I have lived in my home for over 20 years, the house is about 30 years old. I have just started noticing that there are gaps above and below my crown molding in one room, and gaps around the baseboard and window in another room. Is my house settling and what can I do?
Good news and good news. I don’t think your house is settling. The tell tale signs of settling would be cracks in the drywall or plaster near windows and doors, along with doors becoming hard to open and close. The other good news is that you can likely take care of this yourself.
When crown molding, baseboard, and casing for doors and windows are installed, they are caulked (except for stained items). The caulking hides any gaps and creates a nice, finished look. After years of expansion and contraction due to temperatures, the caulking can, and usually will, separate, showing the gap it was covering. Recaulking the molding or door is relatively simple. A caulk gun will cost about $5 and a tube of caulk between $5 and $10, depending upon the type you purchase. You’ll also want to have paper towels or a rag available.
There are different types of caulk. A latex caulk will be the least expensive and will work well, but it turns hard after a while (not a particular problem by itself, only when trying to remove it). Also, a latex caulk is not flexible, so when the weather has things expanding and contracting, the caulk may split, causing you to do the job again in a few years. A solution for this would be to use a silicone caulk. This caulk will remain flexible forever. If your baseboard or area you’re caulking is going to be painted over or touched up (anything that is not white), be sure to get a caulk that is paintable, as not all caulks are.
There is a little bit of an art to caulking, but there is also a little trick. The trick is to apply only small amounts of caulk at a time. Nothing will make more of a mess that having too much caulk in the area you’re trying to caulk. So, when you have the new tube of caulk, only cut a small amount of the tip off. If you find that no caulk will come out of the gun, make the cut slightly larger, but only a little at a time. When you have it right, begin by placing the tip along the top of the baseboard and begin pulling the trigger slowly. As the caulk begins to come out, move the caulk gun along the area. Once you get the hang of it, you can move the caulk gun back and forth, working the caulk into the gap. Once you have the caulk down, here is the other trick. Use your finger to smooth out the caulk. Just wipe it along the area and you’ll quickly see how much of a difference this makes. However, this is also where the paper towels come in. You’ll have to wipe your finger off of all the caulk frequently.
Once you have the area caulked, depending upon the color of the molding or wall, you may want to do some touch up painting over the caulk. Another trick, if you aren’t a very good painter: use a small artist brush and take your time.
Good going, now start on the other rooms!