Cracks will occur in any structural element that is subjected to load, whether that load is applied from the inside or the outside of the structure if the stresses imposed by the load are greater than the allowable limits of stresses for that particular material. 

Every house, and each structural part within every house, is built to handle a variety of loads that may be placed on it over its lifetime. 

There are many different kinds of loads, such as dead load, which refers to the load of the building itself; living load, which refers to the load of occupants, furniture, and other things; and loads caused by natural disasters such as earthquakes and cyclones, among other things. 

Changes in temperature, expansion, and contraction of the home owing to heat, variations in the amount of moisture present, foundation movement, and other factors can all contribute to the development of additional strains. 

Corrosion, general wear and tear, a lack of maintenance, and other factors can also lead to stress. 

A design is said to be ideal when it takes into account all of the aforementioned considerations. 

On the other hand, there will always be some unknown and unanticipated loads as a result of sloppy craftsmanship or low-quality materials. 

As a result, the material’s capacity to support loads is diminished, leading to cracks forming. 

There are two types of cracks: structural and non-structural. 

Cracks in the structure are a major issue that requires prompt medical attention and corrective action.

Checking to see if the cracks in the structure are structural or non-structural should always be done. 

Check to check if the cracks go all the way through, meaning that they have the same length, width, and direction on both sides of the wall they are on. 

In many cases, they do not go all the way through and may only appear on one side of the wall. 

The situation is critical when there are fissures. 

Cracks that are visible on only one side require more inspection to determine their depth on the interior. 

They could go all the way through the thickness of the plaster and into a portion of the wall or an RCC element. 

There are occasions in which the cracks do not appear evenly distributed across the thickness of the plaster. 

They may only be a few millimeters deep in the plaster, but they can be easily filled with any cement or polymer-based filler, so there is no need to be concerned about them. 

However, if structural cracks are not prevented at an early age, it will cost you a lot more in the later stage of the process.

There are two types of cracks: structural and non-structural. 

Cracks can be categorized as thin, medium, or wide cracks; straight, toothed, stepped, or map pattern cracks; vertical, horizontal, or diagonal cracks; and so on.

What Causes Plaster Cracks?

Plaster cracks are discrete fissures that appear on the surface of plastered walls. 

Plaster cracks are, despite the fact that they may give off an unsettling impression, exceedingly common and totally unremarkable.

When the plaster dries and shrinks, it often leaves behind small cracks in the walls of the majority of buildings. 

As the foundations of newly built structures and properties that have undergone relatively recent additions continue to settle, fractures in the walls of these buildings are to be expected. 

This is also true of homes that have undergone quite recent extensions. 

It is possible that this information will surprise you, but the stabilization of a building can take anywhere from one to three years. 

During this time period, the weight of the building or extensions will cause the plaster to shift and, in some areas, crack. 

A plastered wall may also develop cracks for various other reasons, including fluctuations in temperature and humidity as well as moisture levels. 

Any change in the surrounding environment will cause the plaster to swell and shrink, which will, in turn, cause the overall structure of the building to expand and contract. 

As a direct consequence, plaster may develop minute fissures that, with time, become more obvious fissures. 

As freshly plastered walls dry out, you should also anticipate the appearance of these microscopic cracks. 

Even if you notice some little cracking but none of the other scenarios apply to you, there is still a possibility that there is no need for alarm. 

Houses that are situated on roads with a high volume of traffic are more likely to suffer from minor cracking as a result of the vibrations that are caused by the motion of the vehicles passing by. 

In addition, if you are in a peaceful location but have recently upgraded your old window frames to uPVC double glazing, you might notice cracks appearing in this area. 

Windows that are not supported by a lintel, which is common in timber frame construction, can break around the aperture. 

Plaster cracks are typically minor difficulties that call for merely cosmetic attention and a plaster skim, for example, so that you can once again have a wall that is beautiful. 

Having said that, if the cracks in your plaster are more significant, you should always avoid caution and conduct some kind of investigation. 

