Cracks in Plaster Due to Very Cold Temperatures


I think this theory is incorrect. My GF is selling her mother's house and is reluctant to shut down the heat and drain the pipes over the winter. (We live in the Northeast.) She was told by an "expert" that the plaster will crack. I regularly shut my heat off for the winter at my summer home, and have never had cracks in my plaster ceilings. I'd like your comments. Obviously sudden temperature changes might do it, but not one slow drop. Thanks in advance for help. Frank
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I do it every year and am ok, If she isnt living there draining pipes anyway is smart since heating systems do break, if its a boiler with radiators depending on how pipes are run, it may ruin pipes by turning down the system if boiler pipes are are close to exterior walls and freeze on the coldest nights.
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The way the post was worded I can understand why many of you focused on the issue of selling the house, but it is unlikely for a number of reasons that the house will be put on the market before spring. I guess there are mixed opinions about the likelihood of cracks developing from lack of heat. I had hoped for a consensus discounting the idea as I favor shutting the heat off and draining the hydronic system. Without this, there clearly needs to be a remote alarm system if the inside temp falls below freezing, but I have seen those fail to alert the monitor fast enough when temps are falling rapidly. A neighbor of mine who goes to Florida had two floods- now he drains everything and shuts off the boiler. Thanks all for your comments! Frank
On Sat, 31 Oct 2009 21:29:11 -0700 (PDT), ransley

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Some real estate sales folks are reluctant to show a cold house for sale in the winter. It always makes a potential buyer suspicious that a major problem exists in the heating system. The experts prefer a cool, 55-60F house for a walk through. The client will stay longer and take more interest in sizing up the property. IMO the plaster cracking notion is bogus and the statement was made with some other intent than being helpful; or perhaps just hearsay from some poor soul who happened to live through such an experience in a very badly built house.
Joe
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frank1492 wrote:

If she is interested in selling the house she needs to keep the heat on to at least have the place warm for showing. Prospective buyers will quickly turn their backs if they are shown it in deep freeze mode where people will have chattering teeth and the florescent lights are blinking like a horror show.
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The freezing shouldn't hurt the plaster per say BUT the moisture isn't good for alot of things including the plaster , especially if it is already bad..In the NE winters tend to be cold and WET....Nothing smells worse than an cold damp musty house...Not good for the wallpaper or paint either ....
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I agree - moisture and condensation would be more of a concern for me in this situation than the risk of cracks.

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Mark wrote:

Can cracks be caused by the house structure expanding due to moisture in an unheated house?
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yeah not just moisture in plaster but structure too.
ever hear a old home make noise? creaking sound when heat is raised a lot?
a home for sale needs heat, avalkiable water etc
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-snip-

Best plan of all if you can do it. Think post-grad or mature college kid-- or a 20something that wants t leave momma's house.
Jim
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