The day the ceiling came down…

My house is over 100 years old. It has some great features that you don’t find in newer homes like pocket doors and built in cabinets and 4 fireplaces. And a random narrow doorway from the hallway to the dining room that has been turned into shelves other oddities. It’s the quirks about the house that made me fall in love with it.

Because of the age of the house, most of the walls on the first floor are plaster and lathe instead of drywall as in newer houses. About two years ago, I noticed a crack in the dining room ceiling. I remember the first time I noticed it with odd specificity… I was talking to my dad on the phone, pacing between the kitchen and dining room and happened to look up and see this crack. While I didn’t remember seeing it before then, I was somehow oddly sure that it had always been there and wasn’t super worried about it.

three-way crack in ceiling plaster

Over the course of the next year and a half, I kept an eye on that crack. It grew and extended in other directions. It got bigger/worse. I started to feel weird about leaving my computer sitting on the dining room table at my usual spot, which happened to be right under the juncture of these cracks.

I mentioned the issue to my dad, and he came up with a plan. The plan was to just put drywall sheets over the crack to hold everything together and prevent any pieces from falling on people or things in the dining room. He recruited my brothers to help and we picked a day.

When they got here, my brother pulled down a small piece around the juncture of the cracks to make sure there wasn’t any underlying area – water issues, structure issues, etc. What he discovered was the the plaster was pulled off the lathe in that area a few inches, and merely covering it with drywall wasn’t going to do the trick because the plaster (and the rock lathe that it was attached to) would be too heavy and would cause problems with the drywall. So, it all had to come down.

This was so not part of my plan. I would have cleared more stuff out of the way (like the liquor bottles that I keep on that door-turned-shelves). I would have gotten drop clothes. But instead, it turned into a game of “how quickly can we get stuff out of the way” and closing the pocket doors to the living room to cut down on the amount of dust and debris that made it’s way in there. I also intentionally turned my furnace onto Fan On so it would circulate air through the furnace and pull dust and such into the furnace filter to try to prevent it from escaping more.

It was so much more of a mess than anticipated. Dusty and loud and I suddenly wished I had hard hats. Fortunately, my son was content to hang out on the couch with YouTube and some snacks, and my daughter kept herself occupied with her drawing.

Can I brag on my family for a minute? I am so blessed and grateful for them. They are so skilled in their respective careers, and willing to help family when needed. That entire nasty, heavy, dirty ceiling was completely down in about two hours. And then they had the drywall up in less than another two hours. I still need to do the taping/mudding part, and there’s still some dirty handprints on the wall in the harder-to-reach spots. but that will all come in time. I’m going to learn how to do it so I can help with it, and because I like to know how to do things for myself. And then I get to paint – woohoo!

Pro Tip: Rubbing a dirty hand on a sweaty head makes it act like an ink pad to make darker hand prints.

The dirty handprints might stay on the wall for a bit. Yes, its dirt, but it’s also a good memory. Especially the one especially dark one where one brother told the other one to rub his dirty hand on a sweaty head to make it like an ink pad so he could make a darker mark. A little icky but also a little fun, and totally representative of my family.

all the plaster piled up in my dad’s minivan to be disposed of
that’s one dirty air filter I pulled out of my furnace after that day