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  1. #1
    Ann Bailey's Avatar
    Ann Bailey Guest

    Default Is my ceiling going to cave in? Photo link included. Someone please help?

    Hello,
    Not sure how this site works. Trying to get advice with this situation. I rent a home built in 1920 in western, Maryland. Meanwhile the 2nd floor ceiling has this sagging ripple effect. The front room is looking like it is doing a tipi effect above the window frames. All of upstairs is like this. I was wondering if this is a huge concern? My land lord is not responding and not sure what the code is here.
    I cannot call an inspector to the house land lord will flip out and evict me over that.
    I do have good renter's insurance should anything happen. What is the likely hood judging by the photos of a cave in at some point? I forgot to note that this was not like this when I first moved in 5 years ago. It was perfectly flat and stable. This has began to happen a few months ago and getting worse in a short amount of time.
    I cannot have access to the attic upstairs to see what is going on myself they sealed the attic doors.
    Kindly respond when you can.
    http://i1368.photobucket.com/albums/...ps23c30235.jpg
    http://i1368.photobucket.com/albums/...ps2b68f940.jpg
    http://i1368.photobucket.com/albums/...ps2a9519c1.jpg
    http://i1368.photobucket.com/albums/...pse6b6d941.jpg
    http://i1368.photobucket.com/albums/...ps94430280.jpg
    http://i1368.photobucket.com/albums/...ps1072a30d.jpg
    http://i1368.photobucket.com/albums/...ps89e8fcd4.jpg
    http://i1368.photobucket.com/albums/...ps43347f10.jpg


    Thank you

    Last edited by Ann Bailey; 05-23-2014 at 11:23 PM.
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  2. #2
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    Default

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  3. #3
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    Default Re: Is my ceiling going to cave in? Photo link included. Someone please help?

    That is not a 1920's ceiling... That looks like drywall that has become detached and is starting g to fail. Once gravity takes hold, it will fall. It will not give you much if any warning before it drops. You need to tell the slumlord, I mean landlord that it has a problem and you fear for your safety. Yes, you will most likely need to find a new place now or later when it goes!

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Is my ceiling going to cave in? Photo link included. Someone please help?

    I'm going to partially agree with Scott - except that instead of drywall that looks like rock lath (the predecessor to drywall, gypsum core board in long narrow lengths (16" wide are I recall by up to 16' long, instead of 4'x8', 4'x12' sheets).

    Looks like it was nailed along its edges only where it should also have been nailed at intermediate areas too. It is possible that the nails have rusted off in the intermediate areas, but that would not be the consistent pattern shown.

    I would have it checked out because if it is coming down for whatever reason, like Scott said, there is little warning ... it is up there ... a loud crash lets you know is it no long up there, that it is now on the floor.

    Sometimes entire ceilings fall on older homes from failed/improper/improperly driven/rusted off fasteners ... everything between the ceiling and the floor is crushed when the ceiling falls - including any people there. If you are sleeping on the sofa you might get lucky and have a piece resting on the sofa back above you and angled down to the cushions, giving you that little safety space in there.

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

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Is my ceiling going to cave in? Photo link included. Someone please help?

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Patterson View Post
    That is not a 1920's ceiling... That looks like drywall that has become detached and is starting g to fail.
    To me:
    it does look like drywall
    It does not look like it has detached. Looks like it is well secured to the joist, but sagging between the joist.
    The question to me is, what is causing it to sag after only 5 years.
    Could be thin drywall, dampness or high humidity, heavy insulation (or other) in ceiling, may be something else, I don't know.
    I'm leaning toward moisture/ humidity is high. Because the ceiling with tile also has a similar look.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Patterson View Post
    Once gravity takes hold, it will fall. It will not give you much if any warning before it drops.
    Plaster ceilings can and will fail like that, not nearly as likely with drywall.
    Seams will split and open up. Maybe a piece of drywall will fall. Very unlikely for all at once.

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Is my ceiling going to cave in? Photo link included. Someone please help?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    I'm going to partially agree with Scott - except that instead of drywall that looks like rock lath (the predecessor to drywall, gypsum core board in long narrow lengths (16" wide are I recall by up to 16' long, instead of 4'x8', 4'x12' sheets).
    I'v never seen rock lath installed on the ceiling, only on walls.
    Rock lath replaced wood lath. Both still had the heave cement on top of the lath, then the finish coat. Rock lath on a ceiling is not strong enough to handle that. At least that's the way I understand it.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Looks like it was nailed along its edges only where it should also have been nailed at intermediate areas too. It is possible that the nails have rusted off in the intermediate areas, but that would not be the consistent pattern shown.
    Not that you need my approval, but I agree


    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    I would have it checked out because if it is coming down for whatever reason, like Scott said, there is little warning ... it is up there ... a loud crash lets you know is it no long up there, that it is now on the floor.

    Sometimes entire ceilings fall on older homes from failed/improper/improperly driven/rusted off fasteners ...
    Maybe, but I don't think this is that old of ceiling.

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Is my ceiling going to cave in? Photo link included. Someone please help?

    You do have some issues with the ceiling. Is it coming down in the next 24 hrs, possibly. Will it say up for the next 20 yrs, possibly. Moisture, gravity, vibration and movement in the house structure have an effect on the ceiling.