Some Reasons for Cracks in Plaster Are:

  • The over-troweling of a rich mixture causes fissures that are not structural in nature.
  • Plaster is showing signs of cracking as a direct result of the effects of seasonal change.
  • Cracks in the structure can be generated by heat movement of the roof, moisture expansion or drying shrinkage of masonry units, or differential movement of the foundations.
  • A fissure has appeared in the plaster as a result of the debonding.
  • A fissure has appeared in the plaster as a result of the shrinkage. 
  • Poor construction practices have resulted in cracks in the plaster.
  • The plaster’s hardness and strength led to the development of a crack in the plaster. 
  • Plaster that has developed fissures as a result of a chemical reaction
  • Fractures in the Walls and Other Structural Elements
  • The thickness of the plaster caused the crack in the plaster.
  • Damage caused to moisture.
  • interior structural timber that has been crushed or has deteriorated.
  • The development of tree roots.
  • Walls that are unstable that are adjacent.
  • Absence of a solid base.
  • Masonry has been broken up.
  • decrease in the level of groundwater.
  • Vibrations caused by road traffic.
  • Plastic Shrinkage Cracking

Plastic shrinkage cracking is when an excessive amount of water evaporates from the plaster during the first few hours after it has been applied. 

This type of cracking is visible.

  • Dry Shrinkage Cracks

Dry shrinkage cracks are caused by the loss of moisture in the plaster after it has cured, and the plaster will always contract and split as a result. 

Cracks of this sort are typically stable and may be filled with property filler and painted over. 

The cause is always a very high cement content, and the cement mortar that caused the problem was constructed of low-quality sand and had a high water demand.

  • Structural Cracks

Cracks in the plaster that are caused by the walls cracking are known as structural cracks. You can see these cracks in the plaster. 

This can be generated by differential movement of the foundation, moisture expansion, drying shrinkage of the brick wall, and thermal movement of the roof slab. 

This sort of crack frequently appears in a straight vertical or horizontal line or steeped diagonal lines.

  • Debonding

Plaster that has been detached from its surface will typically produce a hollow sound when the surface is tapped. During this step, the plaster will be peeled away from the wall. 

Plaster that is in direct touch with the wall will contract at a different rate than the plaster on the wall’s surface. 

This is due to the fact that the plaster on the surface of the wall will shrink at a different rate. 

The thick layer of plaster is the primary contributor to this problem.

  • Lack of Hardness

A lack of hardness and cracks in plastering work is caused by using a poor quality cement mortar, which has an insufficient amount of cement and uses more amount of sand-containing dust. 

This lack of hardness and cracks is also caused by mixing poor quality water and adding extra water after the initial mixing. 

Finally, rapid drying in the full sun causes this lack of hardness and cracks.

  • Grinning 

Plaster walls are said to have a greening appearance when the position of mortar joints can be plainly seen through the plaster. 

Greening is a term that was coined to describe this effect. 

The primary contributor to this problem is the disparity in suction capacity that exists between the brick walls and the cement mortar.

  • Expansion

There is clearly evidence of expansion, which manifests itself visually as swelling, softening, layer breaking, and spalling in the plaster.

The presence of items made with gypsum is the primary factor in its occurrence. 

In the presence of moisture, the sulfate in the gypsum reacts with the Portland cement paste to produce compounds that have an enlarged volume and destabilize the plaster.

  • Popping

Popping is the phrase used to describe the process in which conical bits break away from the surface of plaster, leaving behind holes of varying sizes. 

Cavities are formed in the plaster due to the presence of contaminant particles in the mixture, which, when combined with the moisture present in the mixture, cause the formation of these cavities.

Once the origin of the popping has been eliminated, contaminant particles, which are typically visible as seeds and other organic elements, as well as particles of dead, burnt lime, can be removed, and the hole can then be filled with filler and painted over.

Are Cracks a Sign of Subsidence?

plasterboard installers men assembling drywall false ceiling simple affordable renovation premises 1024x682

Cracking that is more significant on a property may indicate more serious structural problems elsewhere on the property. 

Subsidence and foundational instability are the most frequently encountered of these problems. 

These wider fissures may have been brought on by a variety of causes that led to the subsidence of a property, such as the following:

  • Destabilization of the ground beneath a home as a result of damage to the drains that surround the property, as well as any subsurface leaks
  • Heavy precipitation and subsequent flooding
  • Continuations of dry spells and times of extreme dryness
  • Foundations that could be better and deeper.
  • The root systems of neighboring trees have the potential to obstruct the structure of a building’s foundations and, on occasion, they might remove an excessive amount of moisture from the ground directly below a piece of real estate, which can cause the ground on which a house is constructed to become unstable. Mining has played an important role in the history of the surrounding area.
  • Failure of the lintels to a catastrophic degree all around the windows and doors.

It is recommended that any apparent cracks in walls be monitored and checked for evidence of growth and degeneration in situations when these elements are at play.

