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What are drywall cracks from house settling and why do they happen?

“Always pick your yard based on your Summer lifetstyle.”


November 8, 2018 - Karl Yeh

Did you just buy a brand new home and are noticing cracks along your drywall? Not sure if it's normal or the beginning of a larger problem? In this episode, we discuss what are house settling drywall cracks and why they happen. We also explore how to tell the difference between normal settling and a more serious issue.  


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Hi everyone, Karl Yeh here, welcome to another Homebuyer's School video, a channel where you get the latest strategies, tactics, and tips from home buying experts. Remember, if this is your first time on this channel, hit the subscription button below, hit the little notification bell so you don't miss anything. [00:00:30]

So today I'm joined by Kurt Gibson, Field Operations director with Brookfield Residential and the question we're gonna answer today is:

What is house settling drywall cracks?

So Kurt, I know we talked about house settling before, so can you tell me more about potential crack in the drywall while the house is settled?

Kurt Gibson:                    

For sure, again, we talked a little bit in previous videos, but the big thing is there's so much wood that goes into building home typically.

It's also [00:01:00] a lot more cost effective to build with wood than metal too.

The reality of it is when you have wood, there's moisture content in the wood and when you're putting in metal screw vs drywall, which doesn't typically have a ton of movement in it, you're going to have some shifting and cracking is going to occur. 

I think it's ... people understand that it's normal for that to occur. It's really just what are the tolerances and what to look for to determine whether it's serious or not serious at different points.

A lot is again outlined through the the Alberta Warranty Program, and you can find information [00:01:30] on that through the website.

The big thing is that drywall, you'll see pops and cracks.

Most builders will come out and repair those things at the end of one year, if they have a one year program or if they two year program, then maybe to the second year too as well.

Karl Yeh:                          

So why does house settling actually cause drywall cracks?

Kurt Gibson:                    

Well again, we've talked about it a bit, but there's so much moisture in a home.

Concrete has a lot of moisture, it's a water based product when they pour it and it has to settle and it has to have a lot of the moisture come out of it. [00:02:00] It's the same thing with wood.

There's so much ... a lot of moisture in it and it has to come out, especially in the Calgary climate, so when that happens and it starts to dry out and then you've got metal screws going in or metal nails going in and the wood's coming up against it and there's also metal joints on the drywall, on the taping and things.

Those things have a tendency to shrink over time and then what happens is settling happens and then you get cracking on it.

Minor cracks are ... they're very normal.

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Karl Yeh:                          

Okay, and remember, if you want to know about house settling, [00:02:30] check out our video above.


Vertical or horizontal drywall cracks

Now so is there a difference between vertical or horizontal drywall cracks or is it kind of the same thing?

Kurt Gibson:                    

Well, I think a lot of the times, when you see a vertical crack vs horizontal, it really just defines where the issue is at.

Sometimes you'll get horizontal cracks over windows or down lower in the floor, and that's really where ... I'll go back to windows, there's what we call headers or beams that go over the tops of windows and they're typically larger material and they could be shrinking [00:03:00].

And that's where you can see that, where vertical would be the vertical members going up and down your studs and stuff that could be cracking and causing some settlements, so ...

About windows not closing or doors not fitting

Karl Yeh:                          

When you talked about windows and doors, and I know we talked about this in our previous video but when a house is settling, it's the same thing in terms of the windows not closing properly or the doors not really fitting in? Is that normal as well?

Kurt Gibson:                    

Is it very normal.

It's a really good sign if you've used [00:03:30] to shifting your window back and forth and all of the sudden, it gets a little tougher to do it, then obviously that could be certainly putting pressure on the window and can be causing issues that way.

Very normal.

Again, those adjustments should be able to be easily made by a customer care technician to be able to do that, but it's not unusual.

It's really when it gets to the point where it doesn't move at all, I would say there's more of a concern. Again, there's tolerances that are outlined through the Alberta New Home Warranty, but you shouldn't see anything more than a 16th or an eight of an inch movement in that stuff.

If you do have, then maybe a different discussion at that point in time so.

Karl Yeh:                          

So how do you know ... I know vertical, horizontal, let's say your drywalls are cracking and it's part of the normal house settling, but

How do know if it's actually just part of the settling or an actual more serious issue?

Kurt Gibson:                    

Again, in more serious issues, you'd see some very significant cracking and a lot of it ...

In houses where we have seen issues, there's probably all kinds of cracking and it's very wide cracks, more than a 16th of an inch, and eighth of an inch.

[00:04:30] You can even see baseboard and casings split or move apart. Rare. It is very rare, but it does happen and sometimes even our best ... doing our best work, there's soil conditions.

Sometimes you can have concrete ... cut concrete can settle sometimes if there happens to be a pocket in the ground that got missed and it starts to settle, but there are ways to correct all that. Seeing it before, it's pretty easy to fix for the most part so ...

Karl Yeh:                          

Perfect. Do you have anything else to add in terms of drywall [00:05:00] cracking?

Kurt Gibson:                    

No again, just if people have any concerns. I think the big thing is not to be too concerned about it.

It's really to determine and check the Alberta New Home Warranty to make sure that it's within tolerance.

If you feel it's a concern then I would contact your builder for sure.

Karl Yeh:                          

Perfect. Well thank you very much for joining us and we'll catch you next time.


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Let us know if you have additional home buying questions that we can answer by submitting them in the comments section below. 

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About Kurt Gibson:

Before starting his work career, Kurt Gibson, received Diploma’s from SAIT in Architectural Technology and Building Development Technology. Several years ago Kurt completed the Business Essentials “Mini MBA” from U of C Haskayne School of Business. Kurt has over 30+ years of experience in the Home Building Industry in Calgary and has work for several Builders over that time in all capacities from Sales, Design, Estimating, Construction and Customer Care. He prides himself in having strong leadership skills with coaching backgrounds in both sports and the business world.


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