By Gene and Katie Hamilton
If your plaster ceiling is sagging and marred with a hodgepodge of cracks and crevices, one solution is to secure any loose plaster to the lath and cover it up with a thin layer of wallboard panels. The key to the job is using plaster washers, small metal discs fastened with 4-inch drywall screws. Often called ceiling buttons, these quarter-size discs are very inexpensive and sold at specialty hardware stores and online. Just type "plaster washers" in a search engine and you'll find several online merchants where you can order them.
The first step of this multi-phase project involves repairing the cracks and crevices with patching plaster and securing the loose plaster to the lath behind it with the plaster washers. Next comes installing 3/8-inch wallboard, finishing it with tape and compound, and sanding it smooth. This repair solution has worked in several of our old houses and it's stood the test of time. For the best results, remove any ceiling molding around the room before laminating a new ceiling over it. Use a pry bar to gently remove the molding without having it break off into pieces. You may have to replace it with new molding if it’s too old and brittle to remove without damaging it.
Since there are several steps to the project, it's a good one for a homeowner who can work in short sprints. It's not a dream job for a contractor, who has to schedule several return trips to complete the job.
To complete the job for a ceiling in a 15-by-20 foot room, a drywall contractor will charge $696, which includes the labor and material. A homeowner can do the job for $125, the cost of the repair material and wallboard, and pocket a 82 percent saving.
DIY Hassle Alert
This can be a tiresome job because of the weight of the ceiling and working overhead. Don't get discouraged if you have to take a break periodically.
Sound too complicated and time consuming? Here's a link to Home Advisor,
a free referral service that matches homeowners with local contractors.
The average price to repair a plaster ceiling noted above is cost data to compare a contractor’s estimate with doing it yourself. Tweak the data by adding your ZIP Code to find a local cost.
Improvement and Repair Cost Updated 2020