Home>Discussions>INTERIORS>Molding & Carpentry>Mystery Cracks in Plaster Ceiling
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katybfrey
Mystery Cracks in Plaster Ceiling

We moved into a 90 year old brick house last November. Over the course of the past year, we have noticed a lot of cracks appearing in the plaster ceilings of all three levels of the house. Is this a sign of water damage or of the house settling? There are no cracks in the walls at all.

The house was freshly painted when we moved in, so maybe we just didn't notice them at first?

We replaced all gutters and windows in the house. The roofer who did the gutters checked the roof in the spring and said that it looked to be in pretty good shape, although it is old.

None of the plaster feels wet, even in the attic.

A pipe from the bathroom broke in February and water did come out then and spilled down into the living room ceiling - cracks there obviously were caused by water damage, but it seemed to be fairly localized where that water collected, and again nothing feels wet now, but new cracks are continuing to appear.

A Walgreen's was recently built in an adjacent lot. So we are concerned that that construction could have caused new settling in our lot.

How do we tell what is causing this? We don't want to fix the plaster until we figure out why it's cracking. :confused:

Hank Bauer
Re: Mystery Cracks in Plaster Ceiling

If you have NO CRACKS in the walls and ceilings on three levels all have cracks this could be a sign of deflection.
If all cracks run in the same direction as the joist it would indicate deflection.
If cracks have a pattern or run across the the joist cracks could be following the lath.
If cracks look like a map it is loosing it's atatchment my guess is it is wooden lath that has broken keys and is failing.
If the construction included pile driving i would look at the top of a ceiling and see if you can see the plaster keys also try to pick-up on the keys if they are broken they will come right up.
Also included in cracking plaster ceiling that are rectangular will have more cracking than a square ceiling due to deflection.
Water damage or moisture related problems will have a brown stain that will follow the crack and if no cracking will leave circular stains.

NEC
Re: Mystery Cracks in Plaster Ceiling

[QUOTE=katybfrey]
A Walgreen's was recently built in an adjacent lot. So we are concerned that that construction could have caused new settling in our lot.

QUOTE]

:D Now that is funny. Looking for someone else to blame seems to be what folks do these days.........

plastrr385
Re: Mystery Cracks in Plaster Ceiling

HEY NEC YOUR AN A__ HOLE!

She was asking a question thats what this forums for.

Man some people are so rude!!!!!

katybfrey
Re: Mystery Cracks in Plaster Ceiling

Yeah, seriously. It's not about blaming. We're just trying to figure out what kind of contractor to call, if any.

But thank you, Hank, for your advice.

plastrr385
Re: Mystery Cracks in Plaster Ceiling

katybfrey

Try Oldhouse web. Under forums

JLMCDANIEL
Re: Mystery Cracks in Plaster Ceiling

To answer your question, yes, heavy construction next door can cause plaster damage and even basement wall buckling. Contact a plasterer for an assessment.
Jack

NEC
Re: Mystery Cracks in Plaster Ceiling
katybfrey wrote:

The house was freshly painted when we moved in, so maybe we just didn't notice them at first?
:confused:

Key sentence, to me anyway.

Seller wants to sell so covers cracks with a little spackle or joint compound……….. Then paints and shazam! It all looks pretty for a few months.

Construction of a Walgreens causing the problem? With what? Tamping foundation backfill? Compacting for a parking lot?

logdoc
Re: Mystery Cracks in Plaster Ceiling

Depending on how serious the cracks are, maybe you'd want to make the repairs your self. There is a web site, preservationplaster.com that has good how to videos and some products that non-plasters could use to make repairs on ceilings and wall.

The fresh paint to me says that cracks were deliberately hidden and the construction next door probably revealed them but probably didn't cause them. What did your inspection say about the walls and ceiling? anything?

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