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idsp 07-19-2008 07:41 PM

Old ceiling replacement
I have a rather old one story house (1926) that I've lived in for about 2 years. Apparently the previous owners had a leaky roof which leaked into
the bedroom ceiling and caused the ceiling to crack. The crack progressively got worse and eventually sagged and then one day it came crashing down.

Upon closer inspection of the ceiling it apparently looks like there are these thin panels of wood nailed into the 2x4 support beams. These panels are spaced about a 1/4 inch apart and look like the image below. You can see they are securely nailed into the underlying 2x4s. You can see little rocks and debris from the crawlspace attic above stuck in between these panels.

Anyway, these panels are whats holding up the ceiling. But its not doing so with nails or screws. Apparently the ceiling was like stuffed in between the gaps in theses panels and thats how the ceiling was hung. I an not sure what the ceiling material is they used but it doesn't appear to be be modern sheetrock or drywall. You can see how it used to be stuffed in here.

Anyway, I want to replace the whole ceiling. There is no way I want to cut out a section and just throw up some sheetrock on just that section. At this point I think its best if I replace the whole ceiling in that room. (I could use this opportunity to add additional wiring and stuff too). I don't particular care for the popcorn look and would like to get rid of that too.

In any case, I have no idea about how to go about this project. I think I should rip down the ceiling, rip out all those panels and expose the 2x4 (which are spaced about 14 inches apart from what I can tell). The problem is I am not sure in how good of a condition those 2x4s are. Look at all those nails running down the length of each one. Should I brace these ceiling beams with additional 2x4 or something and then hang sheetrock to that? Is there a book, video, forum or thread that anyone recommends for helping me do this type of work.

I've replaced cracks in drywall but never a ceiling. I would like to save some money and do it myself which is why I am now begging for any assistance or advice anyone can offer.

Some of the problems I face are that huge fan in the middle of the room and the fire alarm in the ceiling as well. How do I hang sheetrock to overcome obstacles such as this? What is the best thickness and kind of sheetrock to use? Is there a particular direction I should hang the sheetrock in? Is there a particular pattern I should follow for placing the sheetrock on the ceiling? The room is about 11.5 ft x 11.5 ft

Also, my wife thinks their might be asbestos in the ceiling. I assured her I don't think so. Aside from getting an asbestos test kit from HomeDepot is there any other way to tell. Isn't asbestos suppose to be itchy? It doesn't itch me when I touch the ceiling parts.

Thanks and have a great day.


PS. hi-res images also available if that helps.

marvinjansen 07-19-2008 10:02 PM

I am a DIYer so hopefully a contractor will pipe in also.
I'd remove the ceiling fan and smoke detector. Be sure to turn off the circuit breaker before taking down the fan. Buy a voltage indicator and learn how to use it. Like a big pen, green one from HD is best, about $20.
The messy part is pulling down the old ceiling, protect your floor. The old is called "lath and plaster" I think. Your old 2 x 4 s should be good for the 1/2" sheetrock that most use for ceilings. Is your leak fixed? I have a friend that would put up plywood and 12" square tiles that staple up, he hates sheetrock ceilings after one fell on him.
Note: If a water leak caused yours to fall, check with you insurance company to see if it is covered. Mine wasn't since it just fell down due to old age and not a leak.
It's a big job, but you can do it or at least some of it in my opinion.

Renovator,LLC 07-19-2008 10:08 PM

You have (had) a plaster and lath ceiling (and walls, probably). The lath (wooden strips) are nailed to the joists (or wall studs) and then is coated by several coats of plaster. As the plaster oozes between the lath slats, it spreads slightly, hardens, and forms 'keys'. These keys are what holds the plaster in place.
Your repair options are several: learn to apply plaster (requires several coats of plaster of varying degrees of coarseness) and repair only what came down; square up the broken plaster and hang drywall on the lath, then use plaster or setting compound to join the two products, or just rip down the plaster and lath and replace with drywall.
Drywall should be applied perpendicular to the joists. Remove the fan (obviously) and smoke detector (is it hardwired?) and hang your drywall. Mark and cutout the boxes for lights, fans, or smoke detectors by either carefully measuring/marking/cutting the drywall, or mark where they are and use a Rotozip type tool, cutting on the outside of the box with the drywall in place.
For ceilings, you can use either 1/2" or 5/8" drywall. Most prefer 5/8 on ceilings as it will not sag as much over time, and if your joists were >16" on center, that's exactly what you should use.
However, given you have ~14" oc joists, you could probably get away with 1/2".
As for asbestos, you would need to have it tested to be sure. Tearing down the plaster and lath is dirty, nasty, dusty work, creating huge volumes of dust. Asbestos is most dangerous when airborne, so you might want to have it tested just for the warm-fuzzy feeling you'll get knowing you are only inhaling dirt and dust.