Different Types of Cracks

As we’ve established, there is no such thing as a typical crack because every crack is unique. 

Taking into account the length, width, and depth of a crack is a dependable technique to determine whether or not it should be cause for concern. 

This is because size encompasses all three dimensions. 

The Building Research Establishment (BRE) published an article titled “BRE Digest 251 Assessment of Cracks in Houses,” which outlined six different severity levels for cracks in residential structures.

Vertical Cracks

When it comes to plastered walls, vertical cracks are widespread, especially in newly constructed homes. 

These cracks occur as the plaster dries out and settles, which is a natural process. 

The piece of advice that serves as the finest remedy for these cracks is to refrain from filing them and repainting them as soon as they appear. 

If you do so, more may form, and you will have more issues to address. 

You will get far better results if you wait until the plaster has dried out even further before taking any action with it. 

On the other hand, if these cracks grow to be more than 25 millimeters, there may be a more significant problem requiring quick care.

Diagonal Cracks

When inspecting the walls of your home, pay close attention to any cracks that run perpendicular to the direction in which the stairs in your home go. 

Cracks across the diagonal are frequently the consequence of movement in the underlying structure, and as a result, they can be an exceedingly dangerous issue. 

Because they are frequently tied to underlying problems, it is essential to have an expert evaluate the situation.

Top Causes of Cracks in Historic Plaster Ceilings

Cracks in plaster ceilings appear to be unavoidable in older, historic structures because of their frequency and the fact that they are frequently quite noticeable. 

There are a variety of different types of cracks, and if the underlying problem is not adequately addressed, some of them will continue to reappear. 

Plaster can be restored in the usual manner once the underlying concerns have been remedied unless exceptional conditions prohibit this. 

Cracks can be caused by issues that are difficult to address, such as uneven distribution of load; in such circumstances, altering application procedures and plaster mix can assist minimize future cracking. 

Environmental factors, such as temperature fluctuations, can also cause cracks. 

The following is a list of some of the most typical factors that lead to the development of cracks in old plaster ceilings.

Settlement of the Building

  • Overloading—these signs, which typically appear as diagonal stress fractures, are frequent around a door or window frame but can also be observed on a ceiling close to corners or load-bearing columns. These cracks are a sign of overloading. Their poor approximation for how the weight of each floor would be divided or “deflected” typically results in massive cracks since historic architects and craftsmen did not have the modern-day means by which to precisely determine the weight of each floor and model how this weight would be distributed or “deflected.” This issue is made significantly worse by any movement or detachment of the lath and any general “sagging.” Repairs often center on reinforcing the plaster to stop any future damage from occuring. This is because altering the load distribution would entail significant reworking of the beams and columns.
  • The appearance of stress cracks across the surface of the plaster characterizes lath movement. This occurs when the base material, known as “lath,” becomes detached from the plaster or when the nails that hold the lath to the studs become loose. One way to rectify is to remove the plaster and reattach it to the lath and then resecuring it to the structure or carefully injecting a binding resin to secure it. Following this step, the area is covered with a wire mess before being plastered over to create a level surface.
  • In the case of settlement and vibrations, rapid shifts in the structure’s weight distribution might take place even in the absence of any precipitating event; however, in most cases, the culprit is either the movement of heavy furniture on a floor above or seismic activity. The movement of the central supports of the structure is caused by damage to the structural integrity, such as rot in the hardwood beams in the ceiling or rusting and disintegration of the metal nails that secure the beams to the walls. The likelihood of finding cracks in load-bearing walls and neighboring ceilings is particularly high.
  • Renovations in other parts of the building It is essential to remember that the additions and renovations performed on historic residences frequently result in unintended implications throughout the historic structure. Cracks and chips in the plaster can be caused by shifting and changing the distribution of the load. The installation of extra floors results in an increase in the downward weight, which leads to the formation of fractures in the ceiling at the intersection of the columns and beams.

