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  1. #1
    Philip Lamachio's Avatar
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    Exclamation Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    Some contributors to this thread have sidetracked the intent of my original post and have made it a little messy.

    If you want to read through their criticisms here, feel free. I have tried my best to learn from the experience and clarify my message for future readers and took a bit of time and effort to rework it.

    Please visit, and post, on my new thread here.


    Thanks,
    Philip LaMachio
    Estate Plaster, Inc.

    Similar Threads:
    Last edited by Philip Lamachio; 11-10-2009 at 08:52 PM. Reason: direct visitors to new thread
    Inspection Referral SOC

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    Interesting information. Thanks.


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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    I have a question. This may be a trade secret, but what fasteners are approved or recommended for reattaching the plaster? Drywall screws?


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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post
    I have a question. This may be a trade secret, but what fasteners are approved or recommended for reattaching the plaster? Drywall screws?
    You mean rekeying? This is not new nor news. Gyp lath and blueboard still used today. There are buttons used with screws but their application is limited you have to hit wood (usually strapping not structural joists) the gyp lath/rock lath (in older buildings usually smaller panels than modern drywall or blueboard) must not be crumbled, and you also use an injectable adhesive, usually poxy.


    Crack Repair Illustration

    See bottom half of page & follow links, especially this one:

    Hanging by a Hair

    Last edited by H.G. Watson, Sr.; 11-07-2009 at 01:20 PM.

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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    Good info, thank you, sir.


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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safety Issue

    H.G.,

    Excellent information.

    Thank you,

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    JK & JP:
    My pleasure.


  8. #8
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    'This is not new nor news'.

    Just getting back to this thread. According to Mr. Watson, this is not new or news. You are right, Mr. Watson, in suggesting that the methods of remediation are not new, but that is not what this post is about.

    What it is about is that the vast majority of home inspectors are not aware of the possibility of a monolithic failure of these plaster ceilings and the safety issue that is posed for homeowners.

    That is the salient point for home inspectors. Not necessarily how to repair or remediate these ceilings, which is not generally the scope of a home inspector to go out on a limb and prescribe methods of repair, unless he is also a contractor. At least not in my state of N.C.

    This is a very serious issue, as may be confirmed by going to my website where I have documented a number of instances where ceilings have collapsed unexpectedly and in one case, a child died.

    What I have found is that even architects and engineers are not aware of the construction methods that you and I are aware of, that may lead to sudden collapse.

    As far as repair methods, your information is fine, but I can tell you from expererience that very few plaster repair tradesmen even understand the issue in my area, much less how to properly repair it and I can guarantee you that 99% of the home inspectors in my state and across the country have no clue WHAT to look for or that there is any possible safety issue regarding these ceilings.

    Lets get the word out about this issue, and help home inspectors know what to look for, and what to say regarding it.

    That would help them to look after the future safety of the homeowners for whom they work, which a major part of what we do.

    Can we agree?

    I would encourage you, Mr. Watson, to consider helping educate home inspectors about this important safety issue, which is a major part of what a home inspector is supposed to understand.

    Just because it is not a new issue to you, does not mean it isn't a new issue for the HI community.

    Philip LaMachio
    Estate Plaster, Inc.


  9. #9
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    @ Mr. Watson:

    Btw, the link you included 'Hanging By a Thread' refers to repairing plaster-over wood lath, which is not the system that I was referring to at all. Both links contain good info for plaster repair persons, but are not the only ways of repair, nor always the best.

    While plaster from plaster over wood lath ceilings my break free and fall, it is usually a peicemeal and limited collapse, posing very little chance of serious damage or injury, compared to the 'transitional' ceilings that I am referring to.

    Did you go to my page on transtional ceilings? It doesn't seem so.

    If you had, you would have clearly seen that this is a very serious issue with the possibility of a sudden and monolithic collapse of whole ceilings....hundreds of pounds. That is the concern.

    So, for your further education, please refer to:

    Transitional Ceilings.


    Thank You,

    Philip LaMachio
    Estate Plaster, Inc.


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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    Philip Lamachio,

    I actually posted two links on the same site. The first link I mentioned there were two links at the bottom of the page, and encouraged both be reviewed. Regarding a question brought up by another, mentioned the second one I posted.

    A link you failed to follow discussed this specifically in the first part.

    The issues are similar in both traditional lath and rock lath. The repair techniques are similar and use the same/similar approaches.

    Both traditional lath plaster and rock lath/gyp lath plaster ceilings can suffer catastrophic, monolithic/cascading failure.

    Your indication that it is unique to rock/gyp lath is wrong. That there is only one cause is likewise wrong. All three links provide information on the issue, and the one you chose not to follow goes into detail as to some of the known causes.

    IME a number of failures have been due to improper methods used to seal buildings/homes and insulate them - and the resulting problems with moisture. Structural movement, vibration, etc. are also known causes. The Preservation Briefs series had/have several well written papers that address this/these issues. The issues are not unique to rock/gyp lath based plaster ceilings.

    Laminating a layer of modern drywall upon a plaster ceiling, to "hide" a moisture problem is also a documented cause of several failures.

    However, the chicken little approach is completely unwarranted. Many of the statements and conclusions you opine are hyperbole.


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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    And as far as your own website info it is likewise filled with exageration, hyperbole and drama/scare tactics.

    A poorly veiled and skewed web count generation/advertising effort IMO.


  12. #12
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    I am not concerned about water, vibration, or other unrelated causes of ceiling collapse.

    Those can cause ceiling failure but that is not what I am addressing or concerned with.

    I am talking about the inherent flaws with a particular type of plaster system that needs none of the above external causes to lead to failure.

