What causes Cracks in Crown Molding?

What causes Cracks in Crown Molding?

Are these cracks in crown molding being caused by foundation movement?

Many foundation repair contractor salesman will point to crown moldings and wood casing cracks and separations and say that they indicate foundation movement or floor sag, and structural repairs are needed. There is nothing farther from the truth. So, why do cracks and separations appear in crown moldings?

It's pretty simple, wood is hygroscopic and every piece of sawn or milled molding has a unique and specific direction or orientation of wood grain. The physical characteristic "hygroscopic" means that wood will always try to reach moisture equilibrium with the surrounding atmosphere. It will either absorb moisture (from the air) during periods of high humidity or off-gas moisture into the air during periods of low humidity. The wood moisture content is constantly changing throughout the year due to the changing seasonal weather conditions. And depending on where the molding was cut out of the tree or limbs, the molding has a specific wood grain pattern (the pattern of the tree's annual growth rings). The two most common grain patterns that arise from the production of sawn lumber and milled moldings are flat-sawn and cross-grain. Wood expands and contracts with changes in wood moisture content, swelling when wetted and shrinking when dried. These movements in wood take place tangentially and radially to the wood grain. This results in the distorted shapes shown in the attached figure. Flat grain lumber tends to warp and twist, while cross-grain lumber tends to maintain a stable profile. Hence, long, relatively thin pieces of crown molding with flat sawn grain are always wanting to distort according to their grain patterns as the moldings dry during the winter time (heating season) and take on moisture during the spring through fall (cooling season) and when windows and doors are often left open causing the interior humidity levels to rise along with the outdoor conditions.

What causes Cracks in Crown Molding?
This illustration shows how wood can warp and twist during the drying process after it's been cut. The distortion that takes place through shrinkage can cause cracks and gaps in your crown molding.

After multiple attempts or years of caulking and painting wood moldings, the paint/caulk usually form a flexible covering which is strong enough to withstand the movements in the crown moldings due to humidity changes inside the home. This is because the crown moldings will eventually reach a stable or "mean" (average) moisture content throughout the year, based on each homeowner's unique living style, such that the ensuing wood movements that do occur, due to humidity changes, results in such little movement, that the caulked joints do not tear open or crack.

mad enough to spit

A Brick Veneer Crack Tragedy: A True Story

Folks, I had to share this true story.  I feel so bad for this young lady.

Here are her words:

woman-with-beneer-cracks-in-her-house"I bought the house in 2011 with my husband (at the time), we divorced in 2012.  I lived in it for a little while and was thinking about putting it up for sale when some family friends asked if they could rent it from me.  I rented to them for about a year, then they moved out, and it was on the market for about 6 months with no offers.  I switched Realtors and got an offer within two months.  You know the rest...home inspection revealed a brick veneer crack, my Realtor called in a foundation repair company who made a visual inspection and recommended $8K worth of repairs. I was hoping my structural warranty would cover it so I wouldn't have to pay out of pocket, but the warranty company hired you to perform a floor level survey, which revealed there is no structural foundation failure or issue and pointed out that there were no interior drywall cracks opposite the brick veneer crack.  The buyers said they were ok with the new assessment and just wanted the brick repaired, then four days before closing

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home inspections

Why Get A Home Inspection?

Real Estate is usually the largest investment you will ever make, yet many people do so without knowing the condition of the property they are purchasing.prelisting-inpection

That’s why a professional property inspection is such a valuable investment.  An analysis of the property, conducted by a specially trained and completely objective inspector can identify safety issues, non-functioning systems or damaged building components.

Having this information before you purchase, sell, repair or remodel, can return many dividends, both financially and emotionally.

roof-top-to-foundation-home-inspectionWhether you are buying, selling, building or staying in the property you own, a property inspection just makes good sense!  Understanding the condition of the systems and components of a building are critical when it comes to purchase, repair and maintenance decisions.

A professional property inspection is an impartial, third party, visual, non-destructive evaluation of the systems and physical structure of a home, from the roof to the foundation. home inspectionsHaving a home inspection is similar to getting a physical checkup.  If a problem or symptom is discovered, the inspector may recommend further evaluation.  A home inspection is not a warranty or insurance policy, but a method to assist you in understanding the condition of a home.

When you’re ready, so are we.  The first step in enhancing the comfort level of your Real Estate transaction is to schedule your inspection as early as possible.  You’ll be glad you made the right choice.