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Ceiling covering choices:
This article describes the major ceiling finishes used in buildings and identifies common problems in, and repair of building interior ceilings and ceiling materials. Information is provided about visual clues of building condition, such as evidence of a history of leaks, as well as evidence of hazardous materials and conditions such as the probable presence of animal allergens, asbestos, or mold.
We discuss how to identify and correct various building leaks, moisture, and venting
problems such as ice dams, blocked attic ventilation, excessive indoor humidity, how to prevent indoor mold, and how to respond to building floods and
similar emergencies. Page top wood ceiling photograph - Tlaxcala, Mexico.
We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.
Interiors Ceiling Finishes: Types, Defect Recognition, Repair for Building Interiors
[Click to enlarge any image]
The following building interior ceiling finish type descriptions, and interior wall defect descriptions are adapted and expanded from original citations provided courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates, Home Reference Book, with permission.
The sketch at left illustrates two simple methods for inspecting interior building ceilings for common defects: use of parallel or oblique lighting (see for details) and tapping. The drawing is provided courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates and appears in their Illustrated Home.
At USING LIGHT TO FIND MOLD we provide a detailed example and procedures for using lighting to find otherwise hard-to-see building defects.
Ceiling finishes provide a decorative skin to conceal building components.
Ceiling finishes hide structural members, insulation, ductwork, pipes, and wires. Most good ceiling finishes are flat and straight. Surfaces may be smooth or textured and better ceiling finishes are durable.
Some ceiling finishes are versatile, taking decorative finishes such as stain, paint or wallpaper readily.
Ceilings may make a decorating statement, or may be simply background. In some cases, the combustibility of ceiling finishes may be of interest. Below roofs, kitchens and bathrooms, resistance to water damage is an asset.
As we discussed about interior walls, our AGE of a BUILDING, HOW to DETERMINE article series we explain how you can guesstimate the age of a building by taking a look at its wall construction and finish materials.
Acoustic Ceiling Tiles
Acoustic ceiling tiles, typically made of fiber board and perforated to improve their acoustic performance, have been popular since the 1950s.
Typically, they are 12 inches by 12 inches and are stapled or nailed to strapping. This type of ceiling tile was often installed when finishing a basement, or was installed over a damaged plaster ceiling.
The tiles have better acoustic properties than plaster and drywall, although they are subject to mechanical damage and water damage, similar to drywall or plaster. Repairs are easy if matching tiles can be found. The tiles can be painted, with some loss of acoustic performance.
Often you will find that acoustic ceiling tiles have been installed on furring strips nailed over an older ceiling that was in poor condition, such as we show in this additional photo where demolition was in process.
Aluminum & Pressed Tin Metal Ceilings - Properties, Photos
Metal ceilings were typically tin and most often were installed in kitchens, during the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Tin or aluminum embossed or pressed design was often a decorative square pattern intended to simulate ornate plaster ceilings.
This was a fairly durable ceiling system and in some areas has become fashionable again in both nailed or glued ceiling panels as well as in suspended or drop ceiling panels using embossed metal designs.
Details about the history, installation, inspection, troubleshooting & repair of tin ceilings or embossed tin or aluminum ceiling panels, including sources of modern metal ceiling panels are found at METAL CEILINGS ALUMINUM & TIN.
Angalypta & Lincrusta Ceiling & Wall Coverings
Linocrusta (or Lincrusta) ceilings are also an embossed covering product but the material is leatherette-like material similar to linoleum - these embossed ceiling, wall and frieze coverings are not metal though from a distance one might be confused about what they are.
As we noted at LINOLEUM & SHEET FLOORING Descendents of Linoleum include Anaglypta and Lincrusta (many writers spell it "Linocrusta or linacrusta", an embossed patterned covering used on walls and ceilings. Linocrusta designs are normally much more flat - the embossed design is in low relief.
