Replacing and sheetrocking old ceilings and walls

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This is regarding a possible rehab of another property that I own. It's an older home with wood lath and plaster wall. I am considering tearing out the lath and plaster down to the studs, then having it rewired throughout, then having the ceilings and walls sheetrocked. I would rather not sheetrock over the existing lath and plaster.
My question is about how contractors typically go about doing the sheetrock over the old ceiling joists and wall studs. How do they deal with the fact that after the demo of the original lath and plaster, the ceiling joists and studs are often uneven -- that is, not "planed".
Do they usually just do the new sheetrock by going with what they have and just shimming the areas that need to be shimmed to end up with a flat, "planed", and even new sheetrock wall? Is there some other way that this is usually done?
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RogerT wrote:

I would use a line level and snap chock lines getting the room square and level. Depending on how far out it is you can cut long wedges and tack them to the joists and studs. The new laser levels are cheap too if you can figure out how to use them.
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I have seen this done by cutting a 1 1/2" deep cut at the middle of the stud, the thickness of a 2X4. There would be mutable cuts 3 1/2' apart the width of a 2X4; chisel out the opening. Each stud would have the same cuts at the same location by using a chalk line. You would then install a continuous 2X4 into the slots that were cut out in each stud. The 2X4 would then be screwed to each stud pulling all the studs out or in making them square with each other. This also makes the wall stronger. Hope this makes sense.
Tom
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On 2/10/2011 2:48 PM Tom Mills spake thus:

That makes sense--sort of. I can see what you're after here, but it seems as if this would only correct problems in the middle of the wall. If there were any seriously misaligned studs (or joists), they would still be out of line at the top and bottom. Also seems like an awful amount of work, especially on a ceiling. Plus I'd think you'd have much less luck trying to even out a ceiling, since you're trying to push the floor above (if there is one) out of line, plus you have much stouter framing members to try to persuade.
Shimming would seem to be the better way to go here. I agree with the other respondent here who pointed out that the framing in old houses is likely to be pretty well lined up and probably only needing minor adjustments for the odd high or low stud/joist.
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David Nebenzahl wrote:

I think he's talking about a modified sistering.
Your project would seem pretty straightforward if you gathered up a passel of very straight 2x4s and somethow (long straight-edge?) managed to get them all aligned.
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Thanks. It took me a while to visualize and figure out what you were describing, but I think I have it now. I guess maybe that could work for interior walls. But, for exterior walls and ceiling joists, I'm not sure how that would work. Pulling exterior wall studs or ceiling joists to make them even would pull the exterior wall in or pull the floor above down.
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The wood used in framing old houses is better than almost all of the stuff used today, and plaster and lath also do a bang up job of keeping things aligned, so the old framing is probably as true as the day it went up. Unless you're looking for super straight walls, most of the time only the odd stud or three on a wall would need any shimming at all to provide a suitably straight wall acceptable to most people. A bigger concern is the ~1/4" difference in the thickness between the demo'd plaster and the new drywall. This presents problems at doors and windows where the jambs extend beyond the face of the new drywall and casings won't lay flat against the wall.
Depending on the location of the wall, and how many openings are in it, I sometimes shim only studs that are out more than 1/8", but most of the time I'd rather shim out the studs on walls with openings and not have to mess with cutting back jambs in place. If there's a lot of trim on the wall, and/or it's stained, I'll shim the wall flat.
R
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Not in my house. Its balloon framed and was built around 1896.
The ceiling joists are all different widths, off by an inch or so. They just notched them to make the next floor level and then had the plasterer try to even it out.
What I did for the some ceilings was to add furring strips across the joists and tried my best to shim them. In one room it was so bad I had to build a drop ceiling with 2x4's wasn't a problem because I had 8 foot 6 inch clearance.
The studs are the same. There is one stud that it looks like the plasterer chopped at it with a hatchet to try to take out a bulge. There was still one there but he just put the plaster down thinner.
For the walls a made up shims from all the old paneling. It was just shy of an 1/8 so I just added as needed. To keep everything mostly strait I got a 8 foot straight edge and just worked my self around the room.
When they say they don't build them like they used too, thats a good thing.
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You started off with the specific, Cliff - your house, and then extrapolated that to a generality. There's little doubt that older houses had many features and methods of construction that have withstood the test of time. The fact that your house is enjoying its 115th birthday is a testament to that.
From the sound of it it's possible that you have an owner and/or carpenter(wannabe?) built house. But the hatchet thing was pretty standard. Google framing hatchet. Few things are as quick for trimming framing. And you are 100% right that the plasterer was expected to correct for the deficiencies of the framers. You probably didn't notice any wavy walls - maybe cracked plaster and such - before opening up the walls to find the 'horrible' framing. It's only horrible in light of today's methods and what people are used to dealing with. The differing framing lumber widths also points to the stuff being cut by eye at the mill. There was no screaming need to have perfectly dimensioned lumber in widths - depths were the more important dimension. Back then 16" on center wasn't a factor as plywood wasn't available. That's really what drove the standardized layout. Before that the shiplap sheathing and plaster lath could accommodate the different stud widths without adding much more work.
The bottom line, which is the same as it is today, if you want tighter tolerances, you're going to pay for it, one way or another.
R
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On 2/11/2011 1:00 PM, RicodJour wrote:

