Noticing cracks above your door frames can be worrying, stressful, and quite honestly frightening. Nobody likes to see any signs of damage appear in their home, and you may be unsure if these cracks have just appeared or if you have missed them up until now.
Understandably, you may panic and worry yourself into believing that these cracks are a sign of critical structural damage. This doesn’t have to be the case!
Fortunately, it’s unlikely your home is on the verge of collapse and most hairline cracks are both common and harmless in new and older homes. This article will help you understand what can causes cracks above your windows and doors, and we’ll offer the best solutions to repair any damage and put your mind at ease.
Possible Causes Of Cracks Above Your Doors And Windows
Hairline cracks above doors and windows can appear in houses of any age, and at any time. There are plenty of reasons this may happen. Understanding what has caused the cracks in your home is essential to finding the right solution that’s also long-lasting.
Some cracks are caused by minor issues during the construction process. Although they may be small problems, you should still respond quickly to avoid further damage. Constructions faults can include:
New And Recently Built Homes
Many new homes are built using ‘green’ or ‘new’ lumber. This wood doesn’t need to be kiln dried before it’s used so it can save time, money, and energy.
However, because this ‘green lumber’ has more than 19% moisture content, it can move once it does dry out. Wood shrinks as it dries out and could be the cause of the vertical cracks above your doors and windows.
Before you try to repair these vertical cracks, you should wait at least a year since they’re not dangerous and you’ll be giving the wood time to fully dry out. Then, once you’ve taped over the cracks and repainted them, there should be no more movement from shrinking.
No matter the age, type, and size of a house, subtle shifts can occur over time. This is called ‘settling’, and the resulting cracks aren’t something to worry too much about. They’re not just common and perfectly normal, but they should even be expected at some point.
Hairline cracks caused by settling often occur above doors and windows because it’s one of the weakest parts of the wall. Walls are made using vertical studs that go from the floor to the ceiling and these studs need to be cut to make space for a door or window to be installed.
Even with the extra framing in place, these areas are still weaker than the rest of the wall so hairline cracks will appear here first. Hairline cracks don’t indicate a problem with structural integrity and can be covered by re-taping and painting over them.
When a home has drywall panels installed, the seams between these panels get filled with drywall mud before they’re covered over with paper tape. If enough drywall mud hasn’t been used underneath the seams to allow the tape to stick properly, the tape can eventually start to peel away from the wall.
When this happens, you may notice thin, vertical cracks appear above your door or window. A single crack like this can be fixed by applying a blob of household glue behind the tape and pressing it back into place.
If the problem occurs in more than one place, you’ll need to re-tape each seam to ensure so it doesn’t keep happening.
Soil And Foundation Faults
The soil underneath your home acts as a solid foundation that keeps the house upright and sturdy. If there are issues with the soil then cracks can start to appear. Some soil and foundation problems could be:
Dry And Shrinking Soil
Soil can dry out during the warmer spring and summer months, and especially so if it happens to be clay soil. As the soil dries it also shrinks, leaving gaps between the soil foundation and the structure of your house.
Your houses foundations may not settle properly and the result can be cracks caused by structural damage.
Insufficiently Compacted Soil
When your house was built it’s likely that builders, with the aid of a structural engineer, used soil from another location to level out the building foundation. This soil can often be light and loose, so it needs to be compacted before it can be used with the dense and compact soils that are already in place.
If this soil isn’t compacted properly before it’s used in the foundation, the weight of your home can cause soil compression leading to foundation settling issues and, eventually, tell-tale cracks.
Water And Leakage Faults
Clay soil will retain water when it comes into contact with it. If your home is built on a foundation of clay soil and there isn’t proper drainage in place, the clay soil will become soft and won’t be strong enough to bear the weight of the construction above it. The house can shift and cracks will appear around your doors and windows.
If the cracks above your doors and windows have discolouration around the edges then it can be a sign of a leak. Water leaking from your doors or windows can saturate the surrounding drywall. The drywall softens and deteriorates, causing cracks with a distinctive yellow-brown stain.
You can tell if the leak is fresh or recent because it will feel damp to the touch. You’ll need to find the source of the leak and repair it before attempting to repair the cracks it has caused. Once you’ve done this, you can replace the damaged part of the drywall and re-tape it.