    In my own experience, based on plaster restoration of over 25 years, both in Chicago and in NC, plaster-over-wood lath poses much less potential damage than plaster over gypsum lath.

    Did you look at the links on my website?

    What are your credentials?

    Do you or did you ever do extensive plaster repair? If so, where and for how long?

    Have you ever seen a whole ceiling collapse that was due to an inadequate attachement system ?

    I did look at both of your links, which contained some good, but limited information, and I do understand the first one offered one method of remediation for transitional ceilings.

    And I realize you were responding to a specific question that another poster asked. (though he was not asking about plaster over wood lath)

    However, how to remediate or repair is not the reason for my post on this forum.

    You are missing the forest for the trees in my opinion.

    I don't want to get sidetracked with presuming upon your motives, as you have mine, but I would appreciate if you would avoid trying to derail the purpose of my posting this information by presuming upon mine.

    'And as far as your own website info it is likewise filled with exageration, hyperbole and drama/scare tactics'

    I have posted numerous real instances of the type of failure I am referring to. Your criticism holds no water.

    By way of an example to illustrate my points, I have a basement wall that has diagonal and horozontal cracks in he concrete wall and the bricks above it. An inspector noted it needed further evaluation by a structural engineer.

    Mind you, there were only cracks in the wall. The wall had not collapsed.
    When the engineer came in, he said that the wall had 'lost it's structural integrity' and went on to note several intances where such walls had 'blown in' to the basement when left unremediated.

    Now, in these walls, it is not so much an inherent flaw of design ( one may argue that though), but water pressure.

    However, my point is that in these ceiling systems, the basic concern is a flaw in the construction/attachment method which, if you read some of the engineers/architect opinions on my links, was inadequate.

    In my opinion, though I am not an engineer, when a straight-line crack appears down the middle of a plaster over rock lath ceiling, it indicates that the ceiling has lost its structural integrity.

    Will it collapse ? I have never stated that it would, only that without proper remediation, it could.

    And that is the important point for inspectors to be aware of.

    It has and it could lead to 'monolithic' failure or collapse, which can and has lead to property damage, physical harm and in one instance, death.

    Sorry, but my documentation is sound. None of it is made up.

    Makes me wonder about your motives in trying to derail this post. But I don't want to assume anything neg. as you have with me.

    Last edited by Philip Lamachio; 11-08-2009 at 08:35 AM. Reason: clarity

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    John Koegal: 'I have a question. This may be a trade secret, but what fasteners are approved or recommended for reattaching the plaster? Drywall screws?'

    "H.G. Watson, Sr. 'You mean rekeying? This is not new nor news. Gyp lath and blueboard still used today. There are buttons used with screws but their application is limited you have to hit wood (usually strapping not structural joists) the gyp lath/rock lath (in older buildings usually smaller panels than modern drywall or blueboard) must not be crumbled, and you also use an injectable adhesive, usually poxy."

    Mr.Watson, as I read it, Mr. Koegal was not asking about plaster over wood lath in his post, yet you assumed that he was based upon your follow-up question ('You mean rekeying?')

    Rekeying is specifically referring to plaster keys, the matl. that flows through wood lath to secure the ceiling to the lath.


  14. #14
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    H.G. Watson Sr. : 'Gyp lath and blueboard still used today'

    Yes, however the attachement method is, or should be, different. Screws are now used rather than smooth nails, clips or wire.

    Screws have much more holding power than the methods used that I am concerned with.

    Also, I don't know which geographical region you are referring to, but the present day use of blueboard as a lath in my experience, is used with a very thin, and not heavy, application of topcoat or veneer coat plaster, about 1/8" thick, not like the 1/2" -3/4" base and topcoat applications used with the transitional ceilings I am referring to.

    This translates to a much lighter ceiling system with a much better attachement system.

    This was not the case in the years between 1920 and 1960.


  15. #15
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    'A link you failed to follow discussed this specifically in the first part'

    I did follow it and addressed it in my second post.

    ' Both links contain good info for plaster repair persons, but are not the only ways of repair, nor always the best.'

    Philip LaMachio
    Estate Plaster, Inc.
    Home


  16. #16
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    HG Watson 'And as far as your own website info it is likewise filled with exageration, hyperbole and drama/scare tactics. A poorly veiled and skewed web count generation/advertising effort IMO'


    Unsubstansiated opinion.

    In the first place, all my statements are borne out by real examples of the collapses I am concerned with.

    Secondly, home inspectors do not hire me, homeowners do.

    Thirdly, I could not possibly remediate all the ceilings that suffer from this condition. My geographical area is fairly limited.

    In the third place, I don't know anything about 'web count generation', and don't have a hit counter on my website.

    I don't appreciate your accusations.

    And you are muddying the waters regarding the documented safety issue.

    I welcome honest inquiry, and even challenges, but you are dancing all around the original reason for my post and your dissembling posts may derail home inspectors from crucial information they need in order to responsibly inform new homeowners of potential safety issues.

    No one denies that non-gfci outlets near a water source is a safety issue, and we note that on inspection reports.

    IMHO, once we become aware of a situation that leads to harm or property damage, once we understand that it is an inherent flaw casued by the way that things were commonly done before there was better knowledge or methods, it is our responsiblity to get education and to then properly address it in reports when we find it.

    Philip LaMachio
    www.estateplaser.com

    Last edited by Philip Lamachio; 11-08-2009 at 08:50 AM. Reason: clarity

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    There are so many inaccuracies presented in your last series of diatribes it isn't worth addressing further (ex. only screws presently used, what rekeying is, etc.).

    You keep missing direction was already provided to a third link (via the first) which is directly on point.

