The primary goal of this study was to examine the cracking behavior of the face plate of a CFRD over its life cycle. Analyses of the construction stage, impounding, long-term deformation and earthquake loading were conducted in sequential phases using a 2-D plane-strain model with the appropriate nonlinear constitutive relationships for the dam constituents. The state of stress and the cracking behavior of the plate were found to be substantially different in the short and long term. Earthquake loading appears to be a critical load condition for the face plate; cracking increased significantly after ground shaking. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.