Expansion Beads in Residential Construction

Expansion beads absorb the movement with the rubber center so the seams don't crack or ridge.

By Myron Ferguson

I hear a lot of talk about drywall callbacks, but I believe most are preventable. The major problem with drywall work that leads to callbacks is poor quality workmanship. Poor quality work refers to more than just subpar hanging or taping - it includes not doing the necessary work. The example I will use here is the use of expansion beads. 

Many times over the years, I have been in someone’s house either visiting or giving an estimate for work and notice a bump in a large ceiling or on the walls going up to the second story. The homeowner may even point these out to me while stating the drywaller didn’t do a good job. These ceilings and walls are often large, over 20 feet long. An expansion joint is recommended for ceilings and walls every 30 feet, but I have found that there can be problems on shorter spans if there is excessive structural expansion and contraction.

In reference to the movement of wood framing with attached drywall, Gypsum Associations states that “[w]hen framing spans approach or exceed 15 feet, the differences between the expansion coefficients of these two materials become significant. Typically, the result can be ceiling cracks at gypsum board joints located near the centerline of the span.” In my experience, expansion is also a concern anywhere there are transitions in the framing, such as stairways or gable end walls.

Hideaway Expansion Bead was used to eliminate cracking in residential construction.Expansion beads work because they have a rubber center that moves as materials move. The movement is absorbed by the rubber center so the seams don’t crack or ridge. Although they work to prevent expansion problems, expansion beads are rarely used in residential construction. The primary concern with expansion beads in the residential setting is the visible line they create across a section of ceiling, on a stairway wall or up a wall. However, the line created by expansion bead is a clean straight line that looks much nicer than a ridged or cracked seam.

Recently I installed Hideaway Expansion bead on a residential job. The job required installing drywall on a section of an old barn. The building’s foundation was solid, but since it was barn I assumed there would be more structural movement than a house. The owner wanted to minimize potential problems such as popped screws and cracked seams. The barn was timber framed so most wall sections were 12 feet or shorter, but the ceiling was 36 feet long. Since the ceiling was such a large area, this is where problems were most likely to occur. I installed expansion bead in the ceiling to eliminate the chance of any movement related cracks or callbacks.

To prevent damage from structural movement, Hideaway Expansion Bead was installed on the ceiling of a residential building that was subject to movement.