    Reminds me of that foundation waterproofing guy (can't remember his name) from Michigan. Tiny bit of true information immersed in falsehoods, scare tactics, opinionated conclusionary statements based on ignorance or other, misinformation, diatribes, and hyperbole. Obvious is your agenda to drum up business upon the frightened, unsuspecting public.

    Chicken Little your over-reaching has been exagerated beyond credibility.


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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safety Issue

    Quote Originally Posted by Philip Lamachio View Post
    Btw, the link you included 'Hanging By a Thread' refers to repairing plaster-over wood lath, which is not the system that I was referring to at all. Both links contain good info for plaster repair persons, but are not the only ways of repair, nor always the best.
    Phillip,

    You seem to be on a binge to back yourself up for not have read what H.G. posted instead of acknowledging your failure to have read what he posted.

    You described plaster on rock lath, H.G. posted a link which went to repairs for plaster on rock lath ... and to repairs for plaster on wood lath, yet you ignored the plaster on rock lath part.

    For your enjoyment I am reposting the link H.G. posted and specifically guiding you to the appropriate drawing with the following directions ... presuming you will, of course, read them, which does not necessarily seem to be your habit:

    Click this link: Crack Repair Illustration

    Scroll down as necessary to reveal the LOWER drawing titled "Repairs to plaster over another substrate:".

    Note that the LOWER drawing shows "substrate (rock lath)".

    READ the part where it shows "substrate (rock lath)".

    Handle yourself accordingly with that new knowledge.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safety Issue

    Quote Originally Posted by Philip Lamachio View Post
    'This is not new nor news'.

    Just getting back to this thread. According to Mr. Watson, this is not new or news. You are right, Mr. Watson, in suggesting that the methods of remediation are not new, but that is not what this post is about.

    What it is about is that the vast majority of home inspectors are not aware of the possibility of a monolithic failure of these plaster ceilings and the safety issue that is posed for homeowners.
    Phillip,

    I believe your post and information has some substantive value in it as regards to bringing this to the attention of those home inspectors who may have been unaware of it or had forgotten about it from having heard of it on previous occasions.

    I also believe that the information H.G. posted has substantive value and does not necessarily take away from your information, and am wondering why you got so hot and bothered by ADDITIONAL INFORMATION on a topic you are concerned about. One would think that YOU WOULD WELCOME additional information and discussion on it ...

    Unless you want to claim this topic as your own and no one else has a right to know anything about it other than what you know and are sharing ... which truly confuses me as that would indicate that you are not truly interested in this topic and in sharing it with other, that you are possibly only interested in you taking credit for a startling new discovery ...

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    @ Jerry:

    My friend, thanks for trying to correct me, however in my quote I said I saw both links.

    For clarification, I was trying to say that I did see the illustration referring to plaster over rock lath.

    I even acknowledged that the info in those links was good, if you are trying to remediate these problems. (they are not the only ways to repair, but I digress)

    What I take issue with is Mr. Watson's unwillingness to acknowledge a real and documented problem, and his impugning of my motives.

    It seems to me he is more interested in displaying his knowledge.

    My intention when I posted here was not about how to repair plaster ceilings. I might put that on a do-it-yourself site, but this is for home inspectors.

    It is about a ceiling system that has, and will continue to, fail.

    Mr. Watson wants to impugn my motives for sharing this information with home inspectors. I have already addressed that accusation.

    Anyone who goes to my site through the link I provided, and takes the time to look at the pictures, the videos and the links provided there, should have no question that there is an issue.

    I don't mind people adding to, just when they try to dissemble when I have taken a good amount of time to document this issue beforehand.


  21. #21
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    @ Jerry,

    Mr. Watson is suggesting that I am being an alarmist with ulterior motives and that I am 'over-reaching'.

    What I take from this is that he does not believe there is a safety issue involved.

    Even though I have documented numerous instances on my website, he would prefer to dismiss my conclusions about the safety of certain ceiling systems as 'falsehoods, scare tactics, opinionated conclusionary statements based on ignorance or other, misinformation, diatribes, and hyperbole.'

    At this point, I would like to know by what authority ( ie: experience in the plaster restoration feild or otherwise) he so confidently proclaims his opinion.

    At one time there may have been detractors who could have said the same thing to the electrician (or whoever it was) who first realized that aluminum wire was a safety issue.

    Now, I'm sure there are many homes that still have aluminum wire that have not had fires result from it, but that does not mean the danger does not exist. And most reporting software note this as a category that requires further investigation by a qualified electrician.

    My belief, based upon discussion with engineers and home inspectors is that this is a largly unknown issue.

    Unless you had seen it after the fact (we dont want to wait until after the fact do we?) or had been in the plaster restoration field for some time, I don't know how the average home inspector would have heard of this.

    I make no claim about the inevitability of collapse. Just as I would not say aluminum wire would inevitably cause a fire.

    But it is a possibility. To say otherwise is absolutely false.

    Sincerely,
    Philip LaMachio
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  22. #22
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safety Issue

    Quote Originally Posted by Philip Lamachio View Post
    @ Jerry:

    It seems to me he is more interested in displaying his knowledge.
    @ Phillip: (not sure why you choose to address us that way when you can plainly see the rest of us address others differently - just additional evidence that you are not really paying attention to what goes on here, only wanting to do it your way)

    We have all, myself very much included, had that problem with H.G., but he has toned it down CONSIDERABLY and to the point that his posts are now useful and practical to a great extent.

    H.G. can be a great inputer of information, he has great searching abilities to search and find information in addition to being knowledgeable, and he is not posting more useful information and contributing to the board.

    Now, you may need to adjust your posting to do likewise.

    And get over yourself for "his impugning of my motives".

