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Old 12-17-2012, 12:00 PM   #1
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What Did I Get Myself Into? !


The ceiling blocks began to fall and the plaster walls were cracking underneath years of paint.
My wife and I decided to pull down the ceiling and walls, add updated wiring, a ceiling fan and presto we have a new room.
I should have known better.
We are at the point now ready to drywall the room. We started with the ceiling but found that the joists are uneven and the room is out of square. This caused the drywall screws to pop through the drywall.
Further investigation found that the lowest joist on the east end of the room was not the lowest joist on the west end of the room and that obviously the lowest joist on the east end did not necessarily carry the length of the room as the lowest point.
We have been speaking with people who have told us two different methods to help complete our task of evening out the ceiling joists for drywall installation.
The first being 2x4 across the joists every 16" filling in the gaps with shims.
The second a bit more complicated but makes a bit more sense is that since the room is not square, the walls are not of equal height we should find the lowest points in the joists the length of the room and apply the 2x4 to the sides (sistering) of the joists.
Both make sense to us, and both choices confuse us as to how the final appearance will look.
We are not looking to re-frame the room in hopes of getting it square, we are looking to accomodate a proper ceiling in an old home (over 110 years old) with lost of settling and some slope.
Your thoughts and ideas would be appreciated.
Thank you.

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Old 12-17-2012, 01:02 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by KC_30 View Post
The ceiling blocks began to fall and the plaster walls were cracking underneath years of paint.
My wife and I decided to pull down the ceiling and walls, add updated wiring, a ceiling fan and presto we have a new room.
I should have known better.
We are at the point now ready to drywall the room. We started with the ceiling but found that the joists are uneven and the room is out of square. This caused the drywall screws to pop through the drywall.
Further investigation found that the lowest joist on the east end of the room was not the lowest joist on the west end of the room and that obviously the lowest joist on the east end did not necessarily carry the length of the room as the lowest point.
We have been speaking with people who have told us two different methods to help complete our task of evening out the ceiling joists for drywall installation.
The first being 2x4 across the joists every 16" filling in the gaps with shims.
The second a bit more complicated but makes a bit more sense is that since the room is not square, the walls are not of equal height we should find the lowest points in the joists the length of the room and apply the 2x4 to the sides (sistering) of the joists.
Both make sense to us, and both choices confuse us as to how the final appearance will look.
We are not looking to re-frame the room in hopes of getting it square, we are looking to accomodate a proper ceiling in an old home (over 110 years old) with lost of settling and some slope.
Your thoughts and ideas would be appreciated.
Thank you.
I vote for number 2 Find your lowest point in the room then when you sister your 2x4 make sure they are level with the low one. That will give you a nice level ceiling. Just make sure when you screw your drywall that the screws hit your new 2x4 not the old joist.

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Old 12-17-2012, 01:34 PM   #3
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A simple piece of string can be used to set the 2 X 4's.
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Old 12-17-2012, 09:17 PM   #4
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what size are the current joists ?

i had about the same problem = joists sagging down. they are 2x4's. after pulling down all the plaster & lathe. i sistered 2x6's, with notches cut at each end, so that they sat lower than the 2x4's. it is working very well.
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Old 12-17-2012, 11:29 PM   #5
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Unfortunately the only option you have as long as you want to do it right is to reframe it. Use 2x6's and sister them to all studs and ceiling joist. Making sure they are sqaure and level. Start with ceiling because I can just about guarantee the floor is not level either. Notch out 2x6 so it sits on top plate. Level them and then you can do walls.
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Old 12-18-2012, 07:35 AM   #6
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The last option is not necessary. Either of the first two option presented are viable. The first option takes more of the ceiling height. Don't forget to adjust you electrical boxes to match the new depth of the drywall.
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Old 12-18-2012, 09:23 AM   #7
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Is a 2x2 dropped ceiling out of the question? or is there no head room? or you dont like the idea?

I ran in to this constantly in my first house. Back then studs were rough cut, not milled. They floated the walls somewhat straight with brown coat, then finish coated them.

Sistering is the answer. I would use a rotary laser and push pins. stick push pins into the bottom of your new joists about a foot from each end, and in the middle center the rotating laser on the middle of the pins, and secure the sisters. You want a helper, and a pneumatic or gas operated framing nailer here. " A little more, A little more" Wham. You get the picture.

