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Speckert 12-24-2008 09:37 PM

Ceiling Crack Repair
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After the holidays looking at repairing this crack in the ceiling. As with anything this looks like it can get pretty involved if done correctly. Want to do it right.

Have owned the house for 8 years and am looking at staying in it for another 15 - 20. See pics below.

How do I repair the crack correctly? Obviously the previous owner tried to hide by smearing something over it and then painting over that. It appears to have cracked along the tape line. I know it will probably need to be repaired down the road again, but I would like to maximize the time between repairs. I guess this was caused by settling of the house over the last 28 years. I am also assuming that the crack probably runs under the piece of stained ceder with the spindles mounted on a half wall. Ever since we bought the house we have wanted to remove the spindles to open things up but were not sure if this was possible. How would I tell if this is load bearing? Don't think it would be, (spindles holding up ceiling?)but want to make sure before yanking it out.

The ceiling is in good shape other than this crack. Do notice some waves in it. Since the whole ceiling will be refinished and the drywall was put up with nails, should I go ahead leave the nails and put screws in between them?

And finally, refinishing the ceiling after the repairs are done. We were never a big fan of the current texture. Same texture used in all the houses in the neighborhood. It is a little dated and I realize after the repair is done, the WHOLE ceiling will need to be refinished. What is the best way to go about this? Does this stuff need to be scraped,skim coated and finished with the new texture we decide on? Or can we just skim coat over the current texture and then finish with the new texture? I am thinking of doing a knock down / orange peel texture which would match the walls and would be more friendly to future repairs.

Termite 12-24-2008 11:20 PM

Ooh, that texture is baaad! That sure makes the repair a little more involved.

Those spindles aren't structural. No chance. But they might be keeping the problem from perpetuating. I would be curious of how the ceiling is framed...Whether there's an upset beam or not. I've come across homes with the same situation where previous owners removed a header that supports the ceiling joists' splice, or there was never a header installed at all. That always leads to a crack like you're dealing with.
A trip up into the attic with a camera would probably help us determine what's causing this crack. I'd be willing to bet that you've got some unsupported ceiling joists, but that's fixable.

If you intend to refinish the ceiling, you'd need to scrape the existing texture off. Makes a mess, but not too tough to do usually. At that time, you'd open the crack up a little with a knife to allow you to get some mud in it. Using mesh tape and joint compound, you'd tape the crack. After the first coat to set the tape dries, a couple subsequent coats with some sanding would allow you to feather the joint out at least 12" wide to hide the thickness of the tape.

Knockdown isn't too tough. Just practice on a sheet of rock or scrap of plywood first. If you screw up, you can always scrape it off while still wet.

bjbatlanta 12-24-2008 11:37 PM

In order to repair the crack correctly, you will need to scrape/sand the area as smooth as possible, remove existing tape (if there is any), re-tape, and a couple coats of mud over the tape. As far as the rest of the ceiling, I would scrape and sand as best I could, skim with a couple coats of mud, and re-texture or just slick it out and paint. You might check into renting a Porter Cable power sander with a shop vac. Get some 80 grit pads and grind it down. Use the scraper first to knock down the highest points. It will take a while and it won't be fun, but it's possible to do. And I'd say that wall is most likely not load bearing. If your question about "leaving the existing nails" means you were considering pulling them out, don't. Just add screws as needed to pull any loose rock tight to the joists. Push up on the sagged area and see if it will in fact pull up. One person will need to hold the board up tight while another runs in the screws or they'll just pull through. If you use mesh tape as KC suggested, be sure to use setting type compound at least for the first coat.

Marvin Gardens 12-25-2008 10:34 AM

There is fixing it and there is hiding it. Consider all options.

You could do a nice frame in there by running some nice wood over the crack and adding some design features to it to blend in with the rest of the house.

If you clean off the whole ceiling by sanding and doing a skim coat of mud, then texturing and painting you will have to remove all the furniture, tape off all the walls, cover the floor and close off the rest of the house to keep dust to a minimum. Even then dust will get in the ventilation system and all over the rest of the house especially in the winter.

This will involve a lot of time and energy and put a lot of stress on any relationships you have.