Cracks Above Doors In Vacant Homes
When a house is left empty for a few months at a time, such as a holiday home, cracks can begin to appear above windows and doors as well as ceilings. This is caused by temperature and humidity fluctuations because the house isn’t climate controlled in the same way as if it were occupied.
These fluctuations can cause drywall and timber frames to expand and contract which leads to cracks appearing. They just need to be re-taped and re-painted and aren’t a sign of dangerous structural damage.
How To Identify More Serious Faults
Unfortunately, while it’s not common and you shouldn’t immediately panic, certain cracks can also be a sign of more serious structural damage.
Large, jagged, or diagonal cracks that are thicker than ¼ of an inch may be a sign that your foundations have shrunk or shifted from their original placement. You can check if this is the case beyond the cracks by opening and closing the nearby door. If the door sticks without any kind of visible obstruction then it could be a sign of moderate or severe foundation changes.
A sticky door or window could also indicate that the frame has become twisted, and this is common when homes shift or sink. Some diagonal cracks result from structural damage caused by deteriorated or collapsed wooden members. Termites or water leaks could be the culprit in this case.
Whatever the cause of the structural problem, you’ll need a reputable structural engineer to carry out an inspection of your home and accurately identify a solution. Then, once the structural issues are resolved, you can safely replace the damaged drywall panels and re-tape the joints.
Will My Building Insurance Cover Cracks Above Doors And Windows?
The answer to this question will most likely depend on the cause of the cracks. Some building insurance covers minor damage by ground heave or subsidence, but may not cover this damage if your house or its foundations are made from materials that can shrink and expand such as ‘green lumber’ and clay soil.
If your house doesn’t comply with UK Building Regulations, or if the cracks are caused by settlement issues, then you may not be covered either.
If you find that your building insurance doesn’t cover you for any of these reasons, you may need to pay an excess fee that can often depend on the age of the building. This excess will almost always be higher than a standard fee, so it’s something to consider and watch out for.
If you’re unsure about the terms of your building insurance, you should contact your insurance provider as they will be able to help with your specific case. The good news is, most hairline cracks that aren’t caused by serious structural issues can be fixed yourself.
Repairing Cracks Above Your Doors And Windows
Most cracks above doors and windows can be repaired by re-taping the joint. This is a simple process that you can carry out yourself even if you have little or no knowledge or experience of DIY repairs.
To repair minor hairline cracks, you’ll first need to scrape away the loose tape and any bits of drywall that has deteriorated and crumbled. Then, you can sand the surface down so it’s smooth before filling the crack with drywall or joint compound. This is a white powder (sometimes referred to as mud) made up of gypsum dust and water, and it’s widely available from most local hardware stores.
After the mud has dried, you’ll need to finish by applying a new layer of tape over the seams. You can use paper tape since gives the smoothest finish, but it can be a bit fiddly to use if you’re not a drywall repair pro. Fibreglass mesh tape is designed to be more user-friendly and gets the job done too!
Some people often wonder if they can use a spackling compound such as Polyfilla to fill in the cracks above their doors and windows. We definitely wouldn’t recommend it.
Spackle simply doesn’t have the strength to reinforce the damaged area for any length of time. If you cut corners by using spackle instead of re-taping, the cracks will likely show up again quickly at even the slightest sign of resettling. It’s far more effective and long-lasting to re-tape the cracks!
Some Final Thoughts – We’re Here To Help!
Cracks above your doors and windows can’t be cured if you don’t know the cause. As we’ve learned, most cracks that appear above your doors and windows are relatively harmless and can usually be fixed yourself by re-taping the joint.
However, it’s important for your safety and that of anybody else you live with that more serious issues are addressed quickly by a professional structural engineer. They will help to identify the exact cause of and solution to your issue with their acquired knowledge and expertise.
If your house hasn’t been built yet, make sure that you and your builders follow all the necessary guidelines to prevent cracks from ever appearing in the first place. As with most situations, prevention is more effective than the cure!
If you have any more questions or queries involving cracks above your doors and windows, we at Bi-Fold Door Factory are here and happy to help! Just fill out this contact form or give us a call on 0800 999 5575 and one of our friendly and dedicated members of staff will do everything they can to help.