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Old 03-05-2011, 05:12 PM   #1
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Reeeeeeally long ceiling and wall cracks - what the?


I'm looking to buy my first house soon, on the northern California coast. I finally found a house I can afford in the over-priced college town where I work (have been looking at the town south of here, mostly), BUT it is an estate sale being sold "as is." And when I looked at it w/ a realtor, we saw that there are MANY long cracks in the ceiling and walls, some of them beginning in one room and ending in another. Some are vertical, some horizontal, and some diagonal across ceilings, anywhere from a foot long to 14 feet or perhaps more. They look deep but I can't tell how deep. Some of them have been patched over in white but you can still see the cracks beneath. The house was built in 1947. Is this a sign of problems with the foundation? Does the drywall need to be replaced?? (not sure if that's in my budget for this particular house, being located in the trendy town it's in).

I know extreme variations in humidity can crack drywall, but this is an area that's pretty much just always humid, with not a lot of variation in temperature (lowest temp in winter usually around 36, highest in summer is maybe 80 if we're lucky and get a "hot" day). Also, I don't see water damage in the house, which is unusual (most houses I've looked at here have water problems because of all the rain - think Seattle weather).

Is this a house I should just run screaming away from??

(I'd post photos, but I took them on my phone's camera and lost the usb cord for it -- d'oh!)

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Old 03-05-2011, 05:18 PM   #2
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Reeeeeeally long ceiling and wall cracks - what the?


Does earthquake ring a bell?

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Old 03-05-2011, 05:23 PM   #3
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Reeeeeeally long ceiling and wall cracks - what the?


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Does earthquake ring a bell?
that was my first thought but figured to easy. If it was a one time deal and cali never has quakes again repair of wall covering may be all that's needed
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Old 03-05-2011, 06:14 PM   #4
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Reeeeeeally long ceiling and wall cracks - what the?


Well, that was the first thing I thought of, but as I looked online at "reasons for ceiling and wall cracks," it seemed there were a gazillion other possibilities, which scare me more. One site (I think it may have even been 'This Old House') said that horizontal and vertical cracks are OK, but not diagonal (which this house has), because it indicates foundational problems...(?) Our last big quake up here (6.5) was last January, and I had only heard of damage in the town 20 minutes to the south, where I live now, which was much closer to the epicenter. And even here it wasn't so bad. No cracks in my walls or ceilings, or those of anyone else I know...So could this mean the house I'm looking at is poorly built somehow, if none of the surrounding houses, or ones closer to the quake, have earthquake damage?
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Old 03-05-2011, 06:22 PM   #5
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Reeeeeeally long ceiling and wall cracks - what the?


N00B - this house is starting to look pretty scary.
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Old 03-05-2011, 06:42 PM   #6
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Reeeeeeally long ceiling and wall cracks - what the?


Cracks of any kind mean something has shifted. Could be dry rot, termites, foundation settling, soil compaction caused by underground water, poor or incorrect construction, a remodel gone wrong, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination. The wider or longer or more diagonal the crack(s) the more the problem has been exaserbated. How handy are you? How much money are you willing to spend to correct the problem? How long do you plan on owning the property?
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Old 03-06-2011, 10:41 AM   #7
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Reeeeeeally long ceiling and wall cracks - what the?


My guess is that the house was plastered originally and that the plaster has run its life. Plaster is only good for about 50 to 60 years. If that is the case then it would be senseless to fix the cracks because the plaster is going to be falling apart faster than you can make the house look nice. Some places you could go over it with drywall, but if you can tear it out (which is one heck of a job) then you can up grade wiring and put in some changes here and there to put your touches on the house.
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Old 03-06-2011, 04:20 PM   #8
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Reeeeeeally long ceiling and wall cracks - what the?


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My guess is that the house was plastered originally and that the plaster has run its life. Plaster is only good for about 50 to 60 years. If that is the case then it would be senseless to fix the cracks because the plaster is going to be falling apart faster than you can make the house look nice. Some places you could go over it with drywall, but if you can tear it out (which is one heck of a job) then you can up grade wiring and put in some changes here and there to put your touches on the house.
Yep....

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