Emily Dickenson's Ceiling a Victim of Transitional Ceiling Collapse

“Jane Wald, the museum’s executive director, said the ceiling’s collapse was largely the result of nails that were too small and spaced too far apart. She noted that the plaster was not original to the homestead, but dated to renovations undertaken at the house when it was a private residence in the early 20th century.”


Glad no one was hurt.

FYI, Those look like 12" oc furring strips, which speaks to me of stapled ceiling tile, popular in the 70’s. If you should happen to see/do a project like this, uses SCREWS. :slight_smile:

Was the house near an airport? I have heard of the constant concussion of jets landing/taking off causing problems like this.

IT dropped so low in my regard I heard it hit the ground,
And go to pieces on the stones At bottom of my mind;
Yet blamed the fate that fractured, less* -* Than I reviled myself
For entertaining plated wares Upon my silver shelf.

FYI: Did a search on Google maps, If I have my information correct, it was about 5 miles from an airport as the crow flies.

Did you pay attention to this part??? It lasted around a hundred years…

That says two things to me, on two sides of the same coin:

  1. It wasn’t a bad or sub standard fix at the time. If only the work on my own home would last that long…

  2. Just because something has been around for a hundred years, and “hasn’t collapsed yet”, doesn’t mean it won’t collapse soon.

Originally Posted by Philip LaMachio http://nachi.cachefly.net/forum/images/2006/buttons/viewpost.gif
“… but dated to renovations undertaken at the house when it was a private residence in the early 20th century.”

My point is that the attachment system was inadequate and such systems pose a danger, no matter how long or short it is before it actually falls (if it ever does).

Mark, yes, you are right; it did last at least over 60 years.

I don’t blame the original installers. They were working according to the best information they had at the time.

But who really expects a ceiling to just collapse?

Presently, almost no one expects a ceiling to just fall down, especially without an obvious cause.

But in certain cases, they should at least be aware that it could happen, because it obviously does happen.

Had the ceiling originally been installed with screws I don’t think it would have happened (Except perhaps in the case of a lot of water and water-soaked insulation weighing it down)

But of course the installers didn’t have screw guns and saw no need to put in screws by hand.

And so, eventually (with the possible contributing factors of vibrations and heating/cooling cycles) the smooth nails (which had limited gripping power), holding the weight of hundreds of pounds of plaster, pulled out of the wood.

All at once.

And that is a safety issue.

No matter how long it took it to happen, it *did *happen, *can *happen and does happen unless such a ceiling system is identified beforehand, and properly secured as a preventative measure.

You, as a home inspector, are the person charged with understanding this as a safety issue for your client.

Consider this, just because a two prong non-grounded outlet was installed near a sink and no one has been electrocuted in that particular bathroom yet doesn’t mean there isn’t a danger of electrocution. As inspectors we are obliged to note that there is a safety issue, what that safety issue is, and indicate the next step the homeowner should take.

Here is a quote from another article on this particular collapse. Note that the cause I have tried to explain was clearly indicated. Please lets not miss the forest for the trees:

Article on Dickenson ceiling collapse.

Good info Philip.