Nestor_Kelebay 07-19-2008 10:22 PM

What you've got there is a normal wood lath plaster ceiling. The wood "panels" are called "wood lath". They would make lime putty by mixing water with hot lime and allowing that to slake overnight. Then they would mix that lime putty with Plaster of Paris and sand and water to make the "base coat plaster".

They would trowel that base coat plaster onto that wood lath with sufficient force that the plaster would ooze into the gaps between the wood lath.

If your case, they textured directly over the base coat plaster. On your walls, you will find the same wood lath nailed to the studs, and the same base coat plaster. However, as your walls were probably intended to be painted, they would have applied a "gauging coat" over the base coat on the walls. The gauging coat would be made from lime putty the same way as base coat plaster, but they wouldn't add any sand at all. So, your walls will have a thin smooth coat of white plaster over them. Then, typically, they would have painted or wallpapered the walls. Since the only paints available in the 1920's were oil based paints, they'd have to wait about 2 months after plastering before they could paint the walls.

You have two choices:

1. You can remove the basecoat plaster from between the lath to enlarge that hole in your ceiling plaster to a rectangle no wider than 4 feet wide. Then, simply measure approximately how thick that ceiling plaster is and put up a 1/4", 3/8" or 1/2" patch of drywall to fit. Then, scrape the texture off around that drywall patch, Fill the joint between the drywall and the old base coat plaster with a modern base coat plaster, put fiberglass mesh drywall joint tape over that filled joint and trowel over the fiberglass drywall joint tape with modern drywall joint compound. The problem with doing it this way is that you'll have to show some pictures to some of the drywall and plaster contractors in your area to find out how they created that stipple texture on your ceiling, and learn how to duplicate it as closely as possible with modern materials.

2. You can take the rest of the plaster down from that ceiling, and just put up drywall over your wood lath.

If it wuz me, I would leave the lath up and screw your drywall to it. If your ceiling 2X4's are about 14 inches apart, then you'd have to cut your drywall into smaller pieces to fit that spacing. Modern drywall typically comes in a 4 foot by 8 foot sheet so that it can be nailed or screwed to studs on 16 inch spacing. Drywall also comes in longer sheets (up to 12 feet long if I recall correctly) that may be better suited for this kind of ceiling because you'd have less cutting and less wastage.

Alternatively, there's certainly nothing wrong with taking the lath down and attaching your drywall to your ceiling 2X4's.

Re: what to do with the ceiling fan.
Put your drywall up so that you can't put up another sheet without covering the electrical box that ceiling fan is mounted on. Now, measure from the edges of the sheets of drywall already on the ceiling to the center of the electrical box. Transfer those same dimensions to the sheet you'll be putting up next so that you know where the center of the electrical box is. Drill a hole through the drywall at that spot. Put that sheet up and screw it to the lath just around it's perimeter. Now, use a drywall saw (which looks like a knife with a serated blade to cut from the hole in the drywall to one side of the electrical box, and then carefully around the electrical box. Now put in the rest of your drywall screws. (PS: The few times I put up drywall, I find that a coping saw blade works well for cutting around electrical boxes. They're certainly sharp enough to do the job well, and you can buy 20 of them for about $5. You just have to break the ends off them and hold them with a pair of small "needle nose style" locking pliers.)

idsp 07-19-2008 11:54 PM

Thanks for all the advice. I have decided to replace the entire ceiling rather than just do a patch job or re-plaster.

Also, I just realized that my 2x4 joists are actually 16 inches apart. I was measuring from the inside of each beam rather than the center by mistake. This should make hanging standard size 4x8' sheets easier.

Plus, I think I will remove all those old lathes because there are so many nails running down the middle of those 2x4s I'm afraid the screws will hit them if I just leave the lathes there.

Furthermore, I will probably go with the 5/8" size too because this will probably fit best after I remove those lathes. You can see in the picture with the ceiling fan that all along the top of the walls there is a trim molding (or whatever you call that).

