How to Avoid Common Ceiling Install and Repair Errors


Installing a new ceiling, or patching up a damaged one, is a big project. Regardless of whether you tackle this home improvement on a DIY basis or you hire professionals, there are plenty of potential mistakes to be made. Since a ceiling is such an integral part of your home, the potentially catastrophic results of these mistakes are fairly obvious.

Thankfully, the most common mistakes can be avoided fairly easily. In this article we'll let you know what these mistakes are, as well as how to avoid these costly errors. In learning about how (and how not) to install or repair a ceiling, you'll also be learning what to watch for if you decide to hire a pro.

Taking on Too Much DIY Work

A ceiling isn't a part of your home that's often noticed - until something goes wrong. Integral to the structure of your home and the appearance of any room, a ceiling must be installed properly. Likewise, any repairs must be treated with extreme care.

When it comes to installing a brand new ceiling, very few homeowners have the skill or expertise required to complete the job properly. Hanging drywall vertically is a big enough challenge - installing it over your head, while paying close attention to measuring and other essential details, and is more work than many homeowners initially think. Unless you have prior experience, or can enlist a friend who does, a brand new ceiling is usually a project best left to the professionals. The same goes for cathedral-style ceilings. Due to the danger involved, leave these to workers who know exactly what they're doing.

One of the most common mistakes in installing a ceiling is biting off more than you can chew. To avoid this, take an honest inventory of your skills. If you don't think you can handle it, call in the pros.

Repairing a ceiling and installing ceiling tiles are easier jobs. They don't' necessarily require the skill of a professional, but they still require a great deal of attention to detail. Read up on the process, watch videos and do everything you can to learn about the project before you begin. As with a brand new ceiling, if you don't think you can handle it, leave it to those who can.

Poor Hiring Choices

Hiring the wrong person (or people) to install or repair a ceiling is perhaps the biggest and most common mistake you can make. Thankfully, by doing your research and asking a few simple questions, you can avoid this potentially costly error.

Begin your search for a contractor or handyman by going online or asking friends and relatives for a recommendation. These methods are far more likely to yield results than simply opening up the phone book. Online home improvement websites which connect homeowners with workers often display essentials like licensing, insurance and years of experience. This will help you narrow your search right away. Asking for recommendations won't give you this information, but it will let you know that somebody you know and trust has been satisfied with a particular contractor's work.

Once you start making calls, remember to ask questions. Don't be afraid to move on to the next name if you're not satisfied with the answers you receive. Permits are always an important thing to consider. Laws vary from place to place; in many areas a new ceiling requires a building permit, but in some it does not. Call your local offices to determine if you require a building permit, and don't hire a contractor who insists you don't need one when you know that it's required.

Professional licensing is another key question. While a worker certainly doesn't need to be licensed as a ceiling installer in order to work as one, a simple business license is a good thing for any professional worker to have. A contracting company should absolutely have a business license; not having one is a red flag. However, even a handyman can become licensed as a business. While this is not a necessity, it can give you an idea of how seriously a particular individual takes their work. In general, a license is a mark of professionalism and integrity.

Insurance should be your next question. A contractor must carry insurance, for the safety of their workers and for your own financial well-being. Ensure that any potential hires carry adequate insurance for every member of their work crew, and that the insurance coverage will extend throughout the entire job.

Experience in the industry translates into skill and knowledge. Ask how long a potential hire has been in the business. A general knowledge of construction can allow a crew to install a perfectly sound ceiling; there's no need to seek out a crew which only performs ceiling installations. However, if you hire a contractor who works mainly in an entirely different part of the home improvement industry, such as flooring, you may run into issues due to a lack of experience.

Remember that if you're tackling a ceiling install or repair on a DIY basis, the people you ask to help you should be chosen with as much care as you would put into hiring a professional. Don't ask your brother-in-law to assist simply because he's your brother-in-law. If you can, assemble a group of friends and relatives who have at least a bit of experience with building or construction.

Patching Cracks Improperly

Plaster applied over either lath or drywall is a very common type of ceiling. Therefore, plaster cracks are a very common ceiling repair job. While this job isn't the most complicated of household repairs, you still need to watch out for some common errors.

Perhaps the most common plaster repair mistake is to patch up a too-large crack. Sealing can be performed on cracks which are less than ¼ inch wide. If you're working on a crack larger than this, your best bet is to replace the section of ceiling. This involves cutting out a square of ceiling and replacing it with a new one, then applying either plaster, texturized paint, or a similar product to ensure that the new ceiling patch blends in with the rest of the ceiling.

Failure to find the reason for a crack is another big mistake that's very commonly made. In some cases, especially in older homes, a crack is just a crack. Plaster isn't made to last forever, after all. However, in many cases, a crack in the ceiling could be a sign of larger structural issues. If you simply seal or patch up the crack itself, you're only covering up the real problem. Take the time to discover the root cause of the crack and have it repaired. Otherwise, you'll just be looking at repair after repair until the real cause is corrected. Water damage is a very common reason for ceiling cracks, and it's something that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

Choosing Poor Quality Materials

This is a common mistake during DIY ceiling installations and repairs. Tile ceilings are a very common area for this mistake, simply because of the number of options available and today's uncertain economy.

Shopping for ceiling tiles, you'll find some extremely expensive, decorative options. You'll also find extremely cheap and, unfortunately, ugly choices. Far too many homeowners, in the spirit of saving money, purchase these cheap and unattractive tiles. This is a mistake in most cases. While they're fine in a basement or other area where visual appeal isn't a big deal, these tiles can severely detract from the appearance of any room in your home. If you're installing a new ceiling in an area that isn't strictly utilitarian, you'll be much happier in the long run if you purchase an attractive yet affordable mid-range product.

Improperly Blending a Patch

Nothing sticks out more obviously than a poorly blended patched ceiling. While this doesn't hurt the structural integrity of a ceiling, it's certainly unpleasant to look at.

After you've properly installed a drywall patch in your ceiling, it must be finished off with drywall tape. This should be covered with drywall compound. If you discover that he patch isn't precisely level with the rest of the ceiling, don't panic. In most cases, a patch gets installed slightly above the rest of the ceiling. This is easily camouflaged with more drywall compound. If your ceiling is textured, you'll have yet another layer of camouflage to help the patch blend in with the surrounding ceiling.

Regardless of how intricate the finish on your ceiling might be (some textured plaster techniques are surprisingly time-consuming), take the time to blend your patch as perfectly as possible.

The Basics

These are just a few of the many potential mistakes made during the installation or repair of a ceiling. Due to the wide variety of ceiling types out there, you'll need to research carefully before beginning your own project.

Regardless of the materials or type of ceiling you're working with, remember that planning and forethought can prevent many of the most common mistakes. Research extensively before taking on a DIY ceiling project, and ask the right questions if you decide to hire professionals.

Posted by: Diane Sheppard
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