Lincrusta (1877) was originally identified by its inventor, Frederick Walton, the inventor of linoleum(1860) as Linoleum Muralis.
Photo at left: Lincrusta in Byzantine pattern - Wikipedia 11/25/2013
There are also some metal ceiling lookalike products that are actually drop-in panels, typically 2' x 2' or 2' or larger, that are actually a suspended ceiling system. It's easy to spot a metal panel suspended ceiling by looking more closely for its supporting grid.
Lincrusta is a deeply embossed wallcovering. A British invention, it was the brainchild of inventor Frederick Walton who earlier (1860) patented linoleum floor covering. Lincrusta was launched in 1877 and was used in a host of applications from royal homes to railway carriages. The linseed gel continues to dry for many years, so the surface actually gets tougher over time. Many examples [of lincrusta] over a hundred years old can still be found throughout the world.
Lincrusta is made from a paste of gelled linseed oil and wood flour spread onto a paper base. It is then rolled between steel rollers, one of which has a pattern embossed upon it. ] It was originally manufactured in Sunbury-on-Thames ... and is now produced in Lancashire ....
The first production of Lincrusta in the United States was in 1883 in Stamford, Connecticut. - Wikipedia retrieved 11/25/2013
Lincrusta wallpaper and ceiling coverings are still produced, including some products made using original materials and pattern dies, and are available worldwide.
What's the difference between Anaglypta (1887) and Lincrusta (1877) Thomas Palmer produced a more light-weight version of embossed wall and ceiling coverings, solving a weight and stiffness issue with the original lincrusta product. Interestingly and not surprising, Mr. Palmer had previously worked for Mr. Walton.
"Lincrusta became an instant success because it was the first washable wallcovering and appealed to the Victorians because of its sanitary properties as well as its durability and ornate effects.
Originally made on a linen backing, [Lincrusta] was however, quite rigid. Because of this, an employee by the name of Thomas J Palmer invented a similar product which, being made from wood pulp and cotton, was lighter and more flexible. This was to become Anaglypta (from the Greek words 'Ana' (meaning raised) and 'Glypta' (meaning Cameo)).
The Anaglypta brand was purchased from CWV in May of 2012 by Retford Wallcoverings Limited who manufactered Anaglypta products under licence for many years prior to the acquisition" - Wikipedia retrieved 11/25/2013
Where to buy Anaglypta & Lincrusta Ceiling & Wall Coverings & Wallpaper
Coringham Road Industrial Estate
DN21 1QB, Website: http://www.anaglypta.co.uk, Tel: 01427 616597 Email: email@example.com, producing angalypta paintable embossed or patterned wallpaper since 1887.
"Anaglypta consists of a range of vinyl and paper paintable textured wallcoverings, produced on traditional paper and paste-the-wall substrates.
" - Wikipedia retrieved 11/25/2013
Lincrusta, CWV limited, Morecambe, Lancashire, England, website: http://www.lincrusta.com, Tel: +44 (0) 1254 222 803. Quoting:
In addition to Lincrusta, CWV Limited also supplies wallcoverings under the world famous Anaglypta, Crown, Coloroll and Vymura brands to retailers and wholesalers internationally.
Lincrusta Wallpaper Direct, website: http://www.wallpaperdirect.com [Dream on if you hope to find out who or where this company actually is - Ed.]
Interior stucco is essentially plaster, and is typically installed in a two or three coat process. The finish is often sculpted or worked to provide a decorative appearance. The texturing is done with trowels, sponges, brushes, or other tools to give the desired effect.
As we also discuss at WALL FINISHES INTERIOR, water damage is one of the most common problems on interior finishes.
Common water sources that show up as ceiling leaks or leak stains include roof leaks, flashing leaks, ice damming, window and skylight leaks, plumbing leaks, leaks from hot water heating systems, and condensation.
Water damage in or on a ceiling may also result from such things room humidifiers or dehumidifiers, and other sources of indoor water or high moisture levels, but the most common source of water damage to ceilings is of course leaks from above.