    1920's house, you probably have a mixture of ceiling and wall construction. Some wood lath with plaster, some plaster board with plaster finish coat and some dry wall as a result of years of repairs that may have been preformed over the years. You also may have had paper glued over the surface to resolve cracks and then painted and at some time texture applied. All of the materials have their own characteristics of age and failure of attachment. It is amazing how little it really takes to hold up a ceiling. For example 3 screws will hold up a 4x8 sheet of dry wall. How long is another issue.

    It is hard looking at the photos to make a positive determination for the longevity of the ceiling. My first guess is that after this past winter there may be roof damage allowing water to get to the ceiling. The attic insulation will hold water/moisture which will have a detrimental effect on the ceiling. Further it can take quite a while before there is a failure. During the preceding period sagging, bowing and cracking will occur. The 12x12 ceiling tiles will react before the plaster, which may be what your are seeing.

    Plaster over lathing can fail without water intrusion. The rough coat breaks at the lathing from age, vibration and gravity. Plaster board and drywall will fail from the same causes at their attachment points.

    Since you have 5 years history with the ceiling and by your observations the changes have occurred since the recent winter I would suggest that it is a water issue. The rate of attachment degradation is an unknown variable as is the the rate of possible moisture developing in the ceiling.

    In Maryland, landlord - tenant law is mostly determined by your local jurisdiction/county. You will have recourse if there is damage to you or your personal property. You may also be able for recovery for costs incurred during your displacement if there is a failure and you are not able to remain during repairs. Though, if you are on a month to month lease your landlord can give you 30 days notice for you to vacate the apartment without cause. What happens at that point is determined by your local jurisdiction. You may/should consider determining exactly what your rights of tenancy are so you will have a better understand of how you may want to proceed.

    My suggestion would to find a contractor that will come and look at the problem, even if you have to pay him for the consultation. He would be able to provide you with the best information regarding the potential material failure of the ceiling. The fact that you have brought it to the landlord's attention and that you have taken pictures documenting the present condition is in your favor for later developments. It ultimately is the decision of the landlord to take any action since at present it is only a cosmetic situation.

    You do have the choices, to stay or not to stay, unless you have a lease. Then it is a mater of how hard you want to push the landlord. The problems that you appear to have are not going away and something the landlord should want to address since delay will only increase the cost of repairs. Always present your comments to the landlord as how it will benefit him and less about your personal fears of damage.


  8. #8
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    Default Re: Is my ceiling going to cave in? Photo link included. Someone please help?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Cantrell View Post
    I'v never seen rock lath installed on the ceiling, only on walls.
    Rock lath replaced wood lath. Both still had the heave cement on top of the lath, then the finish coat. Rock lath on a ceiling is not strong enough to handle that. At least that's the way I understand it.
    I've seen a lot of rock lath on ceilings: rock lath, brown coat, finish coat on walls and ceilings.

    What is Rock Lath? Preservation in Mississippi

    Repairing Historic Flat Plaster Walls and Ceilings (Introduction) | Old House Web

    Preservation Brief 21: Repairing Historic Flat Plaster Walls and Ceilings

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  9. #9
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    Default Re: Is my ceiling going to cave in? Photo link included. Someone please help?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post

    So that I don't have to read everything, please point out the appropriate text.
    Not that I doubt you, I have not seen any on the ceiling.

    But I think it looks like drywall, not plaster

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Is my ceiling going to cave in? Photo link included. Someone please help?

    I see tons of rocklath on ceilings.

    Jerry, In some photos it does have the look of rocklath, but I do think it is drywall. I have seen rocklath nailed only along the long sides and it does bow like that. But in at least one photo it looks like it is bowed across the whole 4-foot width. In others I would say it looks like drywall nailed at the sides and in the middle.

    Some ceilings like that will be there for a long, long time. Others will fail with little or no warning. I notify the landlord in writing of your concern so he is on notice should it fail. You could have a local home inspector take a look and write a letter. Maybe the landlord would pay attention to that.


  11. #11
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    Default Re: Is my ceiling going to cave in? Photo link included. Someone please help?

    OK
    Two people whose opinion I value and trust, both say rock lath is installed on ceilings (although not necessarily on this ceiling) .
    I got it.

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Is my ceiling going to cave in? Photo link included. Someone please help?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Reinmiller View Post
    But in at least one photo it looks like it is bowed across the whole 4-foot width.
    Mark,

    I am pretty sure I know which photo you are referring to, and what I see in that photo is what looks like a repaired crack (which is why it looks like a 4' end) but if you look closely I think you will see that the bow is only in the center section of that 4' 'seam' ... which would make sense as 16" + 16" + 16" = 48" leaving the proper width for rock lath.

    That's what I see ... or think I see.

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

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Is my ceiling going to cave in? Photo link included. Someone please help?

    Having a 'professional' (inspector) take a look at the issue is not something you can be evicted for. If you are a month to month renter you could be given notice to vacate but you have good protection under your States landlord / tenant statutes. Being evicted for looking out for your own personal safety would likely get the landlord into hot water with a Judge. If you are under terms of a lease then you have every legal right to remain in the property as a tenant until the lease expires. You may enter into another lease agreement with landlord but it may include changes to conditions - rent increase or term etc. Speak to someone in your City's fair housing dept. and let them know of the properties condition. They may bring pressure to bear on the landlord to make necessary repairs and ensure you are not unfairly evicted.

    Renters insurance may only cover a percentage loss of your personal property. It is unlikely to cover any displacement. Your landlord's insurance, however, should cover his having to find you alternative accommodation should it be necessary in the event the property becomes inhabitable. Speak to you insurance agent and make sure about what you are covered for, it may not be as much as you think.


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