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    Quote Originally Posted by H.G. Watson, Sr. View Post
    You mean rekeying? This is not new nor news. Gyp lath and blueboard still used today. There are buttons used with screws but their application is limited you have to hit wood (usually strapping not structural joists) the gyp lath/rock lath (in older buildings usually smaller panels than modern drywall or blueboard) must not be crumbled, and you also use an injectable adhesive, usually poxy.


    Crack Repair Illustration

    See bottom half of page & follow links, especially this one:

    Hanging by a Hair
    Perhaps this will be easier. ALSO FOLLOW THIS LINK (on the first linked page above): Repairing Plaster Cracks

    and read the whole thing. Really, read it. Diagnosing, evaluating both traditional and rock lath based plaster "cracks".

    I may have provided previously only two clickable links but I gave directions actionally to three links in my earlier post I only supplied two clickable links.

    Now, do we really want to "go there" regarding the "usual" installation patterns of older gyp lath & rock lath?

    Catestrophic ceiling failures and signs/impending of same are of course a safety issue. Not limited to gyp/rock lath based plaster ceilings.
    Not new discovery, not "news", and I addressed another member's question. I take issue with your suggestion that such a failure foresenically examined would be found to be caused solely upon what you proposed in your first post. IME there have been other, more substantial, contributory causes. This has also been found in numerous cases. Scientific literature and published reports have also found numerous contributory factors in such failures.

    Although your anecdotal website is interesting, IMO it is exagerative, conclusionary, and full of hyperbole. Period.

    Last edited by H.G. Watson, Sr.; 11-08-2009 at 02:54 PM.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    PL: The mental meanderings of these two old goats notwithstanding, I liked your post. I do not often encounter plaster, so was unaware of the issues involved.

    You must pardon JP and HG for being the consummate nit-pickers that they are. It is the nature of the beast.


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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    Quote Originally Posted by Philip Lamachio View Post
    @ Jerry:

    My friend, thanks for trying to correct me, however in my quote I said I saw both links. There was direction to three links.

    For clarification, I was trying to say that I did see the illustration referring to plaster over rock lath. apparently you missed the third referenced but not hyperlinked web page.

    I even acknowledged that the info in those links was good, if you are trying to remediate these problems. (they are not the only ways to repair, but I digress)

    What I take issue with is Mr. Watson's unwillingness to acknowledge a real and documented problem, and his impugning of my motives. Hmmm, was I the first to get personal? I thought I was describing my opinion of the information and method of presentation and content of both the post the website you insisted we visit.

    It seems to me he is more interested in displaying his knowledge. Ditto, and as you refer below, showing off the "good amount of time putting together" your website.

    My intention when I posted here was not about how to repair plaster ceilings. I might put that on a do-it-yourself site, but this is for home inspectors. I recall something about how you developed techniques soon to be posted at your website....apparently something "new"? Hmmm.

    It is about a ceiling system that has, and will continue to, fail. Hmmm. This sounds like you're saying every rocklath/gyp lath and/or blueboard ceiling will fail. I don't agree with this conclusion. Your website goes on and seems to insist on tearout and replacement with unskimmed drywall as the ONLY safe solution because all skimmed rocklath and gyplath ceilings will fail.

    Mr. Watson wants to impugn my motives for sharing this information with home inspectors. I have already addressed that accusation.

    Anyone who goes to my site through the link I provided, and takes the time to look at the pictures, the videos and the links provided there, should have no question that there is an issue. Anecdotes, and unsubstantiated opinions, interesting, but I don't agree with all of your opinions or conclusions.

    I don't mind people adding to, just when they try to dissemble when I have taken a good amount of time to document this issue beforehand. Awww. Sorry your feelings got bruised. You insisted we visit your website. My opinion was it was Chicken Little crowing and some crying Wolf for more business.
    Quote Originally Posted by Philip Lamachio View Post
    Hi Guys (and Gals),

    I am a plaster restoration contractor in Greensboro NC, who has also been a home inspector. When I moved to NC in 1992 to start my plaster restoration buisness, I came across a peculiar situation. No apprenticeship, no training just started working as a restorer?

    A client called me to come and look at the ceiling in his grandmother's room. One half of the ceiling was hanging at a 5 degree angle, leaving a gaping 8" opening the length of the room....pretty freaky.

    I had never seen anything like it up to that point. We ended up removing the ceiling completely and drywalling it...(nasty job...tons of loose insulation).

    Fortunately for granny, she had been spared a nasty and rude awakening.

    In the process of replacing the ceiling, you didn't know what was existing before you sold the job and began removing it? I observed that the construction was three or two coat plaster over what looked like drywall, but later found out Hmmm you're in a trade that you just jumped into business for yourself without experience or training and didn't know what a plaster on rock/gyp ceiling was? is better known as rock lath or gypsum lath. This was attached by a clip system that had clearly weakened and released over time with the weight of hundreds of pounds of plaster.

    Over the years, I have been called to numerous jobs that showed the tell-tale signs of a plaster-over-gypsum lath ceiling that was in the process of failing or collapsing. I have seen numerous variations of construction for that transitional time period that followed traditional plaster-over- wood lath and eventually arrived at modern drywall.

    I have heard horror stories of all the plaster ceilings in a house that was built in the 40's falling out at the same time, shortly after construction.
    I have seen, and repaired, ceilings that I was worried about working under. I have heard of people being hurt, even killed, by these ceilings collapsing suddenly, sometimes preceeded by a straight-line crack, sometimes with no crack, sometimes a circular crack. Heard stories.

    These ceilings are essentially undersupported for the weight they have been asked to carry. Over time, the smooth nails, clips or wires either slip out or give way, and the plaster ceiling creeps to the tipping point, at which time it will collapse suddenly, often as a monolithic unit.

