Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ceiling keeps falling on my head

When you live in an old house, you inherit a lot of old house problems. Although this house we live in is not even close to the oldest house I've lived in, it was built right at the turn of the 20th century, and as anyone who has ever restored a house from this time period, it has serious issues with the ceilings. Now anyone that has ever lived in a house from that time period has probably learned about the horrible calcimine paint that was used to prep ceilings. The stuff is the devils handiwork.

Being essentially chalk, the water-based mixture of calcimine paint contained minimal binders and glues for adhesion. Herein lies the problem for those of us dealing with peeling paint now, because this lack of active binder chemicals discourages modern paints from adhering. Over time, any paint coatings over a calcimine base will fail, chipping and peeling away modern paint coverings have nothing to "stick" to.

No matter how many times you scrape the paint on your ceiling with calcimine paint, the second you try to repaint, the new paint starts to peel. At first it's a bit here or there. Then, if you aren't diligent about scraping and painting (and lord knows, I'm not) your ceilings start to look like they have a dread disease.

All through the winter, when the house is really dry, the paint crumbles and falls. Sometimes it's funny, like when we got a big chunk of paint in the sink, or when it fell all over the carpet and scared the cat to death. But mostly it's a serious pain in the ass and I'm really tired of it.

I learned the hard way that the only real cure for calcimine painted ceilings is to put up drywall and start over. Even the guys on This Old House recommend this. It is that troublesome. There are some other methods, but even when I tried them on the house I restored, it didn't work well. It's so difficult to scrape every bit of paint and then the calcimine on a ceiling that is over 300 years old. In some cases we had to remove the entire ceiling, in other cases we had to put up drywall. That was when I was young and energetic.

Now, I just want the freaking ceilings to stop peeling. I feel like every time I perch somewhere I have to look up to see what might be falling on my head.

Our ceilings were all repainted 2 years ago. They were pristine for about 3 months and then the cracking started. With cracking comes peeling. Soon the ceilings look they're covered in cowhide. It's ugly and it's annoying.

In the bathroom, where we had a roof leak, we almost lost the ceiling.

Now pieces of the ceiling fall so often that even when the floor was washed yesterday, there are pieces of paint all over the floor today. That is not good.

We also had a leak in the bathtub that sits right over the kitchen. The plumber fixed the leak, but the ceiling.... OMG it is horrible. It has to be repainted, as does the entire kitchen. I guess we're going to have to do it soon.

For all of you that have popcorn ceilings, they're ugly as sin, but at least they don't fall down on your head. There are times when I wish we did have a textured ceiling. But they are fleeting. My children are so sick of me bitching about the ceilings. I'll be watching TV and all of a sudden I'll be totally obsessed with how horrid the ceiling looks. I can't help it. I HATE THEM.

The joys of living in an old home go on and on!

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Blogger Jo said...

Oh no darlin...we have evil textured ceiling and it is peeling like a sunburn! I had the whole ceiling primed and painted after my chimney smoking tenants moved out when we took over the house 2, maybe 3 years ago.
I have no idea what to do about it, but I HATE it.
I think part of the problem is air circulation in the shallow attic above it. Come fall we need to start messing around up there.

22/7/08 6:42 PM  
Blogger margalit said...


I think a lot of what's going on with ceilings in our neighborhood is the crazy weather we've had in the past year. With houses shrinking and expanding way more than they ever have, the ceilings have no place to go but on the floor. It's horrid. I hate it.

22/7/08 9:10 PM  
Blogger eeka said...

I've had good luck with Zinsser Gardz primer over calcimine paint. The stuff is like glue. It will stick to damaged sheetrock, crumbling paint, just about anything.

22/7/08 9:32 PM  
Blogger Daisy said...

Calling Ty Pennington - Extreme Makeover for this home! Include wireless internet connection, please!

23/7/08 1:40 PM  
Blogger liz said...


New plaster? Then repaint?

23/7/08 11:45 PM  

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