Drywalled our old ceiling, now what??

gardenwebberJune 8, 2008

I also posted this in the remodeling forum, but then got to thinking - maybe this was also a good place for our question?

We are renovating our older home (1928 - kitchen/DR)(gutted all plaster/lathe from top to bottm) and after drywalling, have come to a problem with one corner in our celing.

As you will see from the pics below, we have a corner in our ceiling where the drywall is not forming a perfect corner. On the left wall, the corner runs too far upward, and coming from the right, the corner runs too far downward. We've stared at this for weeks now, and it defies all mathematical logic.

Being that it is an older home, the problem is in the joists above. In hindsight, we realize we probably should/could have sistered a level nailing space to every single joist in the ceiling after we gutted all the plaster, but its too late now.

We are thinking we need to find a way to camouflage this. Some friends have wagered that once its mudded and filled in, we won't notice it. (I tend to disagree) We wouldn't mind doing a small repair, but I think in order to make this corners perfect, we would have to cut too large of a portion out of it.

We have a center light and then 4 recessed cans in a diamond pattern on the ceiling surrounding the center light. The cans can be pulled a couple inches down.

Any advice?

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It could be fixed by a plasterer; that amount of drywall mud is probably not a tenable solution, nor would normal drywall tools be appropriate; it needs to be floated with a "darby".
This is a cardinal example of why one should hesitate before gutting old plaster, or at least know what they are doing before hanging drywall on old framing.
How much money you got invested in hanging those sheets of drywall? I think the answer is to pull them down and fix the substructure, chief.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2008 at 12:19PM
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I, too, was wondering why all the old lath and plaster was removed-? Sometimes what seems like a problematic condition (old plaster that needs repairing) turns out to be preferable to the conventional 'remedy,' and often even plaster that needs a lot of TLC is actually less work in the long run than taking it all out and putting up drywall. I won't even get into the aesthetic debate over plaster versus drywall. I defer to Casey's expertise on the fix for your present situation.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2008 at 3:57PM
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Sombreil: Why the sarcasm? We are DIYers, and learning as we go. Were you born with all of your knowledge? We all have to learn somehow.

We did hesitate before gutting the plaster. It was old, and falling down/cracked, and had a layer (or two) of wallpaper on it plus furring strips and a block ceiling from the 70's from previous owners. We decided that drywalling over all that mess was risky, PLUS we put in recessed lighting and used the bays in the joists to run updated electrical to many areas after we gutted it.

The plaster was also crooked in the same way as this drywall. We don't think it was done right way back then either.

Kim - I am also a fan of plaster for aesthetic reasons (plus insulative and acoustic) but unfortunately, in about half of our rooms, our plaster has seen too many sheets of paneling/bad tongue and groove/other wall coverings and too many poorly done patch jobs to be salvaged.

So... we are wondering if we could run furring strips and put in a tin tile ceiling and avoid trying to fix this drywall.

Any (non-sarcastic) opinions on that idea?

    Bookmark   June 8, 2008 at 7:52PM
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I'd say you did a good job. Why don't you just remove the one piece of drywall thats causing all this fuss. Sister a few pieces of 2x as needed for level and reinstall it. Done.
Finish tape and spackle and move on.

All the best,

The PorchGuy

Here is a link that might be useful: My Album

    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 11:54AM
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If this is the only corner in which you are having this problem, then I'd second that suggestion. I know you hate to drop that piece, but in the long run I think it's the easiest solution and the quickest. I would not try to mud that space. You won't be happy with the results even if it looked good at first. The thing with drywall as opposed to plaster is that it does very much show any deviation from plumb whereas plaster was often a very visual project as it was being applied. One eyeballed in what looked correct. In old houses nothing else was plumb, so why did the ceiling need to be? LOL.

I've been redoing old, old houses now for at least thirty two years and lived in some ancient ones before that when I was a kid. I found out the hard way what looked like very stract walls were optical illusions when I used period correct striped wallpaper on this old house. I eventually got the job done and not too obviously but what a doozy.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 5:52PM
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gardenwebber: "...So... we are wondering if we could run furring strips and put in a tin tile ceiling and avoid trying to fix this drywall."

We're putting in tin ceiling panels in our kitchen, and at first we thought we'd do furring strips, but decided to install a plywood substructure to attach the panels to instead. I guess we figured it would be stronger, and others also advised this. They do sell tin 'crown molding' as well as the panels, so you might find those would help.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 6:57PM
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Interesting, Kim - how do you go about installing the substructure?

    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 9:10PM
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sorry I'm such an ass, Gardenwebber. But, I actually was born as a fully-formed expert master-something-or-other.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 10:49PM
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gardenwebber: "Interesting, Kim - how do you go about installing the substructure?"

We've got the plywood and we'll screw it to the ceiling joists. The ceiling already has some kind of panels (plywood?) applied, with battens covering the seams, but I'm not sure if all of that comes off first. We've already got the tin panels--they've been in the boxes stored under the couch for about 2 months--and we're just working up the nerve to get going on it.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 12:47AM
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Calliope - I don't think pulling down one piece will help. The corner is off in one direction one way, and the opposite direction the other way. On the left, it drifts upwards, then on the right, it droops down. Maybe you'd have to see it in person to understand. It defies logic, how this ended up! So, we'd have to somehow float that difference all around the room I think. And, if I am going to do that, then we might as well just put up furring strips and do some sort of tile ceiling. That is what we're leaning towards now.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 9:45AM
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What would happen if you put crown molding around the top? Wouldn't that hide the gap?

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 11:53AM
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Well, how are you going to compensate for keeping the crown molding level around the periphery with that much of a gap? If you put it flush to the ceiling, then it would be very obvious to the eye at the bottom edge it's off. If you try to fudge it, then you'd have to fill the gaps in with something like artist caulk and again, it's too large a gap.

Yes, I'd probably have to see it to appreciate what the drooping panel must look like, but if the panel itself is flat, hitting an inch or two down onto the drywall on the walls might not be so noticeable after tape and mud.

I love tin ceilings, and they certainly don't have the stigma of the cheap fix, but you'd have to address the material to which it's affixed to make sure it's level. It won't be a matter of just whipping up some furring strips or plywood.

The only thing I'd say is that you may as well do it as "right" as you can when you address it. I have never been happy with a quick fix on any of my homes after the fact, and I've dealt with so many of them on my present home. I have been working years a little at a time on repairing my plaster after the quick fixes were covered with wallpaper and joint tape by somebody else.

Hang in there, renovating old houses isn't an overnight deal. There aren't too many people with the time/money to do it in one lump.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 2:46PM
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My sympathies!

I worked with a number of old homes where every floor, wall, and ceiling had a mind and topography all its own.

I don't think any amount of tinkering will straighten out your errant corners.

I've seen drywallers shoot a level line around the walls, then build down furring strips from the ceiling so the drywall--or in your case, the tin ceiling--is level.

In other cases, I've seen them level the ceiling joists with axes, so the newly drywalled ceiling hangs straight. When the ceilings were originally installed, the plasterers leveled it as they went with more or less mud as required.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 6:26PM
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