4 posts / 0 new
Last post
Here's a real doozy...

I have a small, one story, prefab house built in 1949. It seems it was put together as cheaply as possible because there are many things that wouldn't live up to today's standards. The most obvious of this is the sagging ceiling in my living room. Seams are opening up and the board is warping badly in some areas. It's not sheetrock up there, but some kind of fiber board. Upon further investigation, I discover that the ceiling joists are 4 feet apart instead of the standard 24" or 16" today. Also, there are 1x4's running perpendicular underneath the joists, which is what I assume the fiber board is attached to as well as the joists. There is some dampness up there too so I think some of the problems are do insufficient venting causing moisture to build up and warping the fiber board.

And, to make matters worse, there is loose-fill Vermiculite insulation on top of fiberglass batting resting on top of all of this. I worry that the Vermiculite contains asbestos but have not had it tested yet.

I've gotten estimates on fixing all this and it comes to well over 5 digits. Basically they want to rip out the ceiling throughout the house and insert new 2x6's in between the existing joists to bring it to 24" on center. Then of course they have to deal with the insulation and electrical and replace it all with 1/2" sheetrock. They would also install 4 roof vents to handle the moisture problems.

I'm wondering if such measures are necessary. This house has stood for 60 years and is structurally sufficient. The only real problem are the cosmetic issues. Perhaps when using this fiber board, because it's stiffer and stronger than sheetrock, there is no need for 24" on center joists? And I think maybe most of my problems are do to moisture. Could I, for instance, just install the roof vents and somehow replace the ceiling with new fiber board without having to insert new joists and deal with the insulation?

Are there any other alternatives?

Re: Here's a real doozy...

The insulation probably has asbestos...so try not to disturb it. If you can get into the space above the ceiling, you could install the joists yourself...that is not that difficult. Just make sure you are wearing a protective suit, mask, and goggles.

The sagging could be moisture related, but is likely weight and your joist problem. installing attic vents is easy enough as well...you can probably do that yourself, regardless if you can get into that space or not (do it from the roof).

There are a few options to try before the huge project.

Re: Here's a real doozy...

Well, I won't be able to get long 2x6's in the attic without cutting a hole in the ceiling somewhere. The access point is tucked into a narrow corner hallway that would be impossible to navigate with long boards.

Regardless, the insulation is in the way. How can I install new ceiling joists without disturbing the insulation that lies between the existing joists, where I want to put the new ones?

I could do the ceiling vents myself and will probably try that first to see if the moisture goes away. But I wonder if it will be easy to replace the fiber board ceiling without disturbing the insulation? Or is this a problem that should be fixed the hard way now to avoid problems in the future?

Re: Here's a real doozy...

First of all properly engineered and built trusses can be 4 feet apart with no problem.

Furring strips (the 1x4's running perpendicular underneath the joists) is what the ceiling is connected to. 1X4's seems a little light to me and should have been 2X4's. Are the furring strips themselves sagging? If not the problem is the probably moisture caused and the fiber board is failing. If the furring strips are sagging then removing the ceiling, installing 2X furring strips and a new ceiling would be a possible solution. Venting of the attic and checking to make sure that the stove vent of bathroom vent is not just dumping into the attic but vented to the outside would be a must.

Sponsored Stories

TV Listings

Find TV listings for This Old House and Ask This Old House in your area.