    I have a website that goes into more detail about the various apparantly experimental construction methods utilized roughly between 1920 and 1960 (depending on geography), during which these 'transitional' ceilings were installed. On the site are many links to ceiling collapse stories,
    sometimes with engineer or architects describing the cause of the failure.

    It is my hope that ALL inspectors become aware of the potential danger of these ceilings, and how to detect the obvious signs of progressive failure, and properly alert the homeowner or potential homeowner to possible problems. I know this will not make sellers very happy, but to ignore this problem might make a buyer very unhappy.

    I have also developed techniques for remediation of these ceilings and will eventually have them available on my website,
    This is what I am talking about!!!!!
    however it is not a one-size-fits-all situation. Some general understanding of structures and analysis of the particular system installed is required to effectively secure these ceilings. Not demonstrated by your posts on this string yet.

    Some ceilings seem to pose a greater threat than others for sudden and catostrophic failure. These are generally the later ones in the transitional period that utilized larger (4x8') sections of gypsum lath. The most obvious sign of a problem in these ceilings is a single straight-line crack down the middle of the room.

    These cracks are often repaired by well meaning tradespersons, but one often sees the crack coming back through the repair. This is because the plaster or drywall contractor did not understand the underlying cause of the crack can be due to other reasons! and did not properly anchor the ceiling back to the joists. Hmmm. Somebody forgot the strapping first, which usually means wrong direction too. Usually undersized joists, bounce in floors above, etc. - i.e. structural issues contributing, movement, bounce, moisture - swelling, contracting, etc.

    Often, as you may be aware, people trying to sell a home do a quick fix and try to hide these cracks. Unless done properly, these cracks come back in a matter of months.

    The crucial thing for home inspectors to understand however, is how to recognize the ceilings that are prone to failure, Which, I gather from your postings and website is every single rock lath/gyp lath ceiling ever installed, no matter how installed or in what condition, and what signs that that failure is in fact occuring.

    If you are interested in pictures, stories, links and further descriptions, please visit my website. The page is titled Transitional Ceilings .

    I look forward to answering any questions that you may have, if I can.

    Thanks,
    Philip LaMachio
    Estate Plaster, Inc.
    See comments above in red. Seems you haven't just invited visiting your website you later insist upon it.

    Last edited by H.G. Watson, Sr.; 11-08-2009 at 03:48 PM.

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    Quote Originally Posted by Philip Lamachio View Post

    I make no claim about the inevitability of collapse. Just as I would not say aluminum wire would inevitably cause a fire.

    But it is a possibility. To say otherwise is absolutely false.
    Actually, I read that you did, in the next earlier post:

    Quote Originally Posted by Philip Lamachio View Post


    It is about a ceiling system that has, and will continue to, fail.
    To me, "It is about a ceiling system that has, and will continue to, fail." IS a claim that any such ceiling will inevitably fail. In case I haven't been clear, I do not agree with your claim.

    Last edited by H.G. Watson, Sr.; 11-08-2009 at 04:28 PM.

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safety Issue

    Quote Originally Posted by H.G. Watson, Sr. View Post
    To me, "It is about a ceiling system that has, and will continue to, fail." IS a claim that any such ceiling will inevitably fail. In case I haven't been clear, I do not agree with your claim.
    This is where I agree with, and disagree with, both of you.

    While that system may not inevitably fail each and every time due to the designs and methods of installations used for that system, each and every system, component, structure WILL FAIL AT SOME TIME ... NOTHING lasts "forever".

    To that extent, yes, it will inevitably fail, but Phillip is not talking about "to that extent", so I disagree with him on his intent of his statement.

    EVERYTHING ... WILL ... FAIL ... *EVENTUALLY*.

    Heck, even our Sun will fail and burn out ... eventually ...

    But, Phillip, that is not what you were implying, so you are incorrect.

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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safety Issue

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    This is where I agree with, and disagree with, both of you.

    While that system may not inevitably fail each and every time due to the designs and methods of installations used for that system, each and every system, component, structure WILL FAIL AT SOME TIME ... NOTHING lasts "forever".

    To that extent, yes, it will inevitably fail, but Phillip is not talking about "to that extent", so I disagree with him on his intent of his statement.

    EVERYTHING ... WILL ... FAIL ... *EVENTUALLY*.

    Heck, even our Sun will fail and burn out ... eventually ...

    But, Phillip, that is not what you were implying, so you are incorrect.
    JP: I agree 100%. Very well said.

    I also take particular exception to the title of this thread: "Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safety Issue. It is not a NEW safety issue.

    Last edited by H.G. Watson, Sr.; 11-08-2009 at 04:36 PM.

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    One thing at a time, please.

    This question of what I am saying about a ceiling 'failing' needs to be clarified.

    I hope this will mollify HG and clairify for Mr. Peck what I am saying and what I am not saying. If my detractors will bear with me here, I would appreciate it. It seems that we are dealing with a gray area that makes it hard to make a simple definitive statement, without agreement on definitions.

    Earlier I gave an example of a foundation wall in my own home that, though it had not collapsed, it had 'lost it's structural integrity' according to the engineer. I took that to mean that it is no longer fully capable of serving the purpose to which it was orignially intended; that is, to continue to prevent the earth behind it from tumbling in, though it still stood for the moment.

    The potential for collapse is imminant and if unremediated, most likely inevitable, but the actual moment of collapse is not predictable.

    In fact, it may never collapse,(try to convince a potential buyer of that one) but in its present state the likelihood is much greater than if it did not have those cracks.

    It is in that same sense that I speak of a ceiling that is 'in failure'. The system is no longer fully capable of serving the purpose for which it was intended when the nails begin to slip, the clips begin to bend or the wire begins to stretch, all conditions I have witnessed.

