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Doorway drywall cracks

OneManBand's picture

I've seen some new construction recently where wide tapering cracks appeared at the corner(s) of a doorway, radiating away at about 45 degrees.  Not necessarily both corners of the doorway, but equal on both sides of the wall.  No other imperfections, settling, or other damage is visible, there seems to be no apparent cause, yet it looks as if just before the door was hung and trimmed, someone tried to spread the bottom of the doorway framing like a wishbone, which of course shouldn't be possible.  Anyone have any ideas what might cause this?  (Note:  This is in the Poconos, where there are no codes, so let's not assume anything is "standard"...)

(post #88462, reply #1 of 30)

They nailed or screwed the drywall to the bottom of the header above the door or that the floor under the door is sinking - probably the former.

(post #88462, reply #7 of 30)

Screwed the drywall to the bottom of the header?  As opposed to where else?  I'm talking cracks up to 1/2" at the corner, tapering to nothing about 7" to 9" away.  That's way too much for shrinkage, unless the header was 2x12s nailed at its top edges to the king studs; or mere settling, without signs of major collapse elsewhere, and the door fits with even space all around, with no other apparent flaws anywhere above, below, or nearby.  See why I'm puzzled?  Yes, settling cracks appear here and there, but usually where planes join, i.e., corners of rooms or at the ceiling.  Like I said, this looks just like the doorframe was forcibly spread then refastened in position, after rocking & painting.  Weird.  I wouldn't have thought you could crack drywall that way without destroying the sheet.  Way beyond tape & spackle.  Let's put our thinking caps back on some more.  Also like I said, let's not assume it was necessarily framed like you know how is right, either.  Where else, geographically, have you guys seen this?

(post #88462, reply #8 of 30)

Where else, geographically, have you guys seen this?

Most everywhere.  Seems to me I've attibuted it to filling in above the door with a separate pc. of board.............settling or movement in the foundation..........shrinkage from drying out framing.   I got in to the habit of toenailing the buck to the header so it flushes up both sides and doesn't move later.  Might help hole that connection together.   How's the casing look around that door.  Any of that open up?


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(post #88462, reply #10 of 30)

"Seems to me I've attibuted it to filling in above the door with a separate pc. of board."

That was my first thought. But generally the cracks I see from this are straight up and down. These are at 45°, according to the first post.

Joan of Arc heard voices, too.

(post #88462, reply #14 of 30)

Like I said elsewhere, the door's perfect, the casing's perfect, the spacing's perfect, everything else seems perfect, just these big honkin' spread cracks.  Little hairline cracks I'd just shrug off as shrinkage or settling.  These you can stick a finger into.

(post #88462, reply #16 of 30)

"These you can stick a finger into"

I missed that part and shrugged the post off really as small cracks . Thats serious ! Youve got problems , sorry I took it lightly. Look for serious settlement , its not lumber shrinkage if they are 1/2 " cracks, or else every house built would look like yours and thats just not the case. 1/16" is a big crack for settlement of a new home , they are more like hairline. Youve got big problems  .


Tim Mooney




(post #88462, reply #21 of 30)

Yes, Tim, it's not just your regular old settling cracks, which are actually due to lumber shrinkage.  However, I am glad to say it's not any problem I have to deal with, just one I have observed.  I'm searching for a cause so:

A)  I won't ever make the same mistake and have to deal with it; and,

B)  If I'm ever hired to fix one like it, I'll have a plan I could be confident with.

I haven't built a whole house yet, but I've built a few doorways in my day and way back when, I was taught an unusual method of building headers, which has worked very well and cross all our fingers, so far no callbacks.  I build what I call a box beam header.  It's a little more complicated but seems to be worth the extra trouble.  It works like this: I cut the usual standard header 2x's but then add an upper and lower plate to it, omitting the customary 1/2" plywood spacers.  I line up the edges carefully during nailing.  Of course, the upper cripple or tail studs above are cut 3" shorter than usual, and nailed to the upper header plate before the upper header plate is nailed to the header planks.  The lower plate is nailed to each header plank before the upper plate.  Then the entire assembly is set upon the trimmers and nailed through the king studs, into the ends of both header planks (usually just 2x4's) and upper and lower plates.  That's eight 16d nails at each end, two into each piece of wood.  The finished header is fantastically strong, rigid and stable.  And it seems to resist the sort of shrinkage cracks everyone assumed I was talking about.  I did get one vey small hairline at one end of an eight-footer built with 2x8's (which I discovered and fixed on my own, because it was a lengthy remodel.)

Has anyone else tried using such headers, and how did they work for you?

(post #88462, reply #9 of 30)

It's not settlement, it's wood shrinkage, be sure to read this link, it explains it:

(post #88462, reply #11 of 30)

   Kind of what I thought.  I hate to admit it, but several years ago (25) I learned it from a 75 year old concrete contractor.   He explained to me about always being accused of 45 degree settlement cracks at the doorways.  He took me down in the basement asked me to point out where the foundation settled, it hadn't, then proceeded to explain about shrinkage cracks .   It's actually the headers and to a lesser extent the studs, can be worse on the 2nd floor.  Much more noticeable during the winter when the heats on.  Also a call back item in the fall when the heat goes on for the 1st winter heating cycle.

