Ceiling cracks: simply cosmetic or cause for concern?

Most homes have them: small cracks in the ceiling that seem to appear out of nowhere. Although they can occur for many reasons, are the ones in your home simply cosmetic or cause for concern?

Ceiling cracks: simply cosmetic or cause for concern?

Determine the seriousness of ceiling cracks by their size.

  • In many homes, spiderweb cracks are common mainly due to age, and are of cosmetic concern only: they may occur and appear on the walls, in joints, and on the floor.
  • On the other hand, large cracks that measure more than 1/16th of an inch wide should raise concerns about a structural defect.

Here are the different types of ceiling cracks, why they occur, and how to tell if you need to fix them right away.

Long vertical cracks

When cracks run across the length of the ceiling and continue in the same direction and line, suspect structural weakness.

  • Large, linear cracks in a home need immediate attention, otherwise this can lead to progression of the crack, and serious damage to a home.

Cosmetic cracks

While most spiderweb cracks in the ceiling are only cosmetic, if they are accompanied by darkening of the drywall or wetness, this suggests a serious problem may be hidden.

  • In some older homes, weathering may cause spiderweb cracks in the ceiling—especially if it's plaster.
  • Cracks may also occur from the vibration of such appliances as a ceiling fan, or excess moisture in the home.

As long as the crack in the ceiling is less than 1/8th of an inch wide, and does not extend for more than 18 inches, repair them with drywall tape and joint compound.

  • If you see cracks in the ceiling or walls that are wide, long or have a staircase shape, it is vital to speak to a professional without delay.

Other common causes of cracks

Shifting roof trusses

A common cause of ceiling cracks is related to the roof trusses.

  • When weather and humidity changes occur, the wooden trusses contract and expand, loosening screws and nails that hold together the roof's structure. The end result is cracks along the edge of the ceiling and wall.
  • Manage this problem by using special ties instead of nails, which allow the joists to move.

Water damage

Another very common cause of cracks in the ceiling is a water leak. This may be due to a problem in plumbing.

  • Leaking water can discolour drywall and lead to weakening and sagging.
  • If the leak is rapid, you may also see drops of water in the crack.

If this is not fixed right away, it can lead to significant damage to the ceiling and home.


It's important to consult with a homebuilder when ceiling cracks occur and let them determine the cause and solution.

  • While patching a crack seems like a simple DIY project, there's always the risk something more worrisome as the culprit.

Your roof keeps you both dry and warm. If cracks in it are giving you cause for alarm, seek professional help.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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