    Such a ceiling may not have collapsed*, but is in 'the process' of failure and will continue to fail until remediated. And that process of failure may eventually lead to collapse, if not remediated, though we do not know when it may happen. But it is in danger of collapse in this state of progressive failure.

    *(Courts have gone back and forth on the definition of ceiling or wall collapse. Sometimes ruling that collapse means when the system has fallen to the ground, sometimes ruling that it means when the system is in the process of falling, but has not yet fallen.)

    But in order to distinguish between a ceiling that is not observed to be experiencing any loss of structural integrity and one that has, I refer to such a ceiling as one that is, and will continue to, fail.

    If properly diagnosed, I believe a qualified professional can say that collapse may be inevitable, and for me, as a plaster restorationist fully aware of the criteria and visual signs of failure, to say otherwise would be irresponsible.

    What I will content myself with saying is this: certain plaster ceiling systems are inherently flawed and prone to collapse, and sometimes show signs of failure before collapse.

    Given the odds, I would bet money on the ceiling that is showing signs of failure actually collapsing before one that showed no signs.

    Some homeowners though, have made statements to the effect that collapse occured without warning, or very little warning.

    That may be due to the limitation of the average homeowner's ability to recognize what they are seeing, or to even notice any signs of system failure, such as cracks, though they may be clearly seen by an experienced eye.

    Or it may be that some ceilings actually don't show signs of failure until they collapse.

    I will make another general statement though, whether HG or anyone else likes it or not. In my judgement:

    All plaster-over-gypsum ceiling systems ( I am not saying individual ceilings) installed between the 1920's and the 1960's that I have seen and which I have described on my site, have shown signs of failure, and I have seen all of these systems in serious states of compromise and near collapse, or have documented cases of collapse of these systems, which you can find on my website.

    In my professional opinion (which may not be worth much to some), all such ceilings within the period that I refer to, that fit the criteria of plaster-over-gypsum or rock lath should be securely re-anchored to the ceiling joists because it can be presumed based upon observation and extrapolation from that observation, that these ceiling systems share an inherent design or engineering flaw of being undersupported, whether they show signs of failure or not.

    The ONLY plaster ceiling system of the period that I have seen that showed absolutely NO signs of failure, but retained the original integrity in every way, was a system that I have only seen once, but I wish that all ceilings had been done this way. This was a metal lath attached to steel trusses. Absolutely perfect ceiling in a 1920's home. The only reason I was there was to take out and replace a section for a plumber to do some work.

    I hope that I have clarified my definitions which may have caused some confusion earlier. Or if I have confused the issue more, then I take the blame.

    Oh, and I would appreciate only serious criticism, not nitpicking or knee-jerk responses.

    Last edited by Philip Lamachio; 11-08-2009 at 06:56 PM.

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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safety Issue

    Quote Originally Posted by Philip Lamachio View Post
    Oh, and I would appreciate only serious criticism, not nitpicking or knee-jerk responses.
    You get what you are given, which in various ways is related to how you post.

    Sometimes you never get serious criticism, sometimes never any nitpicking, sometimes always nitpicking to get the information right.

    If you only want the responses your way to suit you, this may not be the place for you.

    On the other hand, if you get a thick skin and post in appropriate ways, this is a site where we can learn from you and you can learn from all of us.

    It truly is YOUR CHOICE.

    Just do not try to insist on getting answers *your way* or you never will.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  31. #31
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    With the utmost patience I can muster and in the spirit of trying to prevent gross misinformation I will address some of the worst knee-jerk responses:

    'Your website goes on and seems to insist on tearout and replacement with unskimmed drywall as the ONLY safe solution because all skimmed rocklath and gyplath ceilings will fail.'

    A. There is not one place on my website that suggests that tearout and replacement is the solution I recommend or offer. I said that the first ceiling I ever dealt with was too far gone to repair and was treated that way. In fact, I dont go into much detail at all about how I deal with these various failing systems.

    'I am a plaster restoration contractor in Greensboro NC, who has also been a home inspector. When I moved to NC in 1992 to start my plaster restoration buisness, I came across a peculiar situation. No apprenticeship, no training just started working as a restorer?'

    A. I did not mention my apprenticeship, but I worked for 2 years as a crew member for a highly respected paint and plaster company in Chicago and 5 years as a crew leader for the same company before starting my own buisness. Thank you. Still waiting for your plastering credentials HG......


    I also take particular exception to the title of this thread: "Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safety Issue. It is not a NEW safety issue.

    A. It is a comfort to me to see that you agree that it IS a safety issue though. And to anyone less than 50 yrs. old, it might be new to them.

    In the process of replacing the ceiling, you didn't know what was existing before you sold the job and began removing it? I observed that the construction was three or two coat plaster over what looked like drywall, but later found out Hmmm you're in a trade that you just jumped into business for yourself without experience or training and didn't know what a plaster on rock/gyp ceiling was?

    A. I dont know if I can make myself clear for here, but I will assume that I must have left something out, rather than call into question the earnestness of the inquirer.

    As I said earlier, I was 7 yrs. in the trade before I started my own business. I apprenticed in Chicago. Hard to imagine, but in the city proper where we did most of our work we never came across this type of plaster construction. It was all post-fire, plaster over wood lath construction.

    This was a new system to me when I came to Greensboro. However, you may take comfort in the knowledge that from the moment I discovered it, I analyised the root problem, (undersupport), and developed techniques to address this problem in the early stages so tear out or complete collapse would not be necessacery for my future clients.

    That is something that my competetion over the years apparantly had not done, as evidenced by repairs that failed, ie: straight line ceiling cracks came back through previous repairs.


  32. #32
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    HG, you are not an expert on this issue just because you found a link on Bob Vila's website on plaster repair.

    But you do know just enough to make a royal mess of the point I am trying to make.

