How to Repair a Collapsed Ceiling

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If your plaster or drywall ceiling has some isolated damage to it, you may be able to just patch or plaster it over. However, if one-third or more of the surface is damaged beyond repair, you're probably better off pulling it all down and drywalling the whole ceiling from scratch. It is much easier to hang drywall from bare ceiling joists than it is to hang it over partially collapsed plaster.

Things You'll Need

  • Prybar
  • Hammer
  • Half-inch drywall sheets (4-by-8 feet)
  • Tape measure
  • Utility knife
  • T-square
  • Two stepladders
  • Screw gun
  • Drywall screws
  • Drywall tape
  • Drywall joint compound
  • Drywall knife
  • Drywall sander
  • Use your prybar and hammer to pull down any remaining plaster or drywall from the ceiling, exposing the joists completely. Pull out all the remaining nails from the joists.

  • Measure the ceiling from one end out, in a direction perpendicular to the joists. Take the measurement from the wall to the middle of the width of the furthest joist out that's within 8 feet of the wall. Standard joists are 1½ inches wide along the narrow edges of the boards, so your measurement would be ¾ inch in from the edge of the last joist within the 8-foot section.)

  • Mark that measurement on a piece of drywall. Set a T-square on the edge of the drywall at the measurement and score along the edge of it with a utility knife. Snap the piece at the scored line.

  • Hold the cut drywall to the ceiling (with an assistant), positioned so the cut end is against the wall and the other edge is at the middle of the width of the joist to which you measured.

  • Drive galvanized drywall screws along each point where the board crosses a joist. Put the screws about every 6 inches along each joist.

  • Set a second drywall sheet at the end of the first. Screw to the joists in the same manner. Repeat the process, hanging as many full sheets as will fit. Cut the last sheet as before to go against the far wall.

  • Repeat for each row of drywall sheets, installing them side by side and covering the entire ceiling. Stagger the rows by starting each row at the opposite end of the room as the previous one.

  • Press drywall tape over all the seams of the ceiling. Spread drywall joint compound over the tape, using a drywall knife. Make the line of compound slightly wider than the tape and very flat. Spread additional compound over the screw holes. Let it dry for about 6 hours.

  • Apply a second coat of compound over the first, making it a little wider. Let it set for 6 hours. Apply a third and final coat, making the seam a little wider. Let it dry overnight. Sand it smooth with a drywall sander. The ceiling now is ready for painting.

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