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What is a Stress Crack?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated May 17, 2024
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A stress crack is a crack in a surface caused from stress or the settling of building materials. In a wall, it is often the result of the building's foundation settling. In a vehicle's windshield, a crack can be the result of too much chassis twisting while negotiating a hilly or bumpy surface or when applying too much power to the tires in high-performance applications. Most stress cracks can be easily repaired, but some are a sign of a much more serious problem yet to come.

In brick buildings or cement block foundations, the sight of a crack caused by stress is not uncommon. Through years of settling, the building will begin to flex and twist, often showing up as a crack in the mortar. In some severe settling, actual bricks will crack in half as the settling advances and becomes more severe. This most often happens around and over windows and doors.

In some poured cement walls and barriers, large cracks can be found as the footings settle and move. These seldom penetrate all the way through the concrete wall, but they can cause the wall to break apart and fall in severe cases. The use of reinforcing wire and steel rod often help the concrete to resist succumbing to a stress crack.

The surface of the planet is in constant shift, and settling and motion in the Earth's crust often causes man-made objects to crack as time passes by. This is perhaps most noticeable in the drywall of an average home. Drywall or plaster board is a soft material that is prone to cracking and breaking under stress. As the wall settles, the drywall begins to settle with it, and the wallboard cannot flex more than a very small amount before it begins to crack. In some extreme situations, a single sheet of drywall may contain two or more crack locations.

A stress crack can be repaired very easily using spackling compound or cement, but it will almost always crack again as the settling continues. Most buildings continue to shift and settle for the duration of their lives, so the cracks will reappear at the stressed locations. As very few buildings settle all at once, an area that has not yet settled will likely crack the repaired section of wall once it eventually does.

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Discussion Comments
By seag47 — On Jun 14, 2012

The old tires on my brother's vehicle have surface cracks on them. He told me that it's something called “ozone cracking” that happens when rubber is exposed to the elements and direct sunlight for a long time.

He said that newer tires are treated with something to keep this from happening. However, his old car has the old kind of tires, and it sits out in the sun instead of inside a shed.

It doesn't help that he rarely drives it. If he would have given the tires a regular workout, they probably could have held up better to stress and wouldn't have cracked as soon as they did.

By StarJo — On Jun 14, 2012

@lighth0se33 – I think it depends on how large the crack is. I have a pretty big crack in my wall, and I read some very mixed stress crack tape reviews online.

Some people sung its praises, saying how easy it was to use and how well it covered things up. Others said that it didn't blend in at all and was very conspicuous. There's no way to know who to believe.

I would imagine that it would be best used on small cracks, and since that's what you have, it might work for you. Even though I have a fairly large crack, I am going to try it before doing something more extreme. If it doesn't work, then I'm only out $20.

By lighth0se33 — On Jun 13, 2012

I've heard of something called stress crack tape that you can press across cracks in your walls. I have a small crack in my dining room wall, and this sounds like the simplest solution.

I have never dealt with using plaster or any other filler to seal a crack, and I'm scared to attempt it. If this tape works, it will be perfect for me, since all I have to do is press it down.

Has anyone here ever used stress crack tape? How big was the crack you put it on, and did the tape hold up over time?

By Oceana — On Jun 12, 2012

I can tell that someone attempted stress crack repair in the bathroom of the home I am renting. They put plaster or something into the crack to seal it up, but I can still see it, even though they painted over it.

Maybe it's just because the spackled area is slightly raised. They really should have sanded it down even with the rest of the wall before painting it.

It's a bit troubling, because the crack goes halfway up the wall to the ceiling. This makes me wonder if it will get worse as time goes by. Well, at least it will be the landlord's problem instead of mine.

By anon134530 — On Dec 15, 2010

the walls are cracking in every room and plus the ceilings. does this mean that the house is in danger of collapsing?

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