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Drywall and Cracking at Expansion Joints

Drywall Expansion Joint
Drywall, which is made from pressed gypsum particles, is smooth and provides a professional wall surface, but it can’t withstand pressure from foundation settling or structural shifting. Expansion joints, also called control joints, are installed in predetermined areas when constructing long wall expanses or building on soil known for its instability. Expansion joints serve as the weakest points in the wall, and their purpose is to relieve pressure on drywall that otherwise would result in cracks.

Drywall expansion joints are plastic or vinyl strips that feature a V or U shape down the center of the strip. When installed in a wall, the V or U shape expands slightly, allowing the wall to shift imperceptibly without cracking the drywall. Expansion joints are visible and are not covered by drywall joint compound.

The longer a wall or the larger a ceiling, the more it requires the installation of drywall expansion joints to reduce cracking. The joints are not common in standard residential construction unless the soil is known to move. In commercial construction, however, expansion joints are common, and architects and engineers use them to control cracking during future movement of a building.

Drywall expansion joints fit in the seam between two drywall panels. The joints are made in different sizes, and a contractor must leave a gap between the drywall panels when he attaches them to the framing beneath. Depending on the anticipated movement, an expansion joint may require a gap of 1/4 inch up to 1 inch. The expansion joint features fins on each side that attach to the adjacent drywall panels with drywall nails or spray adhesive. After the joints are in place, the contractor applies joint compound only over the fins, not over the joint.

Made of vinyl or other flexible materials, an expansion joint will expand and contract, but it should not crack unless it was taped over during installation. You may brush paint over expansion joints to minimize their appearance in a wall, but do not fill them with joint compound as you would other drywall seams.

What Should I Know About Building a New House?

It’s the ultimate American dream, and it may be the biggest financial investment you ever make. For the first time, you’re not renting or buying someone else’s idea of what a home should be. It’s your turn. Building a new house is an exciting time, but it can also be nerve wracking and frustrating as you balance design, budget and building codes. A good building plan is flexible enough to accommodate unforeseen construction and design changes, but firm enough to make sure you get the home you want at a price you can afford. 

Balancing Expectations with Cost
If you’re like most people, you have a home-building budget. Before you start interviewing contractors, talk to your lender about a construction loan and a subsequent mortgage. Based upon your income, your credit history and your current bills, your banker will give you an idea of how much money you can spend. 

Location, Location, Location
A real estate broker will tell you that a desirable location is essential in the sale of a home, so it’s also a factor when you’re shopping for a lot on which to build your house. Talk to a real estate agent about the cost and desirability of various subdivisions. Before buying a lot, find out if the subdivision has its own building codes (covenants), if there is a homeowners association (HOA), and whether you will bear an additional tax burden that supports the cost of the development.

You have a couple of choices in home design. You can purchase a ready-made set of blueprints or you can consult an architect or a home designer about drawing a home plan to suit your specific needs. Hiring a designer is an additional expense, but you may save money in the end by including only the elements you want in the design. 

Interviews and Estimates
The contractor you hire will work closely with you during the construction process, so it’s imperative that you develop a good working relationship. If you already have a builder, great, if you don’t, visit with new homeowners about their building experience and ask for contractor recommendations.
Solicit estimates from three or more contractors, and compare them carefully. The lowest estimate may not be the best one. The quality of materials and the type of construction process used, can affect the cost. (Reference 2)

Expect the Unexpected
No matter how detailed your plan, things change. Your contractor may be unable to locate a desired fixture or material, the cost of the materials may go up substantially, or local building codes may require structural or mechanical changes to the plan. Never tell your contractor to “Go ahead and do it.” Instead, fill out a Change Form that details the extent of the change and the cost for making the alteration. 

Protecting your Investment
Once your new home is livable, you can take out homeowners insurance, but until then, you still need to safeguard your investment. A builder’s risk insurance policy is essential for protecting your financial investment in the case of fire, theft or other damage during the building process.

Helpful References:

How Can I Add Insulation Behind My Existing Drywall?

With the high cost of heating and cooling your home, it pays to ensure that your walls are well insulated and energy efficient. Unfortunately, older homes and poorly constructed homes may have inadequate insulation in the walls. In addition, some older types of insulation settle and compress with age, leaving gaps in the walls that reduce your homes thermal resistance, or R-value. The best time to insulate the walls is before the drywall is in place, but you can still add insulation to existing walls later if you need additional insulation.

Insulation Options
You have a couple of choices for insulating existing walls. The first is to remove the drywall and install new insulation bats in the stud spaces before installing new drywall panels and taping them out. Unfortunately, that’s not always feasible for homeowners who are living in the home. The other option is to blow in fiber or cellulose insulation behind the existing drywall. A contractor usually performs this task, and you may continue living in the home.

The Process
In order to add insulation behind existing drywall, the contractor must gain access to every stud space on the exterior wall. The contractor drills one or two holes on the exterior of the home at the top of each stud space and blows cellulose fibers into the space. The fibers filter downward and fill the space, adding insulating value. After he’s done, the contractor will plug the holes to match the exterior siding on your home. If your home has masonry siding, your contractor may blow in the insulation from inside the home.

