You’re innocently strolling through your house and you suddenly notice a diagonal crack in your wall that wasn’t there before (at least you don’t think it was there before). If you were Shaggy on Scooby Doo, a *zoinks!* might be in order here because you don’t know what this means or what to do about it.
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have been helping homeowners decipher their home problems for 35+ years in the Brazos Valley. We’ve seen more than our fair share of diagonal wall cracks and can tell you exactly what’s going on here and how to handle it.
This article will explain what diagonal wall cracks mean, what’s causing them, and what to do to handle this problem in your home. Let’s get *cracking* on figuring out this issue with you. I apologize for this flagrant pun usage, but I may or may not *actually be that sorry* about it.
Why Do I Have Diagonal Cracks In My Drywall?
We’re not talking about straight cracks or seam problems right now, just things moving on the diagonal. Diagonal wall cracks appear most commonly coming off of door and window frames or places where there is a cased opening.
If you’ve seen even one episode of Fixer-Upper, Joanna Gaines has likely educated you on the concept of cased openings. But if you don’t already know, cased openings are usually framed out pass-throughs between rooms or spaces – a doorway without a door if you will . . .
As far as home materials go, drywall and/or sheetrock wallboards are *kind of delicate* compared to other materials used to build your home. You see normal people fall into walls and break or crack their drywall on amusing video shows every week.
Because drywall is not the strongest material, if anything in your home is experiencing movement or change, your walls will be one of the first indicators that something is going on in the form of diagonal wall cracks. Your home is likely moving or experiencing some early signs of settlement if new diagonal wall cracks appear.
If the cracks have been around for a long while and haven’t changed, your home may have settled at some point in the past.
What Do Diagonal Wall Cracks Mean for My Home?
In case you didn’t pick up on it in the last section, diagonal wall cracks mean your home is settling. More specifically, your home is experiencing foundation settlement. Diagonal wall cracks are the single most reliable indicator of foundation settlement. This is true for both slab-on-grade foundations and pier and beam/crawl space foundations.
Diagonal cracks cannot be confused with poor workmanship or any other issue. It only has one cause and that’s settlement.
Settlement is sort of a nice way of saying *sinking* but sinking sounds very dire. Settlement is not that dramatic, it really just means your house (or part of your house) has moved in a downward direction from when it was originally built.
Foundation settlement takes many years to develop and happens very slowly over time. Usually, it’s the behavior of expansive clay soils in fluctuating climate cycles that are the blame. But there are a few other causes of foundation settlement as well.
What Can I Do to Fix Diagonal Wall Cracks?
Here’s a quick summary of some approaches you can take to handle diagonal wall cracks. You can:
- Ignore your wall cracks and do nothing,
- Monitor cracks for changes/further development,
- Paint, Patch, or Repair Cracks, or
- Fix your foundation and then repair cracks.
Don’t worry, we will discuss these in more detail, but I wanted to lay out the list for you first.
Option 1: Ignore Your Wall Cracks and Do Nothing
This may sound like a silly option, but for some people, it could be a viable choice. Where are your wall cracks located? Are they in a garage or closet or a very public area like your living room or dining room? Do you see it every day and will it relentlessly upset you, or does it not bother you that much because it’s out of regular sight?
If your wall cracks are not in a place that you go frequently or where you commonly have guests, you might not be that concerned by this mostly cosmetic problem and can choose to do nothing right now. You might not want to *do nothing* forever, but immediate action is not required. For your typical Central Texas home, it’s safe to live with foundation settlement.
Since foundation settlement and problems take a long time to develop, you certainly have time to wait on foundation repairs or any other remedies and see how things develop or change.
Option 2: Monitor Wall Cracks for Changes or Further Development
While you’re waiting to decide (or possibly procrastinating) on how you feel about your wall cracks, we suggest that you don’t entirely ignore them. Monitoring for changes in the length of the cracks can give you insight into how much things are developing or progressing with your foundation settlement.
Make a tic mark with a pencil at the end of the crack (as shown in the image). Check it out quarterly to give you some idea of how much things are moving or progressing. Sometimes cracks will open or close due to seasonal foundation settlement or experience a rebound and get better.
Option 3: Paint, Patch, or Repair Wall Cracks
You have many cosmetic fixes to choose from when dealing with wall cracks. Doing a quick caulk and paint might be called for if you’ve got an entertaining event coming up. There are graduated degrees of repair types for wall cracks from quick and inexpensive to more difficult and costly.
We also have an article detailing the array of options available for repairing drywall cracks around your home. Just keep in mind that any cosmetic drywall repair you do is a short-term solution. If you fix just your wall cracks and not the true source of the problem, you can expect them to come back eventually.
But there’s nothing wrong with temporary surface-level solutions when it’s what you need and the situation calls for a quick cover-up.
**The only time that covering up wall cracks is questionable is if you were planning to sell your home. Concealing known issues like foundation problems when you should be disclosing them to prospective home buyers is a major ethical issue you should discuss with your Realtor®.
Option 4: Fix Your Foundation First, Then Repair Cracks
I don’t know if you took a peek at that article about options for repairing drywall, but it’s really about fixing drywall AFTER foundation repairs. The best way to take care of wall cracks for good is to first repair the root cause of your problem.
If foundation settlement and problems are causing your cracks, then fixing your foundation with foundation repair is the best way to handle this problem more permanently.
Going ahead with foundation repair comes with many considerations, from deciding when the time is right, to how long it takes, to how much it costs. Foundation repair is the long-term solution to getting rid of diagonal wall cracks. Otherwise, more cracks could keep coming or keep coming back.
We always recommend waiting until the next major change of seasons before moving forward with drywall repair after foundation work. When your foundation is raised, there’s a bit more settling and movement that might happen in your home.
It’s best to give it some time to make sure all the moving and adjusting to your home’s new position is done before tackling the drywall repair.
Do You Have Any Other Signs of Foundation Settlement?
You can also have foundation settlement without any wall cracks present in your home. You might have paneling or cracks could have been covered. There are more signs of foundation settlement and problems than just the wall cracks anyway. If you’re already seeing cracks, you might need to look for other common signs of developing foundation problems too.
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have been inspecting and repairing foundations in Bryan, College Station, and surrounding Brazos Valley communities like Caldwell and Navasota since 1985. We want homeowners to know all the key signs to look out for in identifying foundation settlement affecting their homes.
Check out the Ultimate Picture Guide to Foundation Problems (Real + Misleading Signs) so that you can fully understand what might be happening with your home.