Water Damage

  • Climates that are humid and have a lot of moisture in the air are not good for historic structures for a number of reasons. Plaster can have direct interaction with moisture, and this is especially true for lime plaster. This might cause the plaster to expand or hinder it from drying completely when it is first put. Wood supports may undergo expansion and contraction due to changes in temperature and humidity in situations with high relative humidity. Even negligible levels of expansion can potentially compromise the plaster’s stability over the long term.
  • Plaster damage is often caused by a leaking roof, which is exceedingly prevalent and is one of the primary causes of plaster damage. Plaster applications from the past are more likely to be damaged by water because they do not benefit from the contemporary compounds that can be found in gypsum boards and binding epoxy. In order to prevent the same harm from occuring in the future, repairs need to be carried out after the leak’s source has been completely fixed. Before any work on the restoration can begin, the plaster section will typically need to be completely removed, inspected, and allowed to dry.
  • Flooding from the floor above – While it may seem like something out of a movie to have a bathtub fall through the ceiling, leaking pipes and overflowing water can destroy plaster ceilings and weaken the structural integrity of a structure. Flooding from the floor below can also occur. If professional, soaked beams do not treat, they can expand when wet, come into contact when dry, and grow mold and bacteria; all three situations can destroy plaster and potentially have negative effects on one’s health.

Building Age

  • A base layer that has dried out; as time passes, the plaster will dry out. Due to the fact that historic buildings have only begun to benefit from centralized temperature management in the past several decades, the plastered surface has spent the majority of its existence experiencing unpredictable temperature changes. On the other hand, adjusting the temperature can hasten the drying process of plaster, typically drying it out completely all the way down to the scratch layer. Damage of this magnitude would cause the entire plaster application to crumble and come loose from the lath.
  • Colonial settlers were ingenious individuals who made do with a mishmash of local materials that were designed for short-term use. Due to the fact that the New World did not always have all of the key building materials that colonists were accustomed to having, colonists were forced to come up with some intriguing plaster compounds by mixing indigenous components such as shells, granite, and bone. Despite being very similar to traditional mixtures, improvised concoctions dependent on the availability of nearby ingredients do not stand the test of time. Chips, cracks, and sagging caused by expansion and contraction are typical occurrences in wood.

When Do Cracks in Walls Become Serious?

A good rule of thumb to follow is that you should be fine with minor cracks. 

Nevertheless, larger fissures greater than 5 millimeters in width should be considered more carefully. 

Cracks that are greater than 25 millimeters in width are the ones that warrant concern. 

The following are the primary indicators that a crack is of a considerably more significant nature:

  • Cracks wider than 5 millimeters
  • Walls that have cracks running in a diagonal pattern.
  • Fractures that are jagged and run along a wall.
  • Fractures around the door frames and the window frames
  • Cracks that allowed slivers of daylight to pass through

You have every reason to be concerned if any of your cracks meet the criteria listed in any of these categories. 

It is feasible to resolve these issues before any irreversible damage occurs if you have access to the appropriate professional advice.

Repairing Cracks in Walls

Some cracks may require little to no action at all, depending on where they are categorized on the BRE scale; nevertheless, other cracks cannot be ignored and must be repaired immediately. 

In situations where fractures are deemed significant and could pose a risk to people’s safety, it is always better to consult a professional engineer to obtain expert advice on the matter. 

Cracks wider than 5 millimeters will require repair and filling, and it is strongly recommended that you seek the assistance of a professional at all times. 

On the basis of their prior experience and general industry knowledge, every contractor will have a way of mending cracks that they like more than the others. 

In most instances, the most effective method of repairing a cracked wall will be determined by the kind of damaged wall.

One of the more common solutions for cracks in drywall is to re-tape the junction. 

Before sanding the surface clean, a plasterer will first remove any loose tape and crumbled drywall materials by scraping them off with a utility knife. 

Following the application of the drywall compound to cover the crack with new tape, the operation will be repeated several times to obtain a faultless finish. 

worker plastering gypsum board wall 1024x682


Structural cracks are serious and need immediate care and curative measures. 

Plaster cracks are small fractures within plastered walls, which are common and perfectly normal. 

Structural cracks need immediate care and curative measures, while non-structural cracks need immediate care and curative measures. 

Cracks in plaster can occur as the plaster dries and shrinks and can grow over time due to fluctuations in conditions. 

Plaster cracks can be caused by non-structural, structural, debonding, chemical reactions, thickness, and damage due to dampness, plastic shrinkage, and dry shrinkage.

Structural cracks, debonding, lack of hardness, grinning, greening, and expansion are all caused by poor-quality cement mortar and rapid drying in full sun. 

Cracks in plastered walls can be caused by gypsum-based products, popping, subsidence, and compromised foundations. 

Different types of cracks can be assessed by taking into account their size, length, width, and depth. 

A variety of issues, such as the settlement of the building, overloading, and lath movement, can cause cracks in historic plaster ceilings. 

Repairs can involve reinforcing plaster or reinforcing the lath to prevent further damage.

