Ceiling collapse progress

Since last writing about my ceiling collapse, I’ve had a little progress.

I completely cleared out the room:

Looking backwards:

Notice the new joists? The restoration work has started! I signed the contract with the contractor 8 days ago. The carpenters replaced 5 joists that were obviously sagging, but in the process they found that several more joists have sags and that the stiff back is not really installed properly. They are coming back this week to replace the entire stiff back and replace about 8 more joists.

I put all the damaged furniture by the curb last night for heavy trash pickup:

It was all gone the next morning! I feel sorry for the dopes who will deal with the insulation.

I got that picture by setting the camera to ISO 80 and a 16 second exposure. No significant lighting faced the furniture, so I lit it up by waving a flashlight back and forth during the exposure.

A little ceiling progress

I worked on the room with the collapsed ceiling today.

Here’s where I started:

After 5.75 hours of cleaning, here’s where I ended up:

Of course, there is no ceiling, so the insulation dust from the rest of the attic can still waft into the room. I still have to keep it sealed off from the rest of the house.

A helpful neighbor let me borrow his scoop shovel. I spent most the time just scooping all the insulation and sheetrock fragments into bags. This is the shovel on our couch:

The larger pieces of sheetrock are in three stacks.

About 20% of the ceiling was left. I knocked almost all of it down. It was behind the fan:

Here’s attic insulation where it belongs: on top of the remaining ceiling:

Even though our dining room table looks OK, it turns out the top layer is an imprint, so it’s not refurbishable:

If the table can be buffed, it may be salvageable. Otherwise, if it’s nicked and gouged, it’s not fixable.

I stuffed 28 42-gallon contractor bags:

It’ll take a while to get rid of those!

This roof vent’s squeaking is driving my wife nuts:

Without the ceiling and insulation, its squeaking is loud.

You may be wondering, “Aren, why are you doing this when the insurance company is paying to fix this?”

It turns out that the insurance company is cutting me a check for about 70% of its assessment of repairs. If I spend less than 70%, I can pocket the difference. The gap between 70% and 80% is my deductible, so I would pay that out of pocket. If I spend between 80% and 100%, the part they call “recoverable depreciation,” the insurance company will refund me for that part.

Ironically, this cost structure gives me incentive to hold the costs down for the insurer. If they had a rule whereby I had to hire a contractor, it’s likely they would spend all of the “recoverable depreciation” and then some.

I’ve run some numbers, and I think I can probably get the whole job done for around 35%-50% of estimated costs if I do it mostly myself and hire a handyman to help. That means I could pocket 20%-35% of the total estimated costs and in fact pay no deductible.

If I do end up going with a contractor, then all this cleaning is for naught. But at least I have the peace of mind of knowing the room is somewhat clean!

Ceiling collapse update

More updates on the ceiling collapse.


The ceiling collapse culprit may be more complicated than the short nails.

The house’s attic gable vents are above the den and the master bedroom. Coincidentally, the den’s ceiling collapsed, and the master bedroom has a slight ceiling sag. The insurance estimator theorized that some wind-driven high attic pressure plus the weight of the insulation plus improper nails may have caused the collapse. [EDIT: This is also the working theory behind a ceiling failure in a separate room in 2019!]

The insurance estimator noticed a master bedroom ceiling sag, so he recommended that the insurance fix this by driving drywall screws into it and scraping and retexturing.


Today is the 7th day we’ve had no den and dining room. We are lucky since our house is still livable and functional.

The biggest inconvenience is losing 400 square feet.

The second biggest inconvenience is my skittishness about the plastic sheeting closing off the disaster area.

The closed room has three vents. Even though I shut them off, enough air leaks through to increase pressure in that room, causing the plastic sheeting to balloon out when the heater runs.

I have the sheeting held in place by 3″-4″ of that blue paint-safe tape, but I’m constantly afraid it will stop adhering and open up. If the heat turns on while it opens up, it will blow the insulation-laden air into the rest of the house.

In an abundance of caution, I turn the heat off when we leave and at night. My wife just loves those freezing cold mornings! :-)

The nice thing is if I open a window while the heater runs, the pressure differential sucks fresh air into the house. That’s a nice way to inject fresh air into this place!

No TV!

Our TV is sitting in the hallway–the ceiling collapsed while I rescued it–but the only cable connectors are in the den. (Shortly after moving in, I removed the cable connections from the other bedrooms–I feel very strongly against having TVs in bedrooms). Therefore, we’ve had no TV for a whole week. I love it! Can we have no TV forever? Please?