Only the 5/8" size sheets will fit in there nicely. There may be some little gap left, but by removing the lathes at least I can leave that trim there in place. The 1/2" would be too much gap I think.

As far as screwing the sheets to the joists what would be the best types of screws for that purpose? Is there a rule of thumb for how many screws to use or how far to separate them?

I can't wait to start this project and thanks for all the help.


Renovator,LLC 07-20-2008 06:43 AM

For 5/8" rock, use 1-5/8" coarse thread drywall screws - they are packaged and sold as such. They should be spaced about 12" apart for ceiling joists 16" on center. Screw them in so the heads are just below the surface, but do not break the paper facing. Your taping knife should not hit the head of the screw when scraping the surface.
For the crown/cornice molding, you might find there to be a gap, even using 5/8" rock (looks like the molding was installed after the texture was installed.) If the gap is too big to caulk without looking like krap, you might be better off just removing them and resetting them tight to the ceiling. The inside corners are probably coped, not mitered, so be careful removing them, or you could break the coped end. (Coped means to cut the end so it mates the profile of an already installed piece, as oppesed to mitering, which would eventually open and leave a gap.)

ccarlisle 07-20-2008 07:12 AM

Repeated from another post:

"I agree with your original thoughts about taking it down vs trying to repair or patch the hole; had it been my choice to make for the homeowner, I would do the same. But I'd want to know why it came down in the first place so getting up there to investigate somewhat coloured my decision...

Arm yourself with a reciprocating saw and slice through the lathe-boards; it will be a messy job as you do that and remove all the wood pieces you create, plus the falling debris from above, like those stones (?). Once done. you'll have a blank canvas to rewire, reinsulate to your hearts content.

That project would take a 2-3 man crew a day to demolish and hang new drywall and mouldings, then the next day to sand, prime and paint. Bits and pieces like the ceiling fan and the smoke detector and touching up the mouldings might be done at the same time, or perhaps the next.

Close off the doorway with a plastic tarp, to keep the dust down elsewhere, and wear masks and hardhats."

Cajun1 07-20-2008 03:47 PM

You are going to end up taking the trim down anyway, so you should go ahead and do it first. Trying to tear the lath boards out completely is going to require that the trim come down, plus you avoid damaging the trim during the demo. Trying to wiggle 5/8 sheetrock between the trim and joists is not going to be a lot of fun either.

It's simple to take down and will save you headaches later.

bjbatlanta 07-30-2008 02:34 PM

There is no way to get a full sheet of drywall between the trim on either side of the room. Take it down, hang your drywall and put it back tight to the ceiling. Whatever small holes.cracks,etc. result from pulling the trim down can be patched while you're finishing the ceiling. 1/2" drywall is fine on 16 inch centers. Much easier to handle overhead. You may want to consider renting a drywall lift to make things easier.

mike_a_davies 08-21-2008 05:22 PM

As for the asbestos: look in the phone directory under "Analytical Laboratories" or "Environmental Laboratories" and find out if any of them will test a sample of your plaster. It might cost you $50, and it's the only way to know for sure. Good luck!

wilsonmian 08-22-2008 01:45 AM

You will be very happy If I shall show you my house's walls and ceilings. I have done a lot of activity but I always failed to maintain it. All my efforts always go in vain after a few months. I shall be posting pictures as soon as my Camera would be ready.

gkdelury 07-25-2009 09:09 AM

drop ceiling
I am installing a drop ceiling in my basement but have 3 different heights how do you cover the down sides on the different heights do they sell corner pieces for that.

bjbatlanta 07-25-2009 10:48 AM

You have to build a "break" to make the ceiling drop down. The easiest way is to frame a wood header, sheetrock and cornerbead the bottom (either flush with the lower section or let it hang past a bit). Then frame the lower portion of the ceiling. OR you can frame the drop out of grid pieces. Use a piece of wall angle pop riveted to the upper ceiling and line up pieces of cross tee (cut to the size needed for the drop) with the tees in the upper section. Rivet them to the wall angle. Add a piece of wall angle across the bottom and rivet in place. The main runners for the lower section will be riveted to the bottom wall angle and line up with the drop pieces. You will have to cut the ends of the tees back at an angle so they don't interfere with lining them up. Your upright pieces of tile for the drop will have to be cut snug so as not to fall out. This is a time consuming process and you need to keep everything plumb and level to make it look right. The wood header is much easier if you're not proficient working with ceiling grid.....

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