Wait wait wait! We know it’s tempting to just paint over that little crack in the wall, or just smack some spackle and paint on it. But you need to think about how the walls meet, their texture, and the finish of the existing wall, paint, and joint compound. If you don’t, you’ll have ugly and noticeable splotches, bumps, or discoloration on your walls.
How to fix hairline cracks in the walls or ceiling
You almost never want to use spackle to fix a crack. Drywall joint compound works better and fills the space better. Use spackle for large gaps and holes instead.
Here’s the gist of how an experienced drywall contractor will fix small cracks in walls and ceilings:
- Use pre-mixed joint compound to avoid messing with the mix.
- Apply a coat of the drywall compound over the crack.
- Wait about a day or two and sand down the dried joint compound. Use a sanding sponge with medium-grit for a better grip and control.
- Paint over the freshly sanded crack or ceiling crack with latex primer. This is important because if you don’t, you’ll have a visibly flat and un-shiny part of the wall compared to the sheen of the rest of the paint around it.
- Wait for the primer to dry completely, then paint over it and the surrounding repair area.
Our professional paint crews patch so many small holes you’ll discover we patch things you’ve never noticed. And on the ones you do notice, you’ll be thrilled to see how seamless it looks after we’re done.
Here’s the kicker for small cracks and dents, though: if you’re just painting a small spot you probably can’t get away with painting it unless it’s very recent paint. Paint fades over time from the sun, air, dust, and particulate that clings to it. We recommend painting the whole wall up to the corners so it blends smoothly.
Unless your house or the drywall is new, most cracks come from age, usually around the seams where drywall panels meet. If you think of drywall as a series of big panels held together with drywall mud and tape, you never notice the seams because the mud and tape completely hide them. New homes, however, may show cracking due to improperly installed drywall. A home inspector knows to look for these seams and bulges or movement in the walls near the seams—usually around windows, doors, entryways, and corners. It’s a sign the foundation is settling or interior walls are under some kind of other stress.
How drywall cracks form
Unless your house or the drywall is new, most cracks come from age, usually around the seams where drywall panels meet. If you think of drywall as a series of big panels held together with drywall mud and tape, you never notice the seams because the mud and tape completely hide them. New homes, however, may show cracking due to improperly installed drywall.
A home inspector knows to look for these seams and bulges or movement in the walls near the seams—usually around windows, doors, entryways, and corners. It’s a sign the foundation is settling or interior walls are under some kind of other stress.
The top reasons for cracks include:
- Wild temperature fluctuations—something we don’t have much of an issue with here in California. But this is why vacant houses require so much more work than occupied houses. Vacant houses usually aren’t climate controlled, letting humidity and temperatures expand and contract all sides of the house.
- A settling foundation or wall that’s shifted—which is normal and happens in all environmental conditions. Building movement is also common in California because of earthquakes. Drywall and ceiling cracks tend to meet together here, too.
- Drywall nails that have started to wiggle out begin cracking the paint over them. Gently tapping them back in with a hammer is usually adequate, but they can start to protrude out over time. A similar process occurs on roofs and results in raised shingles. And raised shingles can bring water damage.
- Water damage from a leak can run down and soften drywall or plaster. In addition to being a mold hazard, this moisture can weaken the drywall joints and the mud underneath the tape.
- Drywall installed within the last few years will often settle more than fifty-year-old drywall.
The good news is that in almost every situation, simply taping over the crack with mesh tape or filling it in with a little joint compound works well. Cracks are not usually something to worry about unless they keep reappearing, grow large very quickly, or are being caused by moisture.
The most concerning kind of crack is usually large jagged or diagonal cracks. These kinds of cracks indicate something more serious like termites or other structural problems with the building.
You can prevent drywall cracks by keeping moisture under control, re-taping cracks as they appear, and not letting them get out of control.
Using tape or drywall mud to fix larger cracks
Applying mesh drywall tape is one of the easiest ways to fix a crack or repair drywall seams. The tricky part with drywall tape is getting a very thin coating of drywall compound to sit over it. This can be hard for beginners to do, but you can always sand it down.
Repairing large holes—like if someone fell through a wall—goes beyond repairing cracks. In those cases, a new drywall surface or plaster must be brought in. An experienced contractor will fill it in and use mesh tape to bind it to the drywall joint. We can refer you to some expert contractors if necessary.
How to repair cracks in plaster walls
Plaster walls are more complex because the wall surface and wood or metal lath strips underneath can become separated, requiring you to cut out a large portion of the wall to repair it well. In those cases, an experienced plaster wall contractor is recommended. We work with several and can help connect you before your next painting project.
- Similar to drywall, spread pre-mixed joint plaster compound over the crack with a putty knife.
- Wait for the compound to dry and paint over it with paint once it dries completely. It’s important the entire area be smooth and that all loose material be removed.
Fixing holes made by wall insulation installation
If you’ve recently had home insulation installed, you probably have dozens of golf-ball-sized holes in your walls. Our friends at All Seasons Insulation do this all the time to blow insulation in between the studs. It’s a great way of lowering your home energy bill and helps maintain comfort and control moisture that can cause future drywall cracking.
To repair these small insulation access holes, we treat them similar to a crack—usually by filling them with spackle instead, placing more plaster spackle since it can shrink as it dries, then sanding it down, and applying a latex primer.
Not sure where to start? Get in touch and we can help.
We don’t take on huge drywall repair jobs, but our professional paint experts can fix small drywall cracks in the way of a pristine paint job, offer ways to help, and ensure you have beautiful smooth walls.
Call (925) 595-3081 or email [email protected]. Attach a photo or two and we’ll take a look.