When looking into ceiling leak stains, you want to find
the source of the water,
whether the problem is still active,
whether there is any concealed damage
the cost to correct the water problem if needed, e) and the cost to repair the damaged building materials.
While water damage often looks more serious than it is, a stain such as the one in our photo (above left) might in fact be hiding a larger mold problem or rot or insect damage that were caused by a long-term leak into the structure.
On the other hand, short term exposure to water will not harm many building materials. [For an exception see CARPET MOLD / ODOR TESTS]
Ceiling (or wall) plaster and drywall however, are easily damaged by water. Stains appear quickly and persist after the problem is solved. The material that can be easily seen is the first material to deteriorate. Mold can develop on the front or back surface of plaster or drywall if it is chronically wet. Mold will not disappear but will go dormant if the moisture source is removed.
Both plaster and drywall ceilings that have been damaged can be readily patched where small damaged areas are noted. But as we discuss at Q&A on Building Interiors: Leaks, Stains, Damage, Repairs, if there is evidence that a long term leak has been going on, further investigation - a look into the ceiling or wall cavity - may be justified, and if a large mold contamination is found (much more likely on drywall than on plaster) a cleanup is needed.
over old plaster or drywall is sometimes done where large areas are damaged.
Watch out: do not just drywall over building ceilings or walls where there has been a long history of leakage or where there is a serious mold problem. Doing so risks covering up a more serious problem that can lead to the need to remove the drywall, clean and fix conditions in the ceiling or wall, and then put it back - doubling the cost of the job.
If you are considering drywalling over an old ceiling or wall where there is evidence of leakage or mold, make a few test cuts into the worst or most-suspect areas to look into the building cavities for damage before proceeding.
Chinese Drywall Outgassing Hazards at Building Ceilings (or Walls)
Details are found at at CHINESE DRYWALL HAZARDS, This article describes a corrosive and smelly sulphur outgassing problem that occurs in certain homes built or renovated since 2001. Excerpts are below.
The image of corrosion on a cooling coil that was blamed on Chinese drywall outgassing is provided by the U.S. CPSC.
Cracks or Sags in Plaster or Drywall Interior Ceilings, Diagnosis & Repair
Large sections of ceilings may become loose where plaster has lost many of its keys due to
vibration and wear and tear. Where there is danger of plaster falling, this should be corrected
promptly. People can be seriously hurt by plaster falling, especially from a ceiling.
ceiling might indicate that the plaster or drywall is about to fall.
Most interior ceiling or wall cracks are cosmetic. In those cases, patching and monitoring the crack for recurrent or ongoing movement makes sense. Where cracks are accompanied
by sagging, at least partial ceiling replacement may be necessary.
Details are at PLASTER, LOOSE FALL HAZARDS where we illustrate loose plaster and report a case of a catastrophic plaster ceiling collapse.
Sagging plaster ceilings (in our photo above and in Carson Dunlop Associates' sketches below, are traced to broken plaster keys - the protruding plaster that projected through the original plaster wood or metal lath and formed a "key" that held the plaster in place.
Mold on Interior Ceiling Surfaces
Where there is a large (more than 30 sq.ft.) reservoir of contiguous indoor mold, such as is shown on our moldy ceiling photo below, there are almost certainly health hazards for building occupants. But as we discuss at Q&A on Building Interiors: Leaks, Stains, Damage, Repairs, small moldy areas may be of no significant health concern and can be cleaned or removed by most homeowners or a handyman who follow simple basic precautions.
We emphasize in all of our notes on indoor mold inspection and testing that a competent inspection for mold contamination begins outside, and should include the entire structure.
An inspection should consider not just current leaks, but stains or construction details making leaks likely, the history of building leaks or moisture problems, or building conditions or features that make water or moisture problems likely in certain areas. These observations aid in deciding whether or not the risk of a hidden mold problem justifies more in-depth invasive inspection and testing.