Shrug. I've seen crap and hillbilly old houses, and crap and hillbilly newer houses. All depends on the quality of design, skill and caring level of the folks who put it together, and the quality of the materials. Yes, in general, old lumber was better- they still had real trees to cut down back then, not the bred-to-be-fast-growing babies we use now. (I drool at the quality of the interior trim on even entry-level 1950s houses. Tight joints were expected back then, I guess.)
--
aem sends...

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Way to go... do it. Don't forget the Dumpster.

Get a Bosch or similar power planer and an extra set of blades ($125 or so). Careful of old nails, try to get them all. That will do it for the high spots.

As cheap as work site table saws are, shims are easy to do as the second operation. Your wall board crew (or you) will love it working on flat walls. LSMFT above is absolutely right on getting as much square, plumb, and level as possible. Check out all the Bosch (especially) new laser nifties for getting things right. Their laser measure tool (165 DLR) is indispensable and for the distance it reports better allow a little slack or you will wind up hammering the piece into place (too tight.). Don't forget the old fashioned chalk line corner to corner two ways for square and dead flat. Useful around door and window openings, too. Sounds like you're heading down the right track,
Joe
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Unless all the electrical boxes, doors and windows are being replaced, the studs will need to be built out to at least 3/8" to allow for the removed lath. A finished wall using plaster and lath was about 7/8". Drywall is 1/2".
This is no big deal but it is an added expense. Ripping up a 4x8 sheet of 3/8 CDX will give you a net material cost of about 44 cents per 8' stud (based on 12-31-10 prices). With labor a dollar per would be a fair price estimate.
As someone else said, chances are what you have is more true than many new homes being built.
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*I haven't seen this done, but you got me thinking about that extra depth. A layer of 1/2" and a layer of 3/8" drywall would give the needed 7/8". However I am wondering if all of that extra drywall would cover-up slight differences in stud and joist protrusions enough that it would not be noticeable on the finished surface?
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Most homes old enough to have plaster and lath also have 3/4" sheathing on the outside securely nailed to those studs when they were straight and fresh. I don't think I have seen more than 1 or studs in 40 years that are out of alignment by more than 1/8".
I do walk around the room with a 4 or 8 foot level and throw it across the studs at eye level to verify no major problems. Bowed in I hit it with a couple of passes with the planner. Any low spots are filled with short scabs of the proper thickness. IMO, amounts that vary less than 1/8" do not reflect in the finished wall.
You can use a second layer or drywall strips in lieu of the plywood but I find that to be more work that wood. It also requires longer screws when installing. Wood panels are available from 1/8" to 3/4" to provide just about any stud build out needed to meet the jambs.
I am actually working on one right now. If I remember I will post a link to some pictures after I install the strips.
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Colbyt
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You've been a bit luckier than I have with the straightness, but I agree that if the alignment is out, it ain't by much. I always enjoy cutting into an old stud and seeing fifteen or twenty growth rings per inch. The stuff you get now might have seven or eight if you're lucky. Makes a big difference in stability of the wood.

