cracks in the ceiling

When should you worry about cracks in ceiling?

If you’ve noticed ceiling cracks at your own property or one you’re thinking of buying, it’s natural to be concerned. However, many cracks in ceilings and walls are harmless and a result of natural movement of the property.

While cracks are often innocent, it’s important to understand the differences between cosmetic imperfections and dangerous ceiling cracks and that’s where we come in. As Chartered Surveyors, we have decades of experience in diagnosing ceiling cracks and have put together a quick guide to help you determine the cause and seriousness of any cracks you may have noticed.

What causes ceiling cracks?

From natural, harmless settlement to extremely dangerous structural issues, ceiling cracks can appear for many different reasons. Factors include:

  • age of the property
  • structural damage
  • moisture damage
  • asbestos and drywall issues
  • recent DIY/decorating

It can be very difficult to determine the cause and seriousness of cracks and you might decide to ask a structural surveyor to have a look. They will be able to give you all the information you need to either take action or put your mind at rest.

Ceiling cracks when to worry


Type of ceiling crack

What are they?

Are they dangerous ceiling cracks?


1. Spiderweb cracks


As the name suggests, these ceiling cracks branch out from a central point in a spiderweb pattern. These cracks show foundation settlement and pressure transferring up into the walls. They’re usually not serious but also look out for sloped floors and windows/door frames that are no longer squared that can indicate more significant movement.


Usually not but, if the cracks appear thick, get a professional opinion.
2. Hairline ceiling cracks Thin cracks that look like hairs are usually cosmetic cracks in the paint/plaster. As the temperature/humidity changes or you carry out DIY such as adding a light fitting, small cracks like these often appear.


3. Straight ceiling cracks


Very straight cracks in ceilings have likely formed along the straight edge of drywall tape. The plasterer probably simply used too little plaster and it can be remedied by patch-and-paint.


4. Cracks in flat roof ceilings


Flat roofs have an increased risk of leaking as water can’t drain as easily. Ceiling cracks are a common symptom and it’s worth asking a surveyor to investigate if you spot any.


5. Bowed ceiling and large ceiling cracks


This is one to worry about. A bowed ceiling suggests severe structural damage either by bad water damage, excessive weight on the floor above, or foundation settlement. If you notice these kinds of dangerous ceiling cracks you should seek immediate professional help.


6. Cracks between the ceiling and wall


Gaps between the wall and ceiling are usually caused by truss uplift. Trusses are the frame of the roof and ceiling and, although flexible, can pull away from the ceiling. This usually only happens in very high winds but can be very serious.


7. Yellow or brown ceiling cracks


Discoloured ceiling cracks usually mean water damage. If you run a finger over them, they may even be damp to touch. These cracks vary in severity depending on the cause, so it’s important to find out where the water is coming from and fix that problem before addressing the cracks.


Potentially, depending on the cause.

Signs of subsidence


Subsidence is when the ground moves downwards causing a building’s foundations to become unstable. It can be very serious and it’s important to keep an eye out for any tell-tale signs, including:

  • cracks in internal/external walls and ceilings
  • existing cracks getting bigger
  • cracks appearing after extended dry weather
  • rippling wallpaper
  • doors and windows sticking, indicating the frames are no longer squared

When to call a structural surveyor

If you’re worried about ceiling cracks it never hurts to get a professional opinion. At Trinity Rose, our Chartered Surveyors will be happy to look at any areas of concern and diagnose the cause. You can then take appropriate action armed with the right knowledge.

If you see cracks during a property viewing, your property survey will highlight if they are cause for concern. We’d recommend either a:

Your survey report will detail any serious cracks and indicators of structural damage.

Find out more

Cracks may be nothing to worry about… but they may be indicators of something seriously wrong with a property. If you’re concerned about ceiling cracks and/or would like to arrange a survey, please get in touch.