The reason I say this is that I get called in on a lot of DIY remodels where they started out to fix a small deformity and end up with a monster repair. They get in way over their head and finally give up. What you propose is a huge under taking and counting the cost before you start is really important.

Just patching the crack is hard enough with that texture pattern and will be very difficult to reproduce unless you are very good at mudding.

So consider all your options first. As Inspector Callihan so wisely put it, "a mans got to know his limitations".

Frederick j Ward 12-26-2008 06:42 PM

Hi everyone,
after many years in drywall trades,this is a very common poblem. hair line or open cracks are some times tough to
fix between open cut the crack open, secure it with srews or nails, paper tape and finish. with the finish
i would skim coat the ceiling, MAKE SURE YOU PRIME ! before you paint. you can texture or smooth finish the ceiling
it is mesy but you will be happy with finish. that old texture must go!!!

Speckert 12-26-2008 11:49 PM

Pics of attic
I will get some pics of the attic this week. From what I have seen of this house (other shortcuts) I would bet what you have said is correct. If you would be kind enough to let me know what needs to be fixed, I am up for it. I am not afraid to work. I know this is a lot of work to scrape the ceiling but I think the results will be worth it. I already have one bedroom which had damage to the ceiling (person fell through it) and it does not match the rest of the ceilings in the house.

I am assuming I will need to move some of the blown in insulation around to expose the joists and then snap the pics? You have been kind enough to answer my questions on other posts (floors and steps) and I am grateful for all the help.

Marvin Gardens,
Even though I want to repair the ceiling, I love the idea of framing it out also. I am very new at this though and wondered what you could suggest to do. I would definately eliminate the spindles and use red oak in the project to match the red oak floors and trim that is going in. I can provide more pics if needed.

Thanks guys can't wait to hear back from ya.

Jim Speckert

Termite 12-27-2008 12:46 AM

Yes, move some of the insulation to expose whatever's going on right above that crack. A good overall view of the span over the crack would help too. If in fact there's an unsupported splice in the ceiling joists over the crack, you'll probably need to support the splice with a header, provided there's some bearing walls to sit the ends on (the attic pictures may help determine that). The header could be framed beneath the splice, which would expose it in the room below. Another option involves temporarily supporting the ceiling and cutting the ceiling joists to facilitate installation of an upset beam with its bottom oriented flush with the top of the sheetrock. Last, there might be a way to install a header just above the ceiling joists in the attic and tie the ceiling joists to the header somehow. There might be a way to stiffen the splice with scabbed pieces of lumber if there is one, although that wouldn't be an ideal fix.

If you downset the header...Assuming you need a header and have the walls that will support it...It could be sheetrocked or trimmed in oak as you suggested.

***saying the following with my fingers crossed behind my back***
Even if the walls at the ends of the crack aren't bearing walls, the load on the ceiling should be pretty insignificant. Therefore, it may be possible to add a header and bear it in those walls to let the floor system pick up some of the sag from the ceiling. I seriously doubt there would be any major consequences of doing so. The header would basically allow you to pick up some of the deflection/sag of the ceiling.

Anyway, we may suggest that you consult a structural engineer, depending on whats going on in the attic. The pics should tell, just wanted to prepare you! How long is the crack, wall to wall (for determining header span)? What is the front to back distance that the ceiling joists are spanning?

Marvin Gardens 12-29-2008 10:03 AM


Originally Posted by Speckert (Post 202883)
Marvin Gardens,
Even though I want to repair the ceiling, I love the idea of framing it out also. I am very new at this though and wondered what you could suggest to do. I would definately eliminate the spindles and use red oak in the project to match the red oak floors and trim that is going in. I can provide more pics if needed.

I suggest looking at magazines, other homes, or just brainstorm with family and friends.

Since you are not experienced at this it's really important to look hard at whether or not you want to redo the whole ceiling.

You could get a nice beam up there and frim it out. It would look real nice and cover the crack. Total time would be way less than redoing the whole ceiling. Cost would also be less.

The one drawback is that you still have that weird texture.

Trimming it out is a relatively minor project while redoing the whole ceiling is a major project.

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