you can look for that will tell you whether a cracked wall is just a minor eyesore or a sign that your home has a structural problem.
Horizontal Cracks vs. Vertical Cracks
The best way to determine if a crack in a wall is a serious problem is to look at its shape and which direction it’s running along the wall. Vertical cracks that start where the wall and ceiling meet tend to form as the building’s foundation starts to settle shortly after it was built. These cracks also tend to run along your drywall and aren’t nearly as serious as they look. Smaller cracks can be patched up with some drywall putty and some sanding. Once you apply a fresh coat of paint, the crack should be all but invisible. Larger vertical cracks will require you to call a contractor to make more extensive repairs.
While vertical cracks don’t usually pose much of a problem unless they’re too big for you to patch up yourself, horizontal cracks or cracks that run up your wall at a 45-degree angle are good indicators that your home has endured some severe foundation shifting or water damage. These are of course serious problems that need to be addressed as quickly as possible if you don’t want them to get any worse.
If you notice horizontal cracks or jagged cracks moving up your wall at an angle, contact a professional contractor to take a closer look at it. While you can make a good guess that you have a problem based on the shape and location of a crack in your wall, you won’t know for sure about the extent of the issue unless you have it inspected. Like other structural problems that you might find in an old home, a damaged foundation or cracks in your walls are much easier to fix while they’re still relatively minor.