Although blowing insulation into stud spaces adds to your home’s energy efficiency, it’s not a perfect solution. As the insulation filters downward, wiring, gas lines and outlet boxes can block the insulation, creating voids and gaps that reduce the wall’s overall R-value. 

Additional Solutions
New energy efficient replacement windows, or storm windows, can reduce heat transfer through exterior walls. Re-siding an older home with foam-backed siding is another option. Even small steps, like adding new weather stripping to doors and caulking gaps between in exterior siding will reduce drafts and increase energy efficiency.

73% of Leading Construction Professionals Predict Housing Upturn

The economic analysts can say anything they want - I tend to listen more closely to the professionals in the construction industry and they're predicting a housing upturn. They have their finger on the pulse of the housing issue and they are more likely to be right than the guy sitting in a suit and tie behind his desk...or at the end of a long board meeting table.

It appears as though we've seen the bottom and we're on our way back up.

Members of GuildQuality,  a leading association for construction professionals, polled hundreds of industry contractors. And the results are encouraging. Check out the Confidence Index:

The contractors and construction professionals were then asked their opinion of what kind of improvement they expected within the next six months. Only 2% thought there would be a decline while a whopping 56% predicted a significant improvement.

Needless to say, this is great news for the construction and housing industry. These are the building professionals who are making deals, talking about future deals and listening to the plans and goals of other construction professionals.

For the first time in 4 years, the outlook is very good. When industry confidence increases, so does consumer confidence in the construction industry.

Dust off that hammer.

Should I Cut Drywall with a Table Saw?

Drywall can ruin a table saw.
Table saws allow the user to make long straight cuts in large sheets of wood. With a “fence,” that guides the wood panel; the user can slide the sheet smoothly along while the table saw does all the hard work. Drywall panels are very large and unwieldy, the smallest standard size being 4 feet in width and 8 feet long. A sheet of plywood of the same size would certainly benefit from the use of a table saw for cuting. However, there are better ways to cut a drywall panel.

  • Drywall panels feature compressed gypsum particles that have a tendency to crumble when cut. Any power saw, including a table saw, will create clouds of drywall dust if used to cut the panels. The dust can clog the table saw motor and dull the blade of the saw.
  • The nicest thing about drywall panels is that they break along a weak point. The best way to cut a panel, when you’re hanging drywall, is with a utility knife. You don’t even have to cut all the way through the panel; just score the panel on the front, “paper faced,” side, and then tap the backside of the panel and it will “break” along the scored line. 
  • A drywall framing square is essential for making straight cuts. After measuring the panel, place the top of the square, which features a “T” shape, on the top edge of the drywall. The long vertical part of the square will extend downward, along the face of the panel.
  • You can measure and cut out switch and outlet boxes, after the drywall's in place, with a utility knife, but there’s a much quicker way. A drywall zip-type router is similar to a hand drill, but with a long cutting bit.

    After poking the bit through the drywall panel and into the center of the outlet box beneath, turn on the tool. The bit spins, and you can guide it by sliding it to inner edge of the outlet box and following the inside perimeter all the way around. The zip-type tool keeps you from over cutting the drywall.

What Will I Need to Know to Repair My Ceiling Drywall?

Make ceiling drywall repairs promptly.
While your drywall ceiling appears smooth, it’s composed of large pressed gypsum panels, attached to the ceiling joists. Gypsum is relatively lightweight, making installation simple, but it is prone to cracking under pressure and crumbling upon impact. Water, from a roof leak may also damage the drywall panel. You’ll use the same tools to repair the damage that the drywall contractor used to initially install the ceiling.

Tools and Supplies
Drywall repair tools fall into two categories: mud application tools and supplemental tools.
To apply wet joint compound, you’ll use a small drywall-taping knife, or a putty knife, for restricted spaces. Mud shaping tools include wide drywall taping knives and trowels, used to feather out the wet mud along the ceiling. Inside corner-taping tools form a crisp corner between the ceiling and the wall.
Drywall sanding pads smooth away rough bits of dried joint compound and a utility knife is recommended for cutting drywall panels and drywall tape. If you’re making large repairs, a stud finder, a measuring tape and drywall screw gun are essential.


Most drywall repairs require only premixed joint compound, or “mud,” and drywall tape. If you’re replacing a damaged section of ceiling drywall, you’ll also need a new drywall panel.
Drywall tape comes in a thin paper roll or in fiberglass mesh. Pros use paper tape, but fiberglass mesh is more user-friendly.

Small Repairs
Hairline cracks require the application of wet joint compound, smoothed into the crack with a 6-inch taping knife, before sanding and painting the ceiling. Larger cracks require the application of drywall tape to help secure the joint compound in the crack.

Large Repairs

Broken out sections of drywall or large water stains may require replacing a section of drywall with a new panel. This is a major repair, and you’ll need to locate the ceiling joists, cut out the damaged section with a utility knife and then cut a corresponding replacement panel from new drywall.

You’ll need a drywall screwgun to attach the new section to the ceiling joists and then you’ll apply wet joint compound with a 6-inch drywall taping knife, seal the seams with drywall tape, and use a wider, 10-inch taping knife to feather out the wet compound.

Additional Supplies

When repairing ceiling drywall, wear splatter-proof eye protection and climb only on a sturdy ladder or scaffolding. Cover the floor with a non-slip drop cloth before you begin.