Plaster ceilings can succumb to damage over time for various reasons. Leaks, earthquakes and improper installation will make your ceiling an eyesore within no time, but luckily, fast intervention can bring your ceiling back to standard. This article discusses common ceiling problems, why they occur and how you should handle them.
1. Big and small cracks
Plaster is a heavy material, and so it must be properly attached or else gravity acting on it can cause damage. Usually, plaster material is applied to a metal wire or wood mesh (called lath) which is then nailed to the ceiling frame. Application of plaster causes it to squeeze through the lath, forming 'keys' that keep it in place. These keys can disintegrate in time, causing crumbling and cracking. This also happens if you use bad quality plaster during installation or following unsettling events like quakes and tremors.
Cracks can be indicative of more significant damage in the ceiling structure, and hence you should call in a contractor to examine the integrity of the ceiling and recommend appropriate repair procedures. If you're handy, you may choose to repair small cracks yourself, but call in a professional if there are too many cracks, if the plaster is separated from the lath or if they reappear within a short time. You will know plaster and lath are separated if, on pushing gently with the flat of your hand, the plaster flexes like it has no support.
2. Holes in the plaster
Again, tiny holes can be easily repaired if the plaster is still well-connected to the lath. This will require patching with a mixture of joint compound and plaster of Paris. Ensure that the mixture is properly pushed through the lath for good bonding. In cases where the lath behind the hole is weak, new backing must be installed. This is a little more complicated and should be done by a professional.
3. Sagging ceilings
Sagging plaster is a major problem, and it should be professionally checked as soon as possible to prevent total collapse. Because of its weight, gravity can act on plaster causing 'keys' to break away from the lath. It may also happen if the lath gets separated from the framing. Widespread water damage from roof leaks can also cause sagging.
To make work easier for the ceiling repair contractor, ensure that you remove as much furniture from the room and then gather the heavy pieces in one spot (far from the work-site) and cover with plastic sheets. Hang dampened sheets and rags over doorways and windows to prevent plaster dust from spreading to other parts of the house.