    The issues are similar in both traditional lath and rock lath.
    Yes and no. Yes in that they both suffer detachment issues. No in that with plaster over wood lath, it is more often the plaster keys breaking and plaster surface pulling away from the wood lath.

    But, with plaster over gypsum or rock lath, the failure point is not the bond of plaster to lath, but lath to substructure (ceiling joists).

    This is an important distinction because in ceilings where the gypsum lath is in 4x8' sections, an attachment failure usually involves the compromise of the whole 4x8 section. And in fact, in the vast majority of these cases I have seen, the whole ceiling was detaching at the gyp lath to joist attachement point. This 'monolithic failure' can lead to 'monolithic collapse' and therein lies a real danger.

    Both traditional lath plaster and rock lath/gyp lath plaster ceilings can suffer catastrophic, monolithic/cascading failure.
    While large sections of plaster can detach in a plaster over wood lath ceiling, enough to cause serious damage, the vast majority of detachments in that traditional system range from 4 sq. ft up to 12 sq. ft. That does not mean monolithic in my estimation.

    When I speak of 'monolithic' collapse or failure, I am talking about the complete ceiling system at the point of attachement to the ceiling joist being compromised or collapsing at one time.

    Your indication that it is unique to rock/gyp lath is wrong.
    Don't know exactly what you are referring to, but I guess you are saying that plaster over wood lath ceilings also detach. If that is what you are saying, I agree, but that is not the point or distinction I am trying to make in my original post, and I hope I have clarified my concern in the response to the previous statement.

    That there is only one cause is likewise wrong. All three links provide information on the issue, and the one you chose not to follow goes into detail as to some of the known causes.
    The other 'known' causes do not concern me. Not because they aren't important, but that they are particular to a singular ceiling.

    I am talking about an (almost) universal design flaw for the time period of experimentation that I refer to as a 'Transitional' period in plaster ceiling system development.

    I don't know if I can make it any clearer.

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  33. #33
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Philip Lamachio


    It is about a ceiling system that has, and will continue to, fail.




    To me, "It is about a ceiling system that has, and will continue to, fail." IS a claim that any such ceiling will inevitably fail. In case I haven't been clear, I do not agree with your claim. HG Watson

    Please see my dissertation on the distinctions between the use of the word 'failure' vs 'collapse'.

    Subtle but crucial disctinctions.

    You know, the good thing for me that has come out of this is that it has given me the opportunity to clarify potential points of confusion that may come up again.

    I am thinking of this experience and plan on posting a page especially for engineers, architects and home inspectors on my site with the clarifications I have tried to make here.

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  34. #34
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    Quote Originally Posted by A.D. Miller View Post
    PL: The mental meanderings of these two old goats notwithstanding, I liked your post. I do not often encounter plaster, so was unaware of the issues involved.

    You must pardon JP and HG for being the consummate nit-pickers that they are. It is the nature of the beast.
    Thanks Mr. Miller. If one person learns something new that may prevent a nasty surprise for a homeowner, I will have made some headway.

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  35. #35
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    Jerry Peck;108006]@ Phillip: (not sure why you choose to address us that way when you can plainly see the rest of us address others differently - just additional evidence that you are not really paying attention to what goes on here, only wanting to do it your way)
    Sorry, but I don't know what you are referring to Mr. Peck.

    E-mails and message boards are prone to misunderstandings IMHO due to the limitations of written language.


  36. #36
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    Now, do we really want to "go there" regarding the "usual" installation patterns of older gyp lath & rock lath?
    HG, You know just enough to make you dangerous.

    Catestrophic ceiling failures and signs/impending of same are of course a safety issue. Not limited to gyp/rock lath based plaster ceilings.
    My post was limited to gyp/rock lath based plaster ceilings. I am not addressing other ceiling types. .

    I take issue with your suggestion that such a failure foresenically examined would be found to be caused solely upon what you proposed in your first post. IME there have been other, more substantial, contributory causes. This has also been found in numerous cases. Scientific literature and published reports have also found numerous contributory factors in such failures.
    We either have a fundamental disagreement or I am not making myself clear (I'm being kind here) .

    Other 'substantial, contributary causes' are not the concern here. Of course if you hang drywall improperly on a compromised ceiling it could collapse with the added weight. Of course of the plaster system gets soaked with water from plumbing or roof leak it could contribute to collape. Of course major structural issues could contribute.
    But that is not the point of my post. NONE of those things have to be present for 'failure' or 'collapse' to occur. It is an underengineered system that I am referring to.

    Although your anecdotal website is interesting

    News stories and architects/engineers commentary is anecdotal?
    What type of evidence would you like to see? What would be convincing to you?

    IMO it is exagerative
    , conclusionary, and full of hyperbole. Period
    Your opinion is worth the experience in THIS feild that you have to back it up. So, lets have it.

    How many years have you professionally repaired plaster ? Where?
    Obviously not long enough to understand this issue.

    Sir, you have been slammed.


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    Last edited by Philip Lamachio; 11-09-2009 at 10:47 AM.

  37. #37
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    6 post in a row. wow!

    I must admit I got lost way back, but this does remind me a thread by a basement/waterproof guy.


  38. #38
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    6 post in a row. wow!

    I must admit I got lost way back, but this does remind me a thread by a basement/waterproof guy
    Well, I don't know anything about that thread, but if he was treated as disrespectfully as I was then I would not blame him for not returning.

    The six posts in a row were an attempt to answer all the misstatements that were being flung at me.

    I bet that the one guy who gave me the most trouble and accused me of so much actually gets that same kind of feedback from real estate agents.

    In other words, I bet he is an alarmist and is projecting his own issues onto me.

    I don't mind challanges or questions or criticism.

