Devious Crack From Out of Nowhere

Digital Image

Digital Image

A young couple in the Montrose neighborhood of Houston has spent a lot of money and an inordinate amount of time on a meticulous rehab of an older bungalow. It’s one of the nicest remodel jobs I’ve seen. They are not completely done, but are ready for wallpaper in the dining room, which is what I set out to be doing today and tomorrow.

The homeowners moved furniture away from the walls; walls were perfect and everything was fine. I primed the walls; walls were perfect and everything was fine.

But next, as I went around the room plotting the pattern layout and strip placement, I noticed this 5′ long horizontal crack in the Sheetrock. It had appeared out of nowhere in the last hour! I have never seen anything like this!

Now, I could have gone ahead and hung the wallpaper. On this wall, there will be a wide cabinet that hide all but 2″ of the crack. Or, I could have scraped the area until it was flat, then hung the paper, collected my check, and not worried about how it would look in a week, when the wall shifted and the crack opened up again, causing a ridge under the thin British wallpaper or even tearing the wallpaper. Or, I could have taped-and-floated the crack, and gambled that if the wall shifted later that the tape would prevent the crack from showing.

BUT – I wanted this couple to have a better and more secure job than that.

I know that things like this don’t happen out of the blue, and that there is a reason for the crack to have shown up. It could be moisture from my water-based wallpaper primer (pretty unlikely), a bad tape-and-float job (also pretty unlikely), or, movement within the wall (very likely). This movement could be an indicator of a more serious foundation / stability issue due to the “gumbo” soil we have here in Houston, the heavy recent rains (it was raining today), or something else.

The fact that it popped up within one hour is very perplexing. It remains to be determined, and they have a drywall guy coming tomorrow to investigate. Worst case scenario – he will have to cut into the wall and replace Sheetrock, and possibly even framing studs.

All this is very inconvenient and expensive for the homeowners and for me. Their long-anticipated finished dining room will not be realized this week, repairs could be interruptive and take a long time, and I’ll have to fiddle with my booked-into-August work schedule to see when I can come back and finish their room.

Yes, I could have just put the paper up, and in most likelihood, no one would have spotted the small horizontal ridge in the wallpaper behind the china cabinet. But this couple is so sweet, and their house is so perfectly done, and they are so eager to finally have the renovation finished, plus the very real possibility of some structural problem with the home, that I couldn’t consider hanging their wallpaper on a less-than-stable surface.

I’ll keep you posted, on what the builder’s workman has to say.

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