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Hello all! First time posting here, though I've been referencing the site for awhile now.

My husband and I own a home in Wisconsin, which was built approx 1900 or shortly after. Our living/dining area is one large space (I'd have to measure again, but I think 24' x 40'). In this space there was only one light fixture, which was hanging too low in a high traffic area, so we decided to add more lights and replace the ugly fixture.

Did I mention the wonderful drop ceiling that had been installed?! Horrible cardboard-like material with splatter paint design.

Long story short, we were not able to run the wiring, despite almost 1' of clearance between the original ceiling and drop tiles, so we decided we would be rid of the drop ceiling right then and there. Above the drop ceiling we found several surprises!

1. It was installed with a seemingly homemade wooden grid

2. There are 2 sections of ceiling that are reinforced with three 2"x6" butted up to each other.

3. The plaster is in great disrepair; I don't know if it can even be fixed

4. There were several light fixtures that had been wired into the ceiling, but were covered by the drop

5. The wood paneling on the walls (not sure what kind, but real, thick wood) only reaches the drop ceiling...behind it is the original plaster.

 

So-I'm sorry this got so long, but I am at a loss as to how to approach this whole situation. I really want to bring the ceiling back to it's original height, but that will leave almost 1' of exposed plaster on the top of the walls. Removing the wooden panels on the walls is an option right now.

Also, if I do bring the height back up, what do I do about the 2"x6"s that are quite obviously structrurally necessary? I've thought about coffered ceilings, but that seems daunting.

There is also old wiring that is just lying up there, so I don't know where we would go with any new wiring that we plan to put in.

 

I will try to post a photo, and thanks in advance for any suggestions!

 

 

 

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as much as i love old houses, i think plaster walls are the biggest pain ever! no matter how many repairs you make cracks ALWAYS appear so i would recommend just completeley drywalling over top of the origonal plaster ceiling, and since your covering the plaster ceiling you can cut access holes to run the new electrical, also you can get sheetrock in different thicknesses so you would be losing barely any ceiling height, also for the gap between the wall paneling and the ceiling i think crown moulding would be the best option? and about the supports on the ceiling, you could just do the basic thing and make a bulkhead but i dont think you would want to do that :) so i would try to incorporate it into something, you could try mirroring the same beam on the other side of the room or when you cut access holes you could determine if there is a need for the beams to be there? to re-enforce the ceiling you could sister up the ceiling joists but that would be creating a much larger project for youself? anyways good luck with your project and welcome to the forum:) i'll check in if you are able to post a photo then i will know exactly what your talking about!

Here are some pictures, though they're not the greatest. The first shows the wooden "grid" that all of the tiles were stapled to. You'll also notice where I put the arrow that there is a great deal of wood nailed directly onto the plaster in a variety of patterns and shapes. For what reason, I'm not sure. Additionally, there are a few sections that have drywall patched in.

2nd picture shows the distance between original and drop ceilings. I am concered that crown moulding would be way more expensive than I can afford, due to the 11" of space.

3rd picture shows the areas that have support beams in place. They all lead to a beam that is near the center of the room. I don't know exactly how to work with them, given the fact that they are laid out in an unusual pattern and do not span the length or width of the room.

I'm not sure I know what a bulkhead is...could you please explain?

I hope the photos are helpful in showing just how much of a mess this is!

Thanks :)

OH WOW!! that looks like a nightmare!! and i thought previously that you meant there was a 1" gap not 11" inches lol, anyways to make a bulk head you would usually frame in a box around the beam and drywall it (thats a really bad explanation but you usually see them in basements around duct work etc.., (i think it would look really bad though) but it is an idea! i like the coffered ceiling idea but that would be alot of work, re-installing a drop ceiling would be likely the easiest solution but its a shame to lose the original height, i really dont know what some other options would be? i guess you will just have to see what other members have to say! keep us posted though :)

OH WOW!! that looks like a nightmare!! and i thought previously that you meant there was a 1" gap not 11" inches lol, anyways to make a bulk head you would usually frame in a box around the beam and drywall it (thats a really bad explanation but you usually see them in basements around duct work etc.., (i think it would look really bad though) but it is an idea! i like the coffered ceiling idea but that would be alot of work, re-installing a drop ceiling would be likely the easiest solution but its a shame to lose the original height, i really dont know what some other options would be? i guess you will just have to see what other members have to say! keep us posted though :), also in your second picture the 2by6's that have the strapping attached to them are they touching the plaster? 

