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Ceiling Repair: Fix a Sagging Ceiling

Sagging in a ceiling may be caused by undersized drywall. You either have to replace 1/2-in. drywall with 5/8-in. or add furring strips and a second layer of 5/8-in. drywall.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Solutions for sagging drywall

If your ceiling drywall is sagging between joists, sometimes called “pillowing,” it's probably on the top floor and attached to the roof trusses. If so, I bet the installers used 1/2-in. drywall instead of 5/8-in. Half-inch drywall can sag if it’s hung under roof trusses that are spaced every 24 in. It isn’t strong enough to handle the span, and the weight of the attic insulation just makes the sagging worse.

You only have two choices: Rip it out and replace it with 5/8-in. drywall or add spacers and new 5/8-in. drywall below it. Ripping out the old stuff is the most professional approach, but it's a nightmare job. You have to pry out the ceiling drywall along the edges and pluck out all the old drywall screws. As if that weren’t enough fun, the attic insulation may collapse into the room.

If you can live with a lower ceiling height, you can save a lot of time by installing a new ceiling below the old one. Add the 1-by furring strips (on 16-in. centers) shown in Figure A. Use 1x3s rather than 1x2s because it makes the drywall easier to hang. (But if your ceiling sags more than 3/4 in., use 2x2s.) Screw the 1x3s to the truss framing with 2-1/2-in. drywall screws spaced every 2 ft. Next, install and tape and finish new 5/8-in. drywall. If you have ceiling fixtures, you'll have to extend all the boxes so they're flush with the new ceiling.

Easy ceiling fix

Easy ceiling fix

Figure A: Easy Ceiling Fix

Screw 1x3s to the trusses through the old ceiling and then install new 5/8-in. drywall.

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September 21, 7:22 PM [GMT -5]

Good call on fixing a sagging ceiling! It's best to not take down the ceiling drywall unless it is wet, damaged or moldy. The 1x3 strips are your best answer and way less messy. 24" spam requires 5/8" drywall but even this can sage over time due to moisture trapped in the attic space. The 3/4" space created with the boards won't apply any pressure on the new drywall wall so this should be a permanent fix. The extra layer also helps reduce sound. If it is sagged more than 3/4, add another 1/4" or 1/2" strip of plywood. Use screws to fasten the board to the ceiling and remember the new drywall will be hanging on this so fasten it well.

Since the new drywall will extend to the walls, you'll have to deal with finishing the corners. In a new construction you'd just tape and finish them. If you are going to repaint the walls, taping is the way to go. If you don't want to paint the walls, you can add a nice piece of crown molding to cover over the corner. It adds an extra nice touch to the room. Use a TapeBuddy taping tool for less mess in with this project. You'll be glad you did.

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