But in our photograph (above-left), no inspection is necessary to know that a professional mold cleanup is needed at this building. Nevertheless, an independent (no conflicts of interest) expert who has no connection with the mold cleaning company, can define the necessary scope of work and can assist later in confirming that the cause as well as the effect of conditions that led to this moldy ceiling have been adequately addressed.
At USING LIGHT TO FIND MOLD we provide a detailed example and procedures for using lighting to find mold on surfaces where mold may be present but where it is not immediately obvious.
Roof Truss Uplift and Cracks or Ceiling Nail Pops: Details of Truss Uplift Cause and Cure of Interior Wall/Ceiling Gaps or Cracks
Ceiling Nail Pops & Tears at the Wall Top caused by Roof Truss Uplift
Nail pops found in some building ceilings and actual tears or cracks at the wall/ceiling juncture at building walls located under the center of certain roof trusses when moisture & temperature differences between the truss bottom chord and upper members cause the truss to arch.
Details and more illustrations of the roof truss uplift problem are found at TRUSS UPLIFT, ROOF
The drawings of roof truss uplift and corrective measures for truss uplift shown here are provided courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates and appears in their Illustrated Home.
List of Materials Used to Produce Ceiling Tiles & Ceiling Coverings
Mineral fibers (not asbestos), such as mineral wool. "Armstrong mineral board ceilings are made of mineral fiber and can include up to 82% recycled content." - See MINERAL WOOL - ROCK WOOL INSULATION
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American Plywood Association, APA, "Portland Manufacturing Company, No. 1, a series of monographs on the history of plywood manufacturing",Plywood Pioneers Association, 31 March, 1967, www.apawood.org
Animal Allergens: Dog, Cat, and Other Animal Dander - Cleanup & Prevention Information for Asthmatics and regarding Indoor Air Quality.
Asbestos: How to find and recognize asbestos in buildings - visual inspection methods, list of common asbestos-containing materials
ASHRAE resource on dew point and wall condensation - see the ASHRAE Fundamentals Handbook, available in many libraries. The following three ASHRAE Handbooks are also available at the InspectAPedia bookstore in the third page of our Insulate-Ventilate section:
2005 ASHRAE Handbook : Fundamentals: Inch-Pound Edition (2005 ASHRAE HANDBOOK : Fundamentals : I-P Edition) (Hardcover), Thomas H. Kuehn (Contributor), R. J. Couvillion (Contributor), John W. Coleman (Contributor), Narasipur Suryanarayana (Contributor), Zahid Ayub (Contributor), Robert Parsons (Author), ISBN-10: 1931862702 or ISBN-13: 978-1931862707
2004 ASHRAE Handbook : Heating, Ventilating, and Air-Conditioning: Systems and Equipment : Inch-Pound Edition (2004 ASHRAE Handbook : HVAC Systems and Equipment : I-P Edition) (Hardcover)
by American Society of Heating, ISBN-10: 1931862478 or ISBN-13: 978-1931862479
"2004 ASHRAE Handbook - HVAC Systems and Equipment The 2004 ASHRAE HandbookHVAC Systems and Equipment discusses various common systems and the equipment (components or assemblies) that comprise them, and describes features and differences. This information helps system designers and operators in selecting and using equipment. Major sections include Air-Conditioning and Heating Systems (chapters on system analysis and selection, air distribution, in-room terminal systems, centralized and decentralized systems, heat pumps, panel heating and cooling, cogeneration and engine-driven systems, heat recovery, steam and hydronic systems, district systems, small forced-air systems, infrared radiant heating, and water heating); Air-Handling Equipment (chapters on duct construction, air distribution, fans, coils, evaporative air-coolers, humidifiers, mechanical and desiccant dehumidification, air cleaners, industrial gas cleaning and air pollution control); Heating Equipment (chapters on automatic fuel-burning equipment, boilers, furnaces, in-space heaters, chimneys and flue vent systems, unit heaters, makeup air units, radiators, and solar equipment); General Components (chapters on compressors, condensers, cooling towers, liquid coolers, liquid-chilling systems, centrifugal pumps, motors and drives, pipes and fittings, valves, heat exchangers, and energy recovery equipment); and Unitary Equipment (chapters on air conditioners and heat pumps, room air conditioners and packaged terminal equipment, and a new chapter on mechanical dehumidifiers and heat pipes)."
