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How to Fix a Crack in Drywall That Keeps Coming Back

The longer you live in your home, the more you’ll realize that nothing stays permanent, and fixes are rarely forever. Houses, like everything else on the planet, are constantly in a state of gradual decay, and they require continual maintenance to keep them in good repair. One of the most annoying instances of ongoing household wear and tear is drywall cracks.

In this guide, we’ll talk about how to fix drywall cracks in general, and more specifically, how to fix a crack in drywall that keeps coming back, even after you think you’ve repaired it adequately.

What Causes Drywall Cracks?

Many drywall cracks happen along the seam between two panels of drywall. That seam, where the two sections meet, should have been properly taped and mudded when the house was built, and the rooms were finished. However, it’s not always possible to be sure that the job was correctly done in the first place.

Plus, years of use and various temperature changes, and foundation settling can result in drywall cracks, even if the job was originally done right.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the causes of recurring drywall cracks. Often, these cracks happen in areas of high stress and frequent use. You may notice them around doors or windows or near beams or support posts in the home. You may also notice cracks in the corners of rooms or near the ceiling.

As temperatures change, the drywall in your home contracts and expands just like other solids. It’s not something you can necessarily prevent, although maintaining steady climate control for the interior is helpful. That normal process of expansion and contraction is stressful for drywall and can eventually cause tiny cracks along the seams.

Another common cause of drywall cracks is the settling of the building. Think about ancient cities from Roman times that have gradually sunk into the earth. That’s happening to your home, too, although it’s very gradual, especially if the foundation has been properly constructed.

If the building is sitting atop fill dirt, you may have a greater problem with settling. A cracked or faulty foundation can also be a serious issue that results in many stress cracks through the drywall.

Repairing Drywall Cracks That Keep Coming Back

Let’s say that you’ve already tried to fix a couple of the drywall cracks in your home, but you’ve noticed that they keep returning. The drywall keeps cracking in the same spot for some reason. With a bit of careful analysis and some hard work, you should be able to mend the cracks so that they won’t appear again, or at least not for a while.

What Not to Do

When you “fixed” the drywall crack last time, did you simply spackle it, paint it, and move on? If so, we can guarantee that’s why your drywall keeps cracking in the same spot. You haven’t given it enough support and strength to stay in place; you just temporarily covered the symptom of the problem.

What You’ll Need

To really get at the source of the issue, you’re going to need some supplies. First of all, purchase some fiberglass mesh drywall tape at a local hardware store or home improvement store. Then get yourself a container of patch compound or drywall mud, as well as some primer. Some products have both patch compound and primer together in one convenient formula.

You’ll also need a 6-inch drywall knife, a putty knife, a pan or container to put the drywall mud in, a towel or tarp to cover your floor while you’re working, and some of the paint you used on that particular wall. Be sure the paint matches exactly.

What To Do First: Place Drywall Tape on the Crack

First, apply strips of drywall tape to the crack. Usually, one side of the fiberglass drywall tape is already sticky. If not, use some of the drywall compounds like glue to help the tape adhere to the wall.

Don’t cover the crack with short strips in a row. Instead, follow the length of the crack with a long piece of tape. If the crack curves, take a second piece of tape and follow the curve. Try to place the tape so that the crack is directly in its center.

The tape gives the drywall extra security, a stronger bond. It essentially pulls the two disjointed sections of drywall together and smooths over the crack. Plus, it has a bit of give and flexibility to allow for future shifting or fluctuations, so you’ll be less likely to get a crack in that spot again.

The Next Step: Add Joint Compound to the Crack

Once you’ve placed the drywall tape, spread some of the drywall mud or joint compound over the tape in a thin layer. You want just enough to help the tape adhere. Let that dry for a bit, and then start spackling in earnest. Start at the center of the tape and spread the spackling compound or drywall mud outward and downward for the first layer.

Add a little more of the product, this time working upward. This downward motion, followed by the upward scraping, makes the tape stretch out a bit and helps it stick more permanently without bubbles or ridges. Make sure that you continue to scrape the compound thin, or you’ll have a large bump on the wall in the spot where you patched.

Wait half an hour for the compound to dry, or wait for as long as the instructions on the container dictate. Then add another layer of compound, this time extending the layer of drywall mud out two inches to the right and to the left of the tape. This new, broader layer of spackle compound is going to help you smooth out the entire area and ensure a clean, polished look when you’re finally done.

Using a 6-inch drywall knife, smooth the entire section, feathering the edges so that they slope smoothly and seamlessly into the existing paint and drywall. Feathering is accomplished by placing a tiny bit more pressure on the outer edge of the putty knife that’s connecting with the original drywall and paint. It gives a closer shave to the layer of compound and yields that feathered look.

After that, all that’s left to do is allow the compound to dry thoroughly, sand it a bit, and then paint it to match your walls. If you do this carefully, taking time on each step, few people will be able to see where the repair was made.

Drywall Cracks That Keep Coming Back Due to Serious Problems

Unfortunately, some drywall cracks aren’t just there because of normal settling or seasonal temperature changes. Sometimes, a crack in a drywall ceiling that keeps coming back could be due to a failing beam or a moisture issue. Sometimes a crack in a wall can indicate serious foundation problems that require attention from a building inspector or an engineer.

⚠ Drywall Cracks Caused by Leaks

Check the drywall cracks in your home by pressing the area around them lightly with your fingers. Is the drywall damp or spongy to the touch? That would indicate a leak somewhere within the walls. Until you resolve the underlying issue of the leak, the problem will continue to worsen, and more drywall cracks will appear, no matter how many times you tape or patch them.

⚠ Drywall Cracks Caused by Poor Drywall Installation

If you notice that the drywall near the cracks is bulging or buckling, the drywall in the entire room may have been hastily or poorly installed. Unfortunately, in that case, you may need to dismantle the room’s walls entirely and redo the drywall from the studs out. You can replace it yourself with the help of DIY videos online, or you can hire a drywall contractor.

⚠ Drywall Cracks Caused by Foundation Problems and Structural Issues

Now we’ve come to the most dangerous of the drywall cracks—the ones that indicate a serious issue with the home’s structure or foundation. These cracks are usually long, stretching along a large section of the wall or reaching across part of the ceiling. If a crack begins along the wall and continues onto the ceiling, that’s a telltale mark of a structural problem.

If you’ve encountered cracks like these in your home, covering them up is probably not the best strategy. You’ll need to bring in a professional, an expert in home construction and drywall issues, who can tell you whether or not your home needs extensive (and expensive) structural work or foundational correction.

Remember, you don’t have to take one single contractor’s word for it. In fact, we suggest having two or three different contractors come and take a look, so you can get multiple opinions on the issue.

Having a few different estimates from the experts will provide some protection against fraud or contractors who might take advantage of your situation. In addition, be sure to check online reviews and ratings for any company or private contractor you might hire to do repairs.

While this possibility might seem scary and expensive, keep in mind that most drywall cracks are perfectly normal and easy to fix yourself. The key to fixing a recurring crack in drywall is not just a simple spackle and paint job, but to go one step further and tape along the crack with some sturdy fiberglass drywall tape. With the tape in place and a perfect spackle and paint job over the top, you’ll be able to enjoy a nice, smooth, crack-free wall for a good long while.

Mike Bailey