Unlike horizontal and stair-step cracks, vertical wall cracks are usually no cause for concern. However, it does not mean that you should readily dismiss the damage. In some cases, vertical cracks have been linked to foundation issues. In this article, you’ll learn the leading causes of vertical wall cracks, how to tell the difference between a structural and non-structural crack, standard repair methods, and how to prevent wall cracks in the future.

What Causes Vertical Wall Cracks?

Vertical cracks can appear in your drywall, poured concrete walls, concrete block walls, or brick walls. The causes of vertical wall cracks include the following:

  • Causes of vertical cracks in drywall – Drywall is installed in panels, and seams are covered using special tape and drywall joint compound, known as mud. Poor installation methods, such as insufficient mud, can lead to hairline cracks along the seams. Fluctuations in temperature and humidity can also cause the drywall to expand and contract, leading to cracking. This is common in homes that are unoccupied for part of the year since the air conditioning or heating is often poorly regulated. Another common cause of vertical cracks in drywall is moisture issues related to plumbing and other leaks. Moisture-related cracks are amongst the easiest to diagnose since you will also notice the coinciding staining of the wall.
  • Causes of vertical cracks in poured concrete walls – If your poured concrete wall has vertical hairline cracks, it may be due to shrinkage or excessive water in the concrete mix. When concrete cures, the water within the concrete blend evaporates, and the wall shrinks, often creating minor cracks. However, if the contractor used excessive water or did not control the drying process, the concrete would be weaker and more susceptible to cracking.
  • Causes of vertical cracks in masonry walls – Masonry walls include brick and block concrete walls. If you notice vertical cracks in isolated blocks, it’s probably nothing to worry about. However, if you notice a vertical crack extending through multiple bricks, it is more likely due to overloading, placing too much weight on the wall, or foundation settlement.

Despite the type of wall the vertical crack is found on, a universal cause is foundation settlement. Uniform foundation settlement is the normal process of a building sinking slightly into the ground uniformly as the soil adjusts to the structure’s weight. As this movement occurs, usually within the first two years of construction, vertical hairline cracks can appear.

Foundation Settlement

Differential foundation settlement is a related but more serious cause of vertical wall cracks. Differential foundation settlement is when part of the structure sinks faster than the rest, causing significant stress on the building and eventually compromising its integrity. If the crack is due to differential settlement, you must act promptly to repair the underlying damage. The following section will consider how to tell if a vertical crack is connected to a structural issue.

When Should You Worry about the Vertical Crack in Your Wall?

Vertical wall cracks are usually caused by non-structural issues and should not raise much alarm. However, if you notice any of the following problems, you should contact a foundation repair specialist because your home may have structural issues:

  • Width of the Crack – If the vertical crack is wider than 1/16 inch, it may indicate structural issues. Wide cracks can suggest ongoing movement or settlement of the building, which may require professional assessment and repair.
  • Length and Location of the Crack – Vertical cracks that extend from floor to ceiling or appear near door or window openings are more concerning than shorter cracks in isolated areas. Cracks that intersect with other cracks or form a pattern may also indicate structural problems.
  • Quantity – If you have multiple vertical cracks, especially on an exterior or foundation wall, the cracks are likely due to foundational issues.
  • Changes Over Time – Monitor the crack to see if it grows larger, widens, becomes raised when you run your finger over it, or exhibits other changes. Rapid or progressive changes in the crack’s size, shape, feel, or direction may indicate differential foundation settlement and should be investigated promptly.
  • Associated Symptoms – Look for other signs of structural issues, such as uneven floors, doors or windows that don’t close properly, sagging ceilings, or cracks in adjacent walls or ceilings. These symptoms typically suggest underlying foundation problems.

How Do You Repair a Vertical Wall Crack?

Repair options for wall cracks vary depending on the cause, location, size, and severity. Standard crack repair solutions include:

  • Drywall Patch – If your drywall has hairline cracks, you can patch them using joint tape and compound. If cracks reappear after a successful patch job, contact a foundation repair company for an inspection to ensure that the crack is not structural.

How to Fix Small or Large Drywall Cracks

  • Crack Injections – For slightly larger cracks, especially in concrete walls, injections like epoxy and polyurethane can seal the cracks and prevent water or air seepage. While home kits do exist, it is recommended to call a professional to apply such injections to guarantee precision and performance.
  • Foundation Repair – A foundation repair expert will determine the best repair solution if the crack is due to differential settlement. Underpinning is amongst the most common solutions, which use steel push or helical piers to connect your home’s foundation to stable strata and raise your sinking foundation to the maximum practical level. Underpinning is a permanent and minimally invasive stabilization method that can often be completed within a few days.

How Do You Prevent Wall Cracks?

Vertical wall cracks are rarely a cause for concern. However, some have been linked to foundation issues. Find out when it’s time to call a professional.

Preventing wall cracks starts with selecting a reputable builder. As you’ve learned in this article, cracks can often be attributed to poor workmanship, like adding excessive water to the concrete mix or poorly finishing drywall seams. So be sure to verify your contractor’s credentials and research their reputation. Another important preventative measure is to avoid water damage by maintaining your roof, plumbing system, and other possible entry points for water. Lastly, protect your foundation to prevent cracks and differential settlement. Try the following preventive measures:

  • Regrade your yard. – Ensure the soil slopes away from your home to prevent water pooling near your foundation.
  • Clean your gutters and install downspout extensions. – This will prevent soil oversaturation near your foundation.
  • Avoid planting trees and shrubs near your foundation. – Root systems can disrupt the soil around your home as they look for water, leading to differential settlement. Tree roots can also crack your foundation.
  • Install a drainage system. – Drainage systems like drain tile, French drains, and sump pumps can actively remove excess water in the soil surrounding your foundation, preventing cracking and differential settlement.

If you are concerned about vertical cracks in your wall, schedule a free consultation with Foundation Professionals of Florida. Our experienced professionals will thoroughly inspect the damage and offer the most effective repair solutions. From repairing cracks to foundations, our team is ready to service your home’s needs.