    However, he was making some serious presumptions and does not understand the issues we were talking about nearly as much as he would have liked me to beleive, yet he came off as a know it all.

    And so, the whole thread is now a tangled mess, and people like yourself have to slog through it to get to the information I wanted to convey. I'm going to start another thread. This one is damaged.


  39. #39
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    The begining of this post was informative to me, and I thank you guys for sharing your knowledge with people that are new to HI. I wish I could get back the time I wasted reading the bickering between a few members. I kept reading hoping that some valuable info. might be there but....


  40. #40
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    'The begining of this post was informative to me, and I thank you guys for sharing your knowledge with people that are new to HI. I wish I could get back the time I wasted reading the bickering between a few members. I kept reading hoping that some valuable info. might be there but....'


    I started a new thread for that very reason Rob. I hope you will find it helpful. Also, please visit my website for links and photos. I really don't want to re-create the website here.

    Look for the new thread under the Interiors forum as well.

    Thanks,
    Philip LaMachio
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  41. #41
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    Quote Originally Posted by Philip Lamachio View Post
    John Koegal: 'I have a question. This may be a trade secret, but what fasteners are approved or recommended for reattaching the plaster? Drywall screws?'

    "H.G. Watson, Sr. 'You mean rekeying? This is not new nor news. Gyp lath and blueboard still used today. There are buttons used with screws but their application is limited you have to hit wood (usually strapping not structural joists) the gyp lath/rock lath (in older buildings usually smaller panels than modern drywall or blueboard) must not be crumbled, and you also use an injectable adhesive, usually poxy."

    Mr.Watson, as I read it, Mr. Koegal was not asking about plaster over wood lath in his post, yet you assumed that he was based upon your follow-up question ('You mean rekeying?')

    Rekeying is specifically referring to plaster keys, the matl. that flows through wood lath to secure the ceiling to the lath.
    Ignorance and incorrect. Perforated forms of both gyp and rock lath are KEYED. Scored forms of both gyp and rock lath are KEYED. Expanded metal lath is KEYED (more so in fact than wattle or wood lath, as the metal lath is/was idealy completely within the scratch!).

    The string before you chose to edit, re-edit, then REMOVE ENTIRELY your erroneous first diatribe; was correctly responded to. Your tantrums further displayed your ignorance.

    I assumed no such thing as you assert. Rekeying of rock lath and gyp lath is done as I suggested and linked. Perforated rock lath and gyp lath were never available or installed as you suggested in your original post as 4x8' or greater sheets. Gyp lath and rock lath was always shorter and narrower panels. You confuse veneer plaster systems and modern blue board (no scratch coats) with gyp lath and rock lath (which were further installed with staggered bonds and on furring not directly to ceiling joists (unlike wall installations installed on studs). 16" x panels of rock/gyp lath.

    Your explanation as to why you supposedly replaced/re-wrote/removed your original post and your first post on this board is frankly completely untrue. You made a series of false statements followed by a series of unsupportable conclusions.

    Keying of plaster scratch (and rekeying repairs) are NOT limited to wood lath rock lath and gyp-lath were and are often significantly KEYED.


  42. #42
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    Mr. Watson,

    I may have made a mistake in interpretation of the correctness of your response to John Koegal. It was a quick assumption.

    I'm big enough to admit that.

    However, I really don't need an education on plaster lathing materials.

    And the general tounge-lashing and insinuations are getting old.

    Last edited by Philip Lamachio; 11-22-2009 at 05:02 AM.

  43. #43
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    'Your explanation as to why you supposedly replaced/re-wrote/removed your original post and your first post on this board is frankly completely untrue. You made a series of false statements followed by a series of unsupportable conclusions'.

    You must be God-like since you know my intentions.

    Mr. Watson, I took your criticisms and re-worked my post to avoid any misunderstandings, but I have not backed down on any of my conclusions, which are based on over 20 years in the feild, in restoration situations (I don't do as much new installs of blueboard and veneer coat).

    I don't think you have ever had a trowel in your hand sir. Googling is not really a substitute for firsthand experience.

    Frankly, I'm feeling harrased.

    Last edited by Philip Lamachio; 11-22-2009 at 05:05 AM.

  44. #44
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
    http://paragoninspects.com

  45. #45
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    @ Michael Thomas

    Thanks for the link, I appreciate your interest in the subject.

    By the looks of the debris, this was a plaster over wood lath construction which was aggravated by a water leak. This happens a lot, and is a real concern, but is not usually as catastrophic as the collapse of plaster over gyp lath. Unfortunately a child was hit, but had it been the gyp lath that failed, it could have been much worse.

    I will be adding sections to my website like this in the general plaster repair section later.

    Thanks again,
    Philip LaMachio
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  46. #46
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    At the risk of adding fuel to the fire, here are two that I looked at recently for the insurance company (I have about a dozen more locations with similar problems that I've looked at over the years). The first shows nearly the entire ceiling lying on the floor, buried under cellulose insulation. It's in the common room at a retirement village. It happened abouit 2:00 a.m. A few hours earlier, there were about 40 senior citizens sitting at tables in this room. No signs of water damage, and reportedly no sign of deflection before the collapse.

    The second is in an old heavy timber mill building that was converted to multi-family residences. The ceiling would have collapsed onto the floor but was being held up by the suspended ceiling below.

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  47. #47
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    Default Re: Hidden Danger in Plaster Ceilings -New Safey Issue

    Steve,

    Were you asked to determine the cause of the collapse?

    What was the attachment system?

    I would like to use your photos and some brief description of the cause of the damage (in your estimation) and quote your post on my website, if it fits into the category of the types of ceilings I have been talking about, which at first glance it does.

    Thanks for posting!

    Philip LaMachio
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