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Old 03-12-2013, 05:00 PM   #1
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Framing a drywall drop ceiling w/ 2x4's...


We've lived in our current house for just over 3yrs. It's 106yr old and 2 of the 3 upstairs bedroom celings (2-story house) are in bad shape. The ceiling in our bedroom has been dropped and covered w/ the square acoustic tiles - the kind you staple onto strapping. Our 2 daughter's rooms though both need repair. The one in question is plaster & lathe and has numerous cracks. I got up on a ladder and grabbed onto a piece that was craking, it resulted in a large 1'x3' piece coming off in my hand. There are several other spots like this in the room. When we first moved in I got up in the attic to make sure it was sealed up as there were a lot of dead bees by windows, I think my weight (230lbs) didn't help the ceilings as my daughters shouted up DAD WE CAN SEE THE CEILING MOVING! Regardless, I need to make some repairs. My initial thought was dropping the ceiling slightly and reframing with 2x4's, but after much reading online it appears 2x4's are not a great choice to carry a drywall ceiling load, at least not at very large distances.

The first pic below shows the shape of my daughter's room. It's not huge but even I know I wouldn't want to try and span 12' with a 2x4. The 2nd pic shows my thoughts on framing it. The regular width red lines represent single 2x4's, so I would create a level line of 2x4's along the outside walls, then the thicker red line shows where I was thinking of sandwiching a couple 2x4's together to span (just shy of) 11'. Then the regular width red lines running from the outside walls to the sandwiched 2x4's would be the joists at 24"OC.

I already purchased supplies with this design in mind. (2x4's, joist hangers, glue, screws & nails, etc...) But now I'm questioning myself on whether or not this would be safe. We already have several sheets of 1/2" drywall sitting in our dining room so that's what I'd be using.

So what are your thoughts? Do you think the plan is safe the way it is? Do the sandwiched 2x4's give the needed strength the 2x4's attaching to it? Would a 2x6 at the center be better than 2 sandwiched 2x4s? Do you think I'd need to do 16"OC to use 2x4's? Do I need 2x6's to pull off 24"OC? Any helpful comments or suggestions are appreciated, thanks.




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Old 03-12-2013, 05:32 PM   #2
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Framing a drywall drop ceiling w/ 2x4's...


I think you are pushing the upper ends of what the 2 x 4's can do. I just did something similar and went with 2 x 6's, which I am very glad I did b/c I also ran 5.5" cans in for recessed lighting. I would go with 2 x 6's, will make a big difference but some of the span experts will pop in shortly to give their expert suggestion.

I just tore out 20 tons of plaster from my house so I know what you are up against. That stuff is painful to work with...Good luck

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Old 03-12-2013, 06:32 PM   #3
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Framing a drywall drop ceiling w/ 2x4's...


Get rid of the plaster and use 1/2" light weight drywall.
Why wait for the rest of the plaster to fall down?
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Old 03-13-2013, 01:45 AM   #4
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Framing a drywall drop ceiling w/ 2x4's...


Thanks Thomas.

Good point Joe. I just noticed tonight that it looks like a 4x8 sheet of drywall was already installed in one of the corners of the room. It is solid unlike the rest of the remaining plaster, so the lightweight 1/2" might be a good option. Now here's another Q...I already have enough sheets of regular weight 1/2" at our house that I could use. We don't have vehicles that allow us to transport drywall - we had 30 sheets delivered via Lowes about a yr ago. So my question is, would you say going through the trouble and high added cost of getting 5 or 6 sheets delivered be worth the weight savings? Since just finding out about lightweight drywall, I've read that it's somewhere in the range of 15-30% lighter than standard. I'm kind of leaning towards just using the 1/2" that we already have. Thoughts?
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Old 03-13-2013, 08:18 AM   #5
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Framing a drywall drop ceiling w/ 2x4's...


I would encourage you to remove the plaster as well if possible, but be prepared for a huge mess and a very difficult task to contain that mess. Like I said I removed tons of plaster and I am very glad it is just out of the house at this point. Then again I am not living in the house. Make sure that you have a decent mask for the task and be prepared for whatever is above. My whole ceiling had blown in insulation, which luckily did not contain any asbestos but was very itchy. When you were up in the attic what size were your joists if you could see them? Typically in old houses like your they would have used a true 2 x 6's that are 24 inch OC (approx.), which is adequate to handle your original drywall. Also, not sure how far you are from a home depot but they rent trucks for $19.99 for 75 minutes, which is not too much of an added cost if you wanted to go with the lightweight to prevent any type of sag. Depending on original ceiling joist size I don't see why you would not be able to use what you have though. I also take it you are not planning on adding any living space or storage space in the attic? If so now is the time to add a few extra joists in there. Whatever you do take some pics and post in the project section. Again, good luck. If you decide to take out the plaster plan for more time than you expect and have a plan to haul away the trash. Research online the best ways to remove plaster, and I would recommend cleaning as you go. Just for the small room above you are looking at thousands of pounds of plaster, not exaggerating. It is important to not get overwhelmed with the trash in space that you are living in. Just be prepared for that and you will be fine! Good luck and keep us updated.
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Old 03-13-2013, 10:36 AM   #6
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Framing a drywall drop ceiling w/ 2x4's...


I'm not sure what size the joists are in the attic. We have insulation up past the joists, so when I was up there walking around I had a sheet of plywood cut in half long ways and I used them to lay across the beams to walk. I think your logic makes sense though, I would imagine even normal drywall is significantly lighter than plaster so if I can get the plaster down and the drywall up in its place it should be a lighter load for the joists. We definitely don't plan on using the attic space for storage or anything else. If I have my way I won't be up there again. Looks like the next order of business is covering up my daughter's bed and attempting to carefully remove the plaster. I have the cheap white dome masks, you think that's good enough for such a small project?
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Old 03-13-2013, 10:57 AM   #7
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Framing a drywall drop ceiling w/ 2x4's...


My fear is that you may be underestimating how dirty demoing plaster is. It is not like drywall. I would remove anything from the room that you can to give yourself working space and to keep stuff clean. Take whatever you can out (everything) and then cover the floor with some thick plastic or canvas. At least remove any permeable items such as sheets, mattresses, box springs, etc. I had some "hanging" chunks for 50 pounds or so of plaster come down and those can do some considerable damage to furniture so take a little time on the front end to make it easier on yourself and reduce any damage to your stuff. I found it much easier (albeit a little slower) to knock off the plaster first and shovel into 5 gallon buckets to then dump into heavy bags (I had a dumpster). I used a hammer and turned it sideways and just pounded on the plaster to break the key. If you just knock it all down at once it is very difficult to separate the plaster and lath, especially if you are putting onto trash bags. You will also have to replace the blown in (if it is blown in) which stinks, but what can you do. Like I mentioned earlier now is a great time to add a ceiling fan or recessed lighting, so be sure to think about that as well. Plan it all out, get some help with the shoveling and removal of plaster and keep clean. Wear long sleeves, gloves, masks, and goggles!
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Old 03-13-2013, 04:55 PM   #8
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Framing a drywall drop ceiling w/ 2x4's...


I suppose you're right. I am probably underestimating the PITA factor. I think the part of the ceiling that has already been repaired w/ drywall had the lathe boards still in place. If I can, I'm just going to remove the plaster and leave the lathe in place, which would keep the insulation above in place. I have fairly short drywall screws now so I think if I got some slightly longer ones to account for getting through the lathe then that plan would work.

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