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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Drywall Over a Plaster Ceiling

The Inglewood home we're remodeling is full of plaster from around 1940. Earlier plaster walls consisted of coats of plaster applied over wood lath that supported the plaster. In the 1930's something called "rock lath" was developed which was basically a pre-manufactured gypsum board made of plaster between two layers of paper. It's very similar to today's drywall, except that it was generally 16" or 24" by 48".

Throughout our project house, the walls have held up fairly well, though there are often cracks at the points where the old rock lath are joined. We've left most of that, repairing the worst ones.

The living room, has suffered more damage because of the failure of the roof flashing around the chimney. This has been fixed and now we're putting the ceiling back together. Because of the many cracks and previous patches to the living room ceiling, we've decided to drywall over it. Leaving the plaster in place serves two purposes: 1) It's way less mess and work involved & 2) the current ceiling insulation will stay intact.

The ceiling joists are nearly 16" on center. I say nearly, because it's not quite consistent throughout. Our drywall needs to be securely secured so we'll need to first add furring strips that will support the drywall.

To make furring strips I ripped a 2x4 into thirds, around 1 1/8" each. I attached these to the ceiling using screws after marking the ceiling joists so that my screws would actually hit something solid. My furring strips were exactly 16" apart giving me plenty of places to attach the drywall.
Don't forget to adjust any electrical boxes so they are flush with the new finished surface.
Once again, the drywall panel lift was an invaluable tool for helping me raise the nearly 12 foot pieces to the ceiling. It rents for around $30 for 4 hours from Home Depot and is worth every penny.

After three coats of joint compound and a sanding, the living room has a perfectly new ceiling. Although, I'm not sure anyone will appreciate it as much as I do...


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