Never serious, but always right

(post #88462, reply #12 of 30)

Here is a snipet from that link that I gave:

Diagnosing diagonal cracks
Diagonal cracks occasionally appear in drywall at the corners over windows and interior doors. In some cases, overfastening is to blame; in others, the floor framing is at fault. If drywall is fastened to both header and studs around an opening, the header will pull down on the drywall as it shrinks. Fasteners in the studs resist the downward pull, placing the panel in tension, and presto! -the familiar diagonal crack. The remedy: around openings, fasten drywall to studs only.

Russ, also one should never have a drywall butt joint over an opening.

(post #88462, reply #13 of 30)

Not nailing the header leaves me with the problem of loose rock trying to apply the  jamb and trim . I normally renail the drywall around the opening .

Tim Mooney


(post #88462, reply #23 of 30)

     Thanks, very informative.  After some additional posts, I somewhat puzzled by the size of these cracks now he saying "you could get your finger in them".  Did they not get heat in the building and the foundation or basement floor heaved, trimmers too short, very green lumber, it's beginning to sound a little more troubling than just common shrink cracks.

Never serious, but always right

diagonal cracks (post #88462, reply #25 of 30)

does that mean you apply no fasteners over door headers and float it completely?

(post #88462, reply #15 of 30)

EXCELLENT article, I saved it to a file!  Yes, I was already generally familiar with wood shrinkage in general, but this had a lot of new info too.

Back to the cracks I was talking about, a little hairline here or there would be normal shrinkage, but these were so extreme, I was wondering if some unusual construction method might be responsible.  The amount of movement for a half-inch tapering crack should have torn the rock free of its screws, I would think.  It really is as if the doorway was violently spread apart at the floor then the wall sole plates renailed, after rocking.  Or as if the header was made from very wet 2x12s nailed only at their upper edges that shrank both upward and lengthwise.  Or the subfloor mysteriously lexpanded there only an inch or more.  All before the trim carpenter showed up.  None of these could be the actual case, it just looks that way.  It's like one of those "impossible drawings" where you see it but it just can't really be that way, logically.

I'm glad it's not my warranty callback, too.  The routine hairline "settling" cracks are small potatoes, but without being sure of the cause of such extreme cracks, how could you be sure how to fix it once and for all?  That's what made me wonder...

(post #88462, reply #17 of 30)

It could be that the header was nailed too much, too much wet lumber, or also with a combination of "truss uplift" (where the ceiling joist shrinks too much at the corner where it meets the wall). A finger size gap is very extreme.  I think it's a combination of factors.


Can't be that much movement if the header is not nailed or screwed.  Depends on the type of header, wood type, etc.

(post #88462, reply #18 of 30)

Truss uplift could only happen on interior walls. I looked through the thread, but don't see which one it is for sure....

Dance like nobody's watching. Unless you're a white guy, in which case, you already are.

(post #88462, reply #19 of 30)

I did wonder about the possibility of truss uplift, but I don't know any was a truss roof.  It was always an interior wall and the doorway was always next to an exterior wall, only one doorway in the house cracked like that.  One house, however, had an attic so I don't think that would be a truss roof; also, it wasn't cracked quite as badly.  Could the proximity to the outside wall mean anything?

(post #88462, reply #20 of 30)

Truss uplift is the most severe in near the center of the house. If these are near the outside walls, I doubt that trusses would have anything to do with it.

I've been thinking about a sex change. Specifically, I could start having some.

(post #88462, reply #22 of 30)

Another commodian!  I remember two brothers walking down the street.  One says to the other, "Hey!  Wanna get laid?"  The other gets all excited, "YAEH! YEAH!"  The first then says, "Me too."

(post #88462, reply #2 of 30)

Its settlement . Happens to most every house at some time . The worst ones have problems, but from your message its common.

Tim Mooney


(post #88462, reply #3 of 30)

This happened to my BIL's house -- before he closed on the new construction.  He had his contractor "fix" it.  Wonder how long it'll last (1 week so far)

(post #88462, reply #5 of 30)

I like to give them a full year and then it still happens . Its not done if thats what you are wondering .

Tim Mooney


(post #88462, reply #4 of 30)

   Maybe settlement , but more likely the heats on and  the header dried pulling in on the corners creating the classic shrink cracks.

Never serious, but always right

(post #88462, reply #6 of 30)

Settling, for sure, but the 45 degree cracks don't say drywall to me.

45 degree cracks (post #88462, reply #26 of 30)

I feel the same that it doesn't seem like its the drywall application. The drywall looks torn as if it was in a small earthquake or some kind of foundation issue. I have been applying drywall the same way for years, and trained by the best, and have not run into this problem until now. The cracks appear on only interor door ways and only one side in this situation the right hand side and only on the one side of the wall not both sides. Very puzzling. And to boot it happened on both floors

You realize you're replying (post #88462, reply #27 of 30)

You realize you're replying to an 8 year old thread.

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

you realize you're replying (post #88462, reply #28 of 30)

No i didn't. But have you learned more on this subject from 8 years ago that i might learn.

Possible Cause (post #88462, reply #24 of 30)

I don't know if it helps, but I recently took over a property that had a very similar issue.  I checked the house over & could find no cause for it.  It occurred to me that I live in a state with lots of snow.  So I put a level against the wall where the vaulted ceiling starts.  From the top plate to the top of the ceiling the rafters appear to be about 2" out of plumb.  I am not 100% certain that this is the cause, but I would feel safe betting on it.  Perhaps you can climb into your attic and try the same.