1996 Ashrae Handbook Heating, Ventilating, and Air-Conditioning Systems and Equipment: Inch-Pound Edition (Hardcover), ISBN-10: 1883413346 or ISBN-13: 978-1883413347 ,
"The 1996 HVAC Systems and Equipment Handbook is the result of ASHRAE's continuing effort to update, expand and reorganize the Handbook Series. Over a third of the book has been revised and augmented with new chapters on hydronic heating and cooling systems design; fans; unit ventilator; unit heaters; and makeup air units. Extensive changes have been added to chapters on panel heating and cooling; cogeneration systems and engine and turbine drives; applied heat pump and heat recovery systems; humidifiers; desiccant dehumidification and pressure drying equipment, air-heating coils; chimney, gas vent, fireplace systems; cooling towers; centrifugal pumps; and air-to-air energy recovery. Separate I-P and SI editions."
Brick Nogging, Historical Investigation and Contemporary Repair, Construction Specifier, April 2006. Historical use of brick in timber-framed buildings, drawing on the investigations of the Kent Tavern in Calais, VT.
"Brick nogging is a European method of construction which was brought to the new world in the early-nineteenth century. It was a common construction method that employed masonry as infill between the vertical uprights of wood framing." -- quoting the web article review.
Building Research Council, BRC, nee Small Homes Council, SHC, School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, brc.arch.uiuc.edu. "The Small Homes Council (our original name) was organized in 1944 during the war at the request of the President of the University of Illinois to consider the role of the university in meeting the demand for housing in the United States. Soldiers would be coming home after the war and would be needing good low-cost housing. ... In 1993, the Council became part of the School of Architecture, and since then has been known as the School of Architecture-Building Research Council. ... The Council's researchers answered many critical questions that would affect the quality of the nation's housing stock.
How could homes be designed and built more efficiently?
What kinds of construction and production techniques worked well and which did not?
How did people use different kinds of spaces in their homes?
What roles did community planning, zoning, and interior design play in how neighborhoods work
"An Example of Colonial Paneling", Norman Morrison Isham, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Vol. 6, No. 5 (May, 1911), pp. 112-116, available by JSTOR.
Gypsum Construction Guide, National Gypsum Corporation
Construction Handbook [purchase at Amazon.com] H17, Technical
Folder SA920 and PM2, PM3 and PM4, United States Gypsum Company, 125 South Franklin ST., PO Box 806278, Chicago, IL 60680-4124,
Humidity: What indoor humidity should we maintain in order to avoid a mold problem?
Ice Dam Leaks in building attics and roof cavities, how to inspect for evidence of leaks, identify causes, and correct bad attic ventilation, improper roof venting, and these causes of attic mold or roof structure damage
Insulation Types, table of common building insulation properties from U.S. DOE. Readers should see INSULATION R-VALUES & PROPERTIES our own table of insulation properties that includes links to articles describing each insulation material in more detail.
Lath & Plaster Systems, 092300/NGC, National Gypsum Lath and Plaster Systems, National Gypsum Corporation, 800-628-4662 describing National Gypsum's Kal-Kore brand plaster base
The National Institute of Standards and Technology, NIST (nee National Bureau of Standards NBS) is a US government agency - see www.nist.gov
"A Parametric Study of Wall Moisture Contents Using a Revised Variable Indoor Relative Humidity Version of the "Moist" Transient Heat and Moisture Transfer Model [copy on file as/interiors/MOIST_Model_NIST_b95074.pdf ] - ", George Tsongas, Doug Burch, Carolyn Roos, Malcom Cunningham; this paper describes software and the prediction of wall moisture contents. - PDF Document from NIS
Pergo AB, division of Perstorp AB, is a Swedish manufacturer or modern laminate flooring products. Information about the U.S. company can be found at http://www.pergo.com where we obtained historical data used in our discussion of the age of flooring materials in buildings.
Piquet Wall Construction: See this photo of
piquet wall construction - involving timber-framed wall construction with long top girts, diagonal timber bracing, and small diameter logs
placed vertically along with concrete chinking to fill in the wall plane.
Plank House Construction: weblog from plankhouse.wordpress.com/2009/01/25/plank-house-construction/ and where plank houses were built by native Americans, see
Large 1:6 Scale Plank House Construction / P8094228,
Photographer: Mike Meuser
06/12/2007 documented at yurokplankhouse.com where scale model Museum quality Yurok Plank Houses are being sold to raise money for the Blue Creek - Ah Pah Traditional Yurok Village project.
Plastering, PM 5, Product & Systems Technology, US Gypsum, May 1998, web search 10.5.2010, original source: http://www.usg.com/rc/technical-articles/plaster/
United States Gypsum Company, 125 South Franklin ST., PO Box 806278, Chicago, IL 60680-4124,
Paraphrasing from this document: USG uses the term shadowing in this document in describing the visual effect over gypsum board joints caused by the lower moisture absorption rate (take-up) and lower capacity than gypsum base face paper. Shadowing at joints occurs where veneer plaster is applied over tape joints, requiring a second coat to completely hide the tape, providing a visually uniform surface. USG Advises: "This [second] cover coat must be allowed to harden and dry before plaster application is started.
Plastering Skills, F. Van Den Branden, Thomas L. Hartsell, Amer Technical Pub (July 1, 1985), ISBN-10: 0826906575, ISBN-13: 978-0826906571 [purchase at Amazon.com]
Rubblestone Wall Filler: See this Lartigue House using exterior-exposed rubblestone filler between vertical timbers of a post and beam-framed Canadian building.
Lighting, proper use of: proper aiming of a good flashlight can disclose hard to see but toxic light or white mold colonies on walls.
Manufactured & Modular Homes: Modular Building Systems Association, MBSA, modularhousing.com, is a trade association promoting and providing links to contact modular builders in North America. Also see the Manufactured Home Owners Association, MHOAA, at www.mhoaa.us. The Manufactured Home Owners Association of America is a National Organization dedicated to the protection of the rights of all people living in Manufactured Housing in the United States.
Mold-Resistant Building Practices, advice from an expert on how to prevent mold after a building flood and how to prevent mold growth in buildings by selection of building materials and by anti-mold construction details.
"Weather-Resistive Barriers [copy on file as /interiors/Weather_Resistant_Barriers_DOE.pdf ] - ", how to select and install housewrap and other types of weather resistive barriers, U.S. DOE
Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., 120 Carlton Street Suite 407, Toronto ON M5A 4K2. Tel: (416) 964-9415 1-800-268-7070 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The firm provides professional home inspection services & home inspection education & publications. Alan Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material.
The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Illustrated Home purchased as a single order Enter INSPECTAILL in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
TECHNICAL REFERENCE GUIDE to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment, useful for determining the age of heating boilers, furnaces, water heaters is provided by Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto - Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Technical Reference Guide purchased as a single order. Just enter INSPECTATRG in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on these courses: Enter INSPECTAHITP in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
The Horizon Software System manages business operations,scheduling, & inspection report writing using Carson Dunlop's knowledge base & color images. The Horizon system runs on always-available cloud-based software for office computers, laptops, tablets, iPad, Android, & other smartphones