Repairing Roof Damage
Question: I have a ceiling that was damaged by a leak through the roof. There is a hole in the Sheetrock right above my bed, and other parts of the ceiling are starting to sag. I called a home-repair company that has been advertising senior discounts. They sent out an estimator who gave me a bid for the work.
Just to fix the 2-by-4-foot hole in my bedroom, a piece of ceiling in my hall and to shore up the ceiling in my living room, they wanted over $3,000.
The estimator told me he had to remove all the ceiling's 1/2-inch Sheetrock and replace it with 5/8-inch-thick Sheetrock. Is this true? What is your opinion?
Answer: Sheetrock is the brand name of a drywall product produced by USG Corp. For the purpose of this article, I will refer to the product simply as "drywall." As the name implies, the product is produced in sheets that attach to walls or ceilings using 1-inch ring shank nails or drywall screws.
It is not a common practice in some areas to use 5/8-inch drywall on ceilings unless the ceiling joists are 24 inches apart or the room requires a fire-rated ceiling. You can check with your local building official to see what is required in your area.
When the ceiling joists are more than 16 inches apart, thinner sheets of drywall tend to sag in between the joists, creating shadows and a wavelike effect on the ceiling's finish. Since you already have 1/2-inch drywall, it appears that the estimator was trying to gain some extra work and extra profit at your expense.
It is difficult to repair an uneven hole in drywall and then make the finish smooth and slick. Sheets of drywall have what is referred to as "factory edges," where the sheet gradually gets thinner, leaving an indentation for the drywall compound. When two factory edges are joined, drywall tape is applied to cover the joint, and the whole area is covered with a pasty drywall compound or "mud." After the mud has dried, the applicator adds successive coats of mud, feathering the edges to blend with the rest of the sheet.
It takes a skilled finisher to make a factory edge look good. When the hole to be repaired is uneven and there are no factory edges to work with, the repaired area will likely be obvious. You have the choice of removing all the drywall and replacing it with 1/2-inch sheets, not 5/8-inch sheets, or patching the hole and seeing the repaired area every time you lie down.
I, for one, can live with a patch that should cost no more than a few hundred dollars to repair. Also consider this: If the drywall was damaged by a roof leak, your homeowner's insurance may cover the costs to make repairs. Contact your insurance agent concerning your policy and what is covered. Most policies have a set deductible for claims to entice the homeowner to pay for the smaller repairs.
You asked for my opinion, so here goes: The contractor either lied to you by exaggerating the repairs to be made and the materials needed, or he was completely inept.
Be cautious when contracting with someone who was not referred to you or who just shows up at your door wanting to make repairs.
Never sign a contract you have not taken the time to read. Do not feel pressured to sign today; an honest, successful contractor should be willing to wait for you to decide.
Do not make down payments until materials have been delivered, and never make a final payment until the job is complete and the area cleaned to your satisfaction.
When in doubt, contact your local Better Business Bureau for free information on hiring contractors.
(Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors.)