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CEILINGS! Do I really need them?

I have an old colonial built in the 20's.  I have redecorated and fixed horse hair plaster walls and ceilings in a number of rooms but I am preparing to do the last bedroom and it was last redecorated in the 70's from the looks of it.  The greatest issue is the ceilings which has an overhead fan.  The plaster ceilings have cracked but more than just sheetrock screws, washers and buttons will do.  I am considering either removing all of the plaster ceiling in the room and putting sheetrock up over the lath.  OR I can just sheetrock over the plaster, but I am afraid of having too much weight on the sheetrock and therefore cracking the sheetrock later on in time.  Additionally this may require having to remove the antique wooden crown moulding.  I remove the plaster ceiling and put up sheetrock over the lath I may have to replace all the blown in insulation in the ceiling through the attic.  Does anyone have expertise at this?  I am also remodeling the attic above this and other rooms into an additional room since it has heat and electricity already up there originally but has been used for storage for some 60+ years at least.  So should I tear down the plaster ceilng and put up sheetrock or sheetrock over the plaster.  The buttons and screws are out of the question on this room as opposed to all ym others?
  • January 28 2009 - Boston
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Answers (7)

My advice, if you're gonna do it, do it right. You don't want to patch the situation and have to redo it again in a couple of years...
  • January 28 2009
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Hi there,

You have a nice project!

Our recomendation depends how long you want that your solution will last, and how much you want to invest.

First you have to find out why you got that crack, if there is no water damage, than it´s most likely normal thing caused by sinking of the house, as they tend to..which casue strain on walls, and there you go!

The easiest way is to sray popcorn texture over the plaster, just a thicker type so it will cover it, than spray paint it and there you go, cheap can be done in one day, in and out.

If you want to bother with sheetrock, my sugestion will be to take everything down and kick out lath, put in celulose isolation http://www.cocooninsulation.com/homeowners/how_to_four.asp or Polyurethane Foam http://www.fomofoam.com/ then put in new sheetrock, time of the project will be 25-35% longer if you would just cover everything with sheetrock but you will improve isolation and get you an fire barrier no licking no molding isolatio if you use foam.

Good luck, and if you have any questions just let me know.

Jerry
  • January 28 2009
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You should also consult with your local building department for requirements on insulation/wiring as your joists must support a certain load above. This might also aid you in your decision of how extensive to remodel.
  • January 29 2009
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  • gvw3
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Most of the home centers have 1/4" sheetrock. You may want to look at this option. I have used it many times as it is a quick cheap fix. If you remove the old plaster you are going to have a big mess.
  • January 29 2009
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How bout knocking down the plaster but leaving the lathe.  Little tap with a hammer should get started and away you go.  There wouldn't be any weight issues putting back sheetrock (1/4 or 3/8) and most of the insulation should stay in place.  Make sure to use some good long sheet rock screws at the joists so the weight is on the timber and not the old lathe.  
  • January 29 2009
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Profile picture for 1926Colonial
Excellent points by everyone and I sincerely appreciate your input.  I still got a while since I am making my way to that room and I am a one man working crew so I still have some time.  I have cracks in the ceilings throughout the house but the house is 83 years old and the cracks are just natural formations as a result of a combination of things such as dsparate temperatures in the attic, no water issues at all, cracking of theplater keys from the lath, and some settling as all houses do.  I believe the best answer and longest lasting for the price wouldbe to remov the plaster and put the sheet rock up into the lath.  The lath should hold much of the insulation and if need be I can always look into reinsulating the space since that would be the ideal time to do it.  Keep the comments coming though and thank you.  
  • February 02 2009
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I agree that removing the plaster is a good idea.  I would like to add, though, that you should plan on using 1/2" thick drywall rather than 3/8" or less.  True, it is heavy and difficult to work with on the ceiling, but the spacing between the existing ceiling  joists means that 3/8" will probably sag...it's just not designed to hold its own weight for supports @16" o.c. If you plan on hanging the drywall on your own (although best done with at least one other person, especially with the height of your ceilings), I would strongly suggest renting drywall jacks from your local tool supply center; they are a relatively inexpensive way to get an extra pair of "hands".

Another thing is that the cellulose/polyurethane insulation products ARE fantastic.  However, for just one room, the cost would probably be unwarranted.  I recommend a great traditional R-30 Batt Insulation installed between the joists when/if you ever decide to replace the paper insulation.  The advantage that fiberglass has is that it doesn't absorb moisture the way that blown-in does.
  • February 03 2009
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