Ceiling Cracks & Foundation Failure (A Brief Guide)

Over the years, we’ve received many variations of the same question:

  •   What do ceiling cracks mean?
  •   Why is my ceiling cracking?  
  •   What causes hairline cracks in ceiling?
  •   What causes stairstep cracks in ceiling?

Ceiling cracks are a telltale sign of foundation failure, whether it’s from foundation settlement or foundation heave, both of which are caused by expansive soil.   

Ceiling cracks can rip through your sheetrock when your home sinks unevenly, exerting undue pressure on the frame of your home. This torque, pressure transfers from the foundation to the wooden bones of your home, to your home’s interior.  

This pressure can damage sheetrock, tearing big, beautiful cracks into your walls and ceiling.

While some outliers might appreciate the grunge aesthetic, suggesting you frame the cracks because they’re a perfect manifestation of the metaphor of man against gypsum board, others won’t appreciate the art.  

Now, ceiling cracks are not always caused by foundation failure, which we’ve covered in our article 5 Primary Reasons for Sheetrock Cracks. In summary, the 5 reasons are:

  1. New Home Settling
  2. Leaks and Water Damage
  3. Vacant Homes
  4. Bad Tape Jobs
  5. Foundation Problems

In this post, we are going to focus on ceiling cracks caused by foundation issues.

Ceiling Cracks – What to Look For

First and foremost, it’s important to note specific fracture features. Certain characteristics help denote if the ceiling cracks are caused by foundation issues or something else.

Characteristics to look for in ceiling cracks caused by foundation problems include:

  •   Cracks that are thicker than a quarter-inch (and continue to expand, elongate over time)
  •   Cracks that originate from door/window frames
  •   Cracks that stairstep through the drywall (a sign of excess pressure transferred to the drywall)
  •   Bulging and bowing drywall

If you have a combination of the features above, it’s best to get your foundation checked out by a foundation repair specialist. They can then determine if indeed foundation settlement or heave is the root of your ceiling cracks.

Ceiling Cracks Do’s and Don’ts

Don’t Patch and Paint into Eternity

If you’ve attempted to fix the cracks before with some good ole patch and paint and the cracks returned – that’s a sign these cracks are caused by a foundation issue.

Recurring cracks are almost always indicative of foundation settlement or foundation heave.   

So, we suggest that you don’t patch and paint into eternity. Both your wallet and sanity with thank you. Wait until your home has been stabilized and or lifted back to maximum practical recovery. 

Do Call a Foundation Specialist

A foundation specialist will perform a foundation inspection and quickly determine if your foundation needs repair.

Dalinghaus Construction Inc. can help you fix your sinking foundation once and for all with helical pier, push pier, and polyurethane underpinning. 

We do foundation underpinning the right way. With over 100 years of combined experience and 4.9 stars out of over 300 reviews – we are here to ensure that you never settle

If you live in SoCal or Arizona and would like a FREE foundation inspection, click the link below –


Brian Dalinghaus

Brian is one of the Co-Founders of Dalinghaus Construction. He has been in the foundation repair industry since 2005. During his career, he has been associated with helping over 4,000 homes and structures throughout California and Arizona.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *