LA Good Question Covering Up a Cracked Ceiling Apartment Therapy

LA Good Question Covering Up a Cracked Ceiling Apartment Therapy

LA Good Question: Covering Up a Cracked Ceiling?

The sky is falling. Well, more like our ceiling, which has had a few visible cracks which we’ve patched up a few times before, but eventually always crumbles and cracks off again. We’ve got a very limited budget, so we’ve tried to fix the ceiling ourselves with supplies from the local hardware store and our own blood, sweat and tears. But now we think we might need to bite the bullet and pay for some professional help. Are there any alternative solutions for a ceiling repair that doesn’t require a lot of mess (and money)? Thanks, Ain’tAllCrackedUp2Be»

Cracked: We feel your pain. we remember many years ago helping our own father patch up a water damaged ceiling, and despite all the hard work that went into replacing a large 3’x3′ section, the ceiling was never quite the same because of discoloration and fit and finish. And there was a lot of cleanup for days after with all the ceiling material dust unleashed by our DIY handiwork. It wasn’t one of our favourite DIY projects, so it might be worth it to call in a professional if this is an ongoing issue.

One solution we recently ran into doesn’t involve any destructive tear down, and only requires a few hours for the installation of a whole new false ceiling using a 10mm PVC sheet that is stretched out across the ceiling, held in place by a thin profile clamp, and then tightened using an industrial heat source. The only visible piece left in the process is a 5mm finish strip. The Stretch Ceiling System. The flexibility of the material allows for unique ceiling shapes, and is strong enough to hold up to 25 gallons of water, with satin or matte finishes (and even translucent options for ambient lighting designs overhead).


If that first photo is your ceiling, you have original plaster past its prime. It will have to be taken down and re-done. It’s easy enough to plaster over crack or small areas with damage yourself, but if it’s cracking that badly, that’s pretty much it. Call in a tradesperson and get a quote.

If the plaster has detached from the lathe (like in this picture), you’ll have to reattach it before you patch any holes or cracks. You don’t need a professional. You need a drill and the right supplies. I swear by Big Wally’s. It’s a silly name, but a great product.

How large is your ceiling? I recommend giving up on the plaster. It’s pretty economical to cover the ceiling with 1/4″

It was an ugly job, but I patched a ceiling with similar damage myself oh, almost 10 years ago now, and some hairline cracks reappeared quickly but the rest has held. If you value your original plaster—which I do—I’d say it’s worth it. Ya gotta tear out the loose bits, including cleaning out the cracks, then. lets see, I think I remember spritzing it with water and troweling on plaster patch? But don’t take my word for it. It’s been a long time.

i’d 2nd the «drywall over it» comment — much easier and more long lasting (less prone to further cracking) — but do check for leaks/moisture first. as a DIY project, affixing a 2X4 to the opposite wall about a half-inch (or a bit more than the thickness of the drywall) from the ceiling acts as a wonderful lip on which to rest the drywall after hoisting it up.

the stretch system can hold 25lbs of water. wonder how much continually falling plaster it can hold? it’s a neat option, but i’d think not for this job.

Please read this article first, before you decide to do anything. You need to understand what is happening in your case. This is the best source of information out there — take it from someone who used to by in the bizz (I used to work in architectural conservation advising homeowners on just such issues):

Chances are, you just have a localized problem and can fix it. I doubt very much that you need to do a major repair (i.e. that it is «past its prime»).

And please, please whatever you do, don’t let anyone talk you into drywalling over your plaster. Historic fabric such as yours is very valuable, and it is a shame to destroy it unnecessarily. As well, people often just slap on the drywall, sinking trim pieces such as baseboards, window and door casing and cornices — a poor solution at best.

You may need to find a plaster professional or you may be able to handle it yourself. One of the best how-to resources for DIY homeowners are old issues of Old House Journal (some of the best issues date back the 1980s) — check whether your local library has back issues. Also, check out the reading list at the end of the NS article — those are great sources. (not to be confused with This Old House. )

Beauty takes more time and effort, but you will be well-rewarded in the end. Your plaster walls are far more beautiful than the drywall most of us have to live with.

Good luck.

I had this problem last summer. I noticed a few little cracks that eventually grew-and one hot summer morning I heard a load pop and the whole living room ceiling cracked wide open swooping down. I had to call someone immediately who braced it before it fell on my living room and I had to have an entire new ceiling put in. total $3,300. I live in an old building and it was a plaster ceiling and other people in my building had the same problem-with time the old plaster just gave out.

Two thoughts on plaster repair. Living in old houses for years gives a certain amount of experience in the need for maintenance. Having read the preservation brief(s) (which was written over 20 years ago)there appears to be some

suggestions that may be better left unused except they suggested using an adhesive to stabilize the plaster instead of using fiberglass tape, screws and washers, which all need to be covered up. In my search for plaster repair suggestions coming across Plaster Magic was a bright light in an otherwise dull environment.

LA Good Question Covering Up a Cracked Ceiling Apartment Therapy

You find drywallers suggesting replacement of or lamination over the existing plaster, plasterers suggesting the same thing only using plaster to superficially cover the cracks and damage.

No one until now came up with a solution that made any sense until I read about using glue to stabilize the plaster, using the lath to bridge the cracks.

All construction adhesives first instruction says «surfaces to be glued must be clean and free of dirt and debris». Apparently Plaster Magic has overcome that problem in the wall.

«This Old House» demonstrated its use on two of its shows and included an article in its June issue. By the way it was very easy to use with a minimum of mess and I could do it myself. I am so pleased to have found this solution to a problem that was always painful at best.

FYI. Big Wally’s and Plaster Magic are the same thing. The full product name is Big Wally’s Plaster Magic. Its a great system for stabilizing plaster by reattaching it to lathe.

Fixing the plaster will be less expensive, less time consuming, more green (you have to buy far less new material than if you are buying drywall) and less disruptive to your life at home.

We had plaster issues on the ceiling in our dining room and we ended up installing a «snap lock» tin ceiling to cover it up. We got the unfinished tin panels, and I finished it with a polyurethane impregnated with stain to «age» it. I came out great!

Note you’d probably want to repair the plaster to the point that it is not falling any longer, but this tin solution was really easy to install — you screw it to the ceiling using plaster screws (no wooden furring strips required) and the seams are not too noticable at all. Not crazy expensive either — I think it was about $400 for a 10×10 space.

If all or even part of the damage was caused by leaks in the roof, then your insurance company will pay for all/some repairs. It is free to have them come out to inspect. The inspector can also recommend highly reliable repair people.

We had this problem in a couple of rooms. The contractor charged us about $3500 to repair the damage, which I think was pretty fair considering the extent. He also did not cover up the molding or the baseboards.

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