Why Is My Basement Ceiling Cracking?

Ceiling cracks can be signs of serious structural damage. If left alone, the cracks can increase in size, leading to a high risk of the ceiling falling apart. But it still begs the question, why is your basement ceiling cracking? We researched and found different causes for basement ceiling cracks as told by the experts.

The two main categories of the causes of basement ceiling cracks are structural and natural. The types of cracks stem from these classifications, which include age, moisture level, weight, and the foundation’s current state.

Some cracks are reasonably small, which aren’t causes for concern. However, certain fissures in your basement’s ceiling might seem like they’re increasing in size over time. Taking immediate action to fix these cracks can help significantly reduce the risks of health concerns and serious structural damage. Continue reading as we elaborate on the details on these points.

A white unfinished basement with recessed lighting and windows, Why Is My Basement Ceiling Cracking?

Causes of Cracks in Basement Ceilings

Cracks can form in basement ceilings because of either structural or natural causes. Cracks caused by structural damage generally come from the foundation’s current state or if the floor above is too heavy for the ceiling to carry.

On the other hand, the natural reasons for cracks tend to be from the home’s old age and significant moisture levels. Keep reading as we tackle these causes in more detail.

Structural Damage

Basement ceiling cracks that are structural in nature can be due to any of these two conditions:

1. Uneven Settling of the Home’s Foundation

Homeowners should pay importance to the land on top of their abode. Building a house over the soil with an uneven settlement of foundation can become the precursors for several risks of structural damage, including the cracks in your basement’s ceiling.

If you do not own the house and lot yet, prevent these issues from happening by hiring a professional to assess the land before purchasing the property. If you’re already the landowner, hire a structural engineer to help you evaluate the severity of the concern and to provide you with the correct solutions.

2. Heavy Equipment on the Floor Above

Floors have a maximum load limit that shouldn’t be exceeded. Otherwise, the flooring can bend, distort, and even break with the heavy loads caused by weighty equipment.

Avoid this problem by dispersing the load of your appliances and pieces of furniture across the different rooms of your house. Don’t put various heavy objects in one area of the property, particularly above the basement.

You can also try to calculate the beam strength underneath the floor above your basement’s ceiling to determine the maximum load it can carry.

Natural Damage

If the basement ceiling cracks are more natural rather than structural issues, they can be due to any of these two causes:

1. The Home is Growing Old

The parts used in creating your home will weaken over time, which includes the components used in your ceiling’s basement. With that in mind, many homeowners prefer to use drywall because it’s a relatively inexpensive option.

Exercising proper care and maintenance on drywall ceilings allows the material to last for at least 30 years. In some cases, it can even last 70 years.

However, proper maintenance to a basement ceiling can only extend its lifespan to an extent. If you live in a house that's over 30 years old, expect some cracks to form on your basement's ceiling. It’s a natural occurrence, which might need immediate fixing if the cracks seem to be growing over time.

Take a look at this Stella drywall repair kit pro on Amazon.

2. Significant Moisture Damage

Basement ceilings, especially those made from drywall, aren’t impervious to excessive moisture brought by flooding and heavy downpours. In turn, the ceiling’s structure will weaken, which will lead to cracks, dents, and the overall weakening of the material.

Avoid these issues by implementing moisture control solutions for your basement. One example that may not require you to spend any money is to clean gutters and downspouts. Debris blocking the proper flow of water through the gutters and downspouts can cause moisture to go to your basement.

Another way to reduce and prevent moisture damage to your basement’s ceiling is to install window well covers. Window wells tend to be susceptible to flooding, and using covers can keep the rain out of your basement.

Check out this Maccourt window well cover on Amazon.

What Causes Large Cracks in Ceiling?

Cozy interior of a contemporary designed basement with carpeted flooring, a basement with carpeted flooring, a decorative rock fireplace mantel and recessed lighting

Aside from the items mentioned in the previous section, earthquakes can also be prime suspects in creating large basement ceiling cracks. Some locations, such as Alaska, are more prone to these natural calamities than others.

The largest US state has a tectonic slip rate of over 2 inches per year, which is more than many other global locations. Therefore, if you build a home in Alaska, you might be seeing more cracks in your basement ceiling and other areas of your house than in other regions.

Should I Be Worried About Cracks in My Ceiling?

Small hairline and spider web cracks generally don't cause concerns. These small cracks can appear because of faulty paint jobs or if the ceiling needs a new coat of paint.

However, you should be concerned if you see ceiling cracks with bows or dents. These fissures can occur because of heavy loads or if the ceiling’s support has been installed improperly. Think about consulting professional help soon if you see a large, continuous crack that goes through the ceiling and wall.

How do You Know if A Ceiling Crack is Serious?

One way to determine if a ceiling crack needs immediate attention is its size, shape, and location. Small cracks that are only a few millimeters in size shouldn’t promote significant uneasiness.

Plus, the crack is less serious than average if it’s running in the same direction as the ceiling’s material. If so, the ceiling’s foundation can still handle the slightly reduced support from the ceiling.

On the other hand, if the cracks are jagged, run at about 45-degree angles, and spread to and from the apex of the ceiling, these fissures need immediate attention. These cracks may need professional help to determine the precise cause of the problem.

How Do I Fix A Stress Crack in My Ceiling?

A worker installing a mesh tape on the basement ceiling for crack prevention

ASTM D883 determines stress cracks as fissures caused by tensile stresses delivered by short-term mechanical strength. In other words, it’s a relatively common cause of product or material failure. In many cases, you can fix a stress crack without relying on professional help.

Here are the things and steps you’ll need for this project:

  • 5-in-1 tool
  • Drill
  • Double-sided sponge
  • Drop cloth
  • Sandpaper
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Mesh drywall tape

Steps to Fix A Stress Crack on A Ceiling

  1. Cover the workspace with a dry cloth to catch falling dust, dirt, and debris.
  2. Remove any old drywall patches or tape with the scrapper from the 5-in-1 tool.
  3. Drill drywall screws into the ceiling’s wooden support blocks.
  4. Gouge the crack with the 5-in-1 tool to widen it slightly.
  5. Apply drywall tape on the crack.
  6. Smoothen the layer with a damp double-sided sponge.
  7. Use sandpaper to smoothen the patch job further.
  8. Apply primer on the ceiling and let it dry for about 30 minutes. You may need to wait longer if the primer isn’t completely dry after that period.
  9. Paint the area with the same color as the ceiling and let it dry.

Check this Warner ProGrip 5-in-1 knife on Amazon.

What is the Best Filler for Ceiling Cracks?

A worker spreading epoxy on the ceiling cracks

The best filler for ceiling cracks is subject to different scenarios. However, homeowners should take note of certain factors before buying the right filling agent. These elements can include flexibility, versatility, and price. Additionally, a filler that comes in an economic size can help reduce overall costs.

Take a look at this Ronseal Ssmooth finish multi-purpose filler on Amazon.

Final Words

A brightly lit basement gym with recessed lighting, beige walls, gym equipment and a sauna bath

Basement ceiling cracks can form because of structural or natural causes. These problems range from heavy loads delivered by the floor above the basement to rainwater from the gutters going to the basement.

Take note that basement ceiling crack prevention is possible with the right tools and techniques. Failure to take precautionary measures might lead to more serious damage to your home than expected.

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