Right. And if you're going for that perfectly flat wall you're probably going to be skim-coating the entire wall anyway.

In New England strapping ceilings is common - like Cliff did. Other people might call it furring - attaching 1x3s perpendicular to the joists and making them form a level flat plane by shimming where they cross the joists. One thing I never understood about people still doing that - I've never seen any pictures where you could see that they blocked off between 1x3s along a joist for fireblocking. From what I've seen it seems that people just ignore that 3/4" gap - I mean fire couldn't get through such a small gap, could it? ;)
R
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On 2/11/2011 12:48 PM, RicodJour wrote:

Within the field of a ceiling, it is not a big issue, unless that joist bay is being used as a cold-air return or other plenum. (Consider a dropped ceiling with fire-rated tiles, and no rock above.) Fireblocking is mainly needed along walls, especially in balloon-framed older houses. Even in a modern house, you don't want a good air path between a stud bay and a joist bay, but the top plates usually cover that, again with the exception of plenums, or an unusually framed room.
Standard disclaimer- I'm no fire code expert, but that is how it was explained to me back in the day. In commercial work, they even make you fire-caulk the gaps around pipes and cables, if it goes through a fire-rocked or masonry wall.
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My question was really more about how come fireblocking/draftstopping doesn't seem to be an issue when ceilings are strapped. Code is quite clear on the requirement, so I'm not sure why it seems to be overlooked on the New England home improvement shows where strapping is common.
R
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On 2/12/2011 5:17 PM, RicodJour wrote:

I've never heard of it being an issue other than at the wall-ceiling junction. If each joist bay is blocked at the ends, it really isn't a conduit to anywhere. And I have seen the TOH guys and Holmes both remark that fire blocking needed to be added in wall on a gut job, or fire rock extended to top-plate level, when a drop ceiling was being retrofitted. And drop ceilings of course are dirt-common in commercial remodels, even those of frame construction, as well as residential basements, and the joist bays are all open there.
You wanna see scary, poke around in the ceilings of the 80-110 year old (depending on wing) building where I work. Multiple generations of remodels, most done by low bidder. There are several originally-public spaces and corridors with multiple layers of ceiling, and visible hatchet marks on the old ceilings where they ran pipes, attached hanger wires, etc. Lotsa dead spaces and fire propagation paths. And the older ceilings are plaster over heavy-gauge mesh. Firemen won't be pulling those down with a hooked stick. Most of the building itself is probably damn near burn-proof (other than the wood framed/decked roofs, and some floored-over atriums, on the older parts), but the modern office furnishings (cubicle walls, carpet squares, chipboard desks, foam chairs, full file cabinets, etc) present plenty of burnable material. They did retrofit sprinklers to most of it, but if any space in that building gets heavily involved, the knockdown, cleanup, and rebuild will not be pretty or painless.
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Sheetrock/Drywall comes in many thicknesses...
It would be a fool's errand to use standard 1/2" thick drywall in a situation where plaster and lath was removed... You would want thicker drywall: 3/4" if the wall studs are square and true, you would only use 1/2" if you had to correct a wavy wall with strips of wood nailed to the face of the studs...
~~ Evan
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Thanks everyone for all of the thoughts and suggestions.
I was hoping there was some magic solution out there that would make the new sheetrocking fairly easy and would make it go quickly. It looks like I'll probably have to go the route of shimming etc.
In the past when I have encountered this, it was only for a ceiling in one room at a time. In those cases, we decided to just go with sistering the existing joists to create a new flat and planed surface to attach the new sheetrock. In one case, we used wood 2x4's for the sistering and in another case we used steel framing for the sister joists.
But, with this project, it would involve a lot of ceilings and walls, so sistering all of those seems like it would be too much to get into doing.
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