And yes, you must be lower than the lowest point on the existing joist. Block the ends, and when you screw up your drywall use a support T, or a jack, and put in two screws about 3/4 inch apart at each fastening point. Much better holding power.
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Old 12-18-2012, 09:43 AM   #8
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If you have a lot of remodeling to do I suggest a laser light level. Not that costly anymore and could prove it's worth in future remodels.
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Old 12-18-2012, 10:01 AM   #9
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Thank you everyone for your responses and ideas.
We are thinking that finding the lowest point of the ceiling and working 2x4 sistered along the joists will be the way to go.
Hopefully this evening I'll have help in stringing across the joists every 16" to help us find the low points.
What we do know is that the same joist is not consistently the lowest point throughout the ceiling.
With sag, slope, out of square, out of level and out of my mind this should be challenging.
There will be no need for a laser level regarding future room remodels. It's going to be cut existing where we need to and dry wall over the top with 5/8". I will never make the same mistake twice when it comes to this home and it's structure.
Amazing what we have learned in the process on how so many years ago it was done basically by eye.
I'll try to post pics of the debacle in a couple of days. My goal right now is to have that Christmas tree in the window Friday night.
Thanks again and Happy Holidays
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Old 12-18-2012, 05:36 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by KC_30 View Post
Thank you everyone for your responses and ideas.
We are thinking that finding the lowest point of the ceiling and working 2x4 sistered along the joists will be the way to go.
Hopefully this evening I'll have help in stringing across the joists every 16" to help us find the low points.
What we do know is that the same joist is not consistently the lowest point throughout the ceiling.
With sag, slope, out of square, out of level and out of my mind this should be challenging.
There will be no need for a laser level regarding future room remodels. It's going to be cut existing where we need to and dry wall over the top with 5/8". I will never make the same mistake twice when it comes to this home and it's structure.
Amazing what we have learned in the process on how so many years ago it was done basically by eye.
I'll try to post pics of the debacle in a couple of days. My goal right now is to have that Christmas tree in the window Friday night.
Thanks again and Happy Holidays
OK now you have opened a can of worms. If these joists are sagging and not just out of line you may need to jack up the joists before you sister, and you may need more than 2x4

and I'm not sure what you mean by drywall over the top with 5/8" If you mean what I think you mean then you don't know the meaning of work yet. Because if you are thinking put 5/8 over existing nothing will fit or look right.
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Old 12-18-2012, 08:12 PM   #11
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@ Toolseeker,
Nothing in this home will ever look right. The best we can hope for is a cleaner more uniform appearance.
The joists besides sagging are rough cut lumber over 100 years old. The sizes are not uniform - some are bigger than others. What we hope to do is to balance out the math so that the slope of the room, the uneven & unsquare walls match the ceiling.
We are not going to jack the joists unless it is absolutely necessary to complete the task. Our thoughts are raising areas of the joists can only create more problems in the room above and possibly with the room we are working on.

One important aspect I left out was that we removed the last section of chimney from this room during demo. The sections above through the roof and below to the first floor had already been removed previously.
This, I believe, adds to the dimension problems we are experiencing.
My apologies for this significant oversite.

Today was a very good day. Stopped at Harbor Freight for some utility blades to cut the insulation and ended up walking out with a 6' level and a 22" laser level that were on sale for $9.00 a piece.
These will help my unskilled and unconfident approach to evening out the ceiling joists.

Ran string across the room at 16" intervals and sat there scratching my bald head at how I was going to accomplish this task.

Measure twice, measure again and before I cut measure one more time.
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Old 12-20-2012, 11:12 AM   #12
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@ Toolseeker,

Today was a very good day. Stopped at Harbor Freight for some utility blades to cut the insulation and ended up walking out with a 6' level and a 22" laser level that were on sale for $9.00 a piece.
These will help my unskilled and unconfident approach to evening out the ceiling joists.
Do yourself a favor, take the 6' level and draw a level line on a wall (preferably one you are going to paint), then, flip the level end for end (not top for bottom) and check that line to see if it is still level. If not, make a note of the difference at the end of the level. half of that is the distance the level os out of wack by.

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