Settlement/vibrations, renovations, water damage, roof leaks, floods from the floor above, and building age can all cause damage to the plaster. 

Repairs should be carried out once the cause of the leak has been repaired to prevent recurring damage. 

Colonists used local materials, but these mixtures do not stand the test of time, leading to cracks, sagging due to expansion/contraction, and chips. 

When cracks become serious, it is important to consult a professional engineer and seek professional attention.

Content Summary

  • All houses, i.e., all structural elements in the houses, are designed to withstand different loads that are likely to come during their life.
  • Please always check whether the cracks are structural or non-structural.
  • For most properties, slight cracks occur as the plaster dries and shrinks.
  • It may come as a surprise, but it can take approximately one to three years for a building to stabilize.
  • During this time, the building or extensions’ weight will cause the plaster to move and, in some places, crack.
  • Any fluctuations in conditions will cause the plaster to expand and contract, causing the building’s overall structure to swell and sink.
  • These hairline cracks can also be expected as newly plastered walls dry out.
  •  If you are experiencing some minimal cracking and none of the above applies, there still could be no reason to worry.
  • Houses located on busy roads can experience slight cracking through the vibration the building experiences from the sheer volume of traffic going past.
  • In most cases, plaster cracks are minor issues that require cosmetic attention and a plaster skim, for example, to allow you to have a flawless wall again.
  • That said, if your plaster cracks are more substantial, it is always best to play on the safe side and investigate.
  • Dry shrinkage cracks are due to moisture loss after the plaster has hardened, and the plaster will always shrink and Crack.
  • Structural cracks are visible in plaster resulting from the cracking of walls are known as structural cracks.
  • In this process, plaster is debonded from the wall.
  • Grinning  Greening is the term given to the appearance of plaster walls when the position of mortar joints is clearly visible through the Plaster.
  • It is mainly caused by the presence of contaminant particles in the mix, which reacts with the moisture in the mix and causes cavities in the Plaster.
  • Where a property has more significant cracking, this may be a sign of more serious structural problems.
  • Diagonal Cracks If you spot diagonal cracks in your wall, similar to a set of stairs going up or down, these are not to be ignored.
  • Top Causes of Cracks in Historic Plaster Ceilings Common and often very visible, plaster ceilings’ cracks seem inevitable in older, historic buildings.
  • The following are some of the most common reasons for cracks to start forming in historic plaster ceilings.
  • Leaking roof—incredibly common; roof leaks are one of the leading causes of damage to plaster.
  • Flood from the floor above—while the bathtub falling through the ceiling might seem like something out of a movie, leaking pipes and overflowing water can destroy plaster ceilings and weaken the structural integrity of a building.
  • A mixture of local materials not suited for longevity—colonists were resourceful people.
  • As a rule of thumb, small cracks are nothing to be concerned about.
  • However, larger cracks that are over 5mm should be taken more seriously.
  • Where cracks exceed 25mm, these are the cracks to worry about.
  • With the right professional advice, addressing these before any permanent damage occurs is possible.
  • Cracks over 5mm will need repairing and filling, and it will always be advised to seek professional attention.
  • In most cases, it depends on the type of cracked wall and how best to rectify the problem.
  • For drywall cracks, a popular approach is to re-tape the joint.


What Is the Main Reason for Cracks in Plaster?

Cracks in Plaster due to the Effect of the Seasonal Change. Structural cracks are caused by differential movement of the foundations, moisture expansion or drying shrinkage of masonry units, or thermal movement of the roof. 

Crack in the plaster because of the Debonding. Crack in the plaster because of the Shrinkage.

What Causes Hairline Cracks in Plaster Walls?

They can happen when the plaster expands in humidity and shrinks as it dries. 

Instead of filling and repainting them straight away, you should wait a while before filling the cracks and repainting, as more could appear.

Is It Common for Plaster to Crack?

Old lath and plaster walls are prone to cracking. 

Over time the plaster separates from the lath, creating structural cracks. 

Plaster is also prone to thinner spider-web cracks, which occur when the topcoat of the plaster degrades. 

It’s common to have both kinds of cracking, and both types can be repaired.

Should I Be Worried About Cracks in Plaster?

Cracks less than 5 millimeters wide are usually a crack in the plaster rather than the wall itself and can be filled and decorated. 

Cracks between 5mm and 15mm wide are more likely to be serious and may need professional repairs. 

A professional should definitely examine any crack bigger than 25mm wide.


Melbourne | Sydney | Canberra
1800 517 294