Some day I’ll write why I hate many TV programs.


I hope to hear some kind of dollar amount from the adjuster early this week. The estimator made a mistake–ordered different resurfacing treatments for different parts of the wood floor of the closed off room–so that plus some other issues have been holding up the adjuster’s offer.

New Furniture

The inspector said our couch, love seat, dining room table set, and some less significant items are total losses. Apparently, it’s impossible to get the fine Rockwool particles out of the couches, and the cost of resurfacing the dining room table and its chairs exceeds the cost of a new set.

I am so glad I opted for the personal property replacement value coverage. The insurance company will cut me a check for these items’ depreciated values (i.e., garage sale values). Because of this extended coverage, we can buy new equivalents of these items and get reimbursed for the difference.


Since the entire ceiling is out, I’m seriously thinking of installing recessed lighting in the den. I’ll probably do it myself and ask the contractor to wait a day between demolition/cleanup and nailing up the new drywall.

The question is what kind of lighting to do? I only have 9′ ceilings in that main room, so I’m afraid traditional 6″ recessed lighting may look huge. Plus I don’t like how hot incandescents run; that room is already too warm in the summer.

I like the look of halogen recessed lighting, but some sites say these may be best for directional lighting. I may also look into dimmable compact fluorescent-based lights.

Mean Kitty

My younger cat Olivia, nicknamed “Mean Kitty” by my son, recently discovered how to shred furniture. Furniture shredding is unacceptable with new furniture, so I have a hard decision: get her declawed or give her away.

Even though anti-declaw arguments are exaggerated and full of holes (link), I am still uncomfortable with the procedure.

But even if I do it, I will have spent money on a kitty with a terribly defective personality. She is already reclusive, skittish, and dislikes my wife and son. She comes out only for me and only when I am in seated or lying down, and only when nobody else is around.

When she was a kitten, she was nice to everybody, and she wanted to sleep on me at night. I don’t know why she changed so dramatically!

Would she do better in a one person, no child household?

I hate giving up a pet, but I have a cat with a terribly defective personality occupying one of my two cat “slots.”

I don’t know what to do. If it has to come down to risking her being put down, I’ll probably keep her. But I may investigate placing her somewhere else.

How to lose 400 square feet in a jiffy

My house lost about 400 usable square feet today.

I got my wife a new chandelier for Christmas, and today I was finally going to install it. The last part of the old chandelier was a little bracket. I noticed the ceiling sagged about an inch or two as this small piece came out.

Feeling around, I found an amazing 3″ gap between the bottom of the outlet box and the top of the ceiling drywall. Yikes!

As I pondered my next step, I heard nails pop as the ceiling sagged a little further.

I tried pushing up, but after about 1″ of travel, I heard awful sounds.

I went across the street and asked a neighbor what he thought. As we were talking, my wife ran out the front door and exclaimed that a huge crack formed above her head. Indeed, a five-plus foot crack formed near our ceiling fan and ran crookedly towards the dining room area.

At that point, the neighbor was sure the ceiling was a lost cause. His advice confirmed my suspicion: replacement will happen, get your stuff out now!

My wife and I immediately scurried around the room to remove as many exposed items as possible

10 minutes of scurrying later, as I was putting our TV in the hallway, CRACK CRACK BANG! Most of the main room’s ceiling fell to the floor. Nobody was hit, fortunately.

Here’s a picture taken about 10 minutes after the crash:

All the speckles are airborne Rockwool insulation particles.

Similar shot without the flash:

Looking to the front windows:

Our buffet table:

Looking in from the garage:

Jennifer was standing right inside the door at this point and quickly ducked outside when she heard the collapsing. I had to clear this out later so that we could shut that door.

This is where our TV goes:

Good thing I got it out!

Most of the ceiling is gone, but the fan amazingly appears undamaged:

This is the ceiling box that held the fixture I removed:

The light fixture was the keystone holding up the entire ceiling! This ceiling was a disaster waiting to happen!

Since it’s exposed now, I am going to replace that outlet box with a modern fan support box.

The ceiling fan may have stopped the ceiling collapse. Our Ikea bookshelves are undamaged:

Right after the crash, I sent Alec and Jennifer to Home Depot to get heavy duty plastic sheeting that’s opaque (so I don’t have to look at it) and painter’s tape. Our floor plan allows us to seal off that room and still have a functional house:

Just minus about 400 square feet:

I have guys coming in tomorrow to give repair estimates, and I have already filed a claim with our insurance. Hopefully this won’t hurt our pocketbooks too badly!