Haha! Yes, it is unthinkable...I thought about adding this disaster to the thread on the worst "fixes" ever! Even my neighbor, who is a journeyman (I believe) carpenter and installs ceilings, was at a loss when he saw it.

I know now what you mean by bulkhead, and I agree it would not look very appropriate. Coffered ceiling would be a lot of work, but it sounds fun and would probably look the best if the ceiling were raised. :) You are probably right that reinstalling some sort of drop would be easiest, but it really irks me to lose that height and have an ugly ceiling again...

The only 2x6's that actually touch the plaster are the ones in the 3rd picture that I'm certain are there for structural reasons. The rest are suspended from small pieces of wood nailed to 1x3's that are nailed directly into the plaster/lathe. My theory is that at one time there was a wall that divided this large space, but it was removed to open up to one big room, but creating the need for the beam in the center of the room.

 

Thanks for your input. I will update for sure...if I ever find a solution!!

for the gap i think that this would be a good solution :

Attachments:

if i were you i would have a structural engineer come over and have him/her take a look at the ceiling and they should be able to tell you what is load bearing, whats not, why the beams were put there, and some solutions. and was this room ever used as a commercial space, or a apartment?, kitchen possibly? because i think the wood that is nailed directley to the plaster and drywall is covering the gaps between the materials and creating somewhat of a fire seperation?

I think you will have to do a combination of things. I would get a contractor to take a look and see what can be done with the ceiling. My guess is the best approach is to redo the drop ceiling correctly. Once that has been determined, decide on what to do with the walls above the paneling. All can be done with drywall.

Here is a similar problem we had in our kitchen:

You can see the old lath of the previous ceiling. This was a leak repair opening for the bath upstairs. We removed the entire ceiling. Just as well the joists were not mounted right and were loose!!!!!. We also had to replace the plumbing and drains. So it worked out. We got a few more inches higher, but still had to account for the drain lines, so the drop ceiling had to remain but replaced correctly. We used drywall with beadboard over it, plus added lighting.

This is how it looks now. The hole was in the left corner:

 

We also had quarter-sawn oak paneling in our dining room, so we could not run wires from the basement below, but from the ceiling above. I do not have pictures of this part, but they had to cut down the walls to get to the sconces on either side of the door, plus running across the ceiling. There was one more sconce further to the left:

 All was repaired with drywall. You would never know the walls and ceiling were holed to run the wires:

Ok, It looks to me like you've got 1x3s or 1x4s nailed or screwed directly into the old ceiling, then 2x6s under those, then a grid of 1x4s used as lathe which they hung the old drop ceiling to.  Based on your pictures, it looks like the previous owner removed a wall to open up the area and then put a beam in to support the load which the wall used to hold.  This would have left them with two choices: either frame out and finish the beam, or lower the entire ceiling in both rooms to hide it.  They obviously chose the latter.  If it was me, I would remove the 2x6s, and bottom layer of 1x4 grid.  Then I would use 2x4s screwed directly to the ceiling to form a grid to which you can hang drywall.  You'd have to remove those 1x4s where they intersect the new grid.  When I got to the beam, I'd frame it out and finish it with whatever wood that is you have on the paneling (common grade pine?).  In a perfect world, we could all have 20 x 44 rooms that need no structural support, but in our world, beams are a reality.  What I'm trying to say is, its not unusual to have a beam in such a large room.  I don't think losing 6-8 inches of ceiling height is worth it just to hide a beam.   You may have to reroute some of the conduit I can see in the last picture, but it would also give you an opportunity to install some extra lighting.  

Or... if you really want to hide the beam, why not just use that old lathe system to hang drywall at the former height of the old drop ceiling.

P.S. I like Garrett's gap solution.

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