Inspecting Interior Ceilings
A thorough inspection of your interior ceilings will help save money when your house goes on the market.
Your inspection of the ceilings will be very similar to the walls. The ceilings and walls are usually constructed of the same materials.
As the walls can indicate potential problems with the foundation, ceilings are a great source of information about the roof. Water stains provide clues about past or present roof leaks.
During my inspections I have encountered taped and painted textured drywall, wood veneer and “Masonite” type paneling, lath and plaster, “V” grooved decking, insulated sheets and panels, foam drop ceilings, plywood ceilings, blown-in “popcorn” acoustical textured drywall, milled planks, ornamental tin and copper plates and probably others I have forgotten.
Look for, identify and record the presence of stains, peeling paint, settlement and stress cracks, holes, sagging ceilings, organic growth, evidence of possible insect infestation and low overhead clearance.
Regarding ceilings, one important thing to be aware of is the presence of materials possibly containing
Remember back in the sixties and seventies when the rage was to have sparkling blown-in acoustical ceilings? Well if it is sparkling, there’s a possibility it contains asbestos.
Although the use of building materials containing asbestos was initially banned in 1989, the ruling was overturned in 1991 with a more specific list of products that no longer fall under the ban.
Common building materials containing asbestos besides ceiling acoustics included flooring tiles and pipe insulation.
The only way to know if a material contains asbestos is by laboratory testing. Having a ceiling with asbestos content is not a problem unless the material is disturbed and the asbestos fibers become airborne.
According to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more than 40% of the land area and much of the drinking water of the US contains some level of naturally occurring asbestos.
Asbestos has qualities that set it apart from any other material. It exists in microscopic fibers of varying sizes. It is virtually indestructible. It does not decompose or decay. It is a poor conductor of electricity. It is resistant to heat, chemicals, and water. When mixed with other materials, it passes on its insulating properties while adding its fibrous strength.
You can’t tell whether a material contains asbestos simply by looking at it. If in doubt, treat the material as if it contains asbestos. Only a professional should take samples for analysis, because if done incorrectly, sampling can be more hazardous than leaving the material alone.
Material suspected of containing asbestos that is in good condition and will not be disturbed (by remodeling, for example) should be left alone. Only material that is damaged or will be disturbed should be sampled and considered for remediation and professional removal.
Let us now discuss insect and pest infestation. Unless we actually see bugs and critters crawling around, the only way to identify their presence is by what they leave behind.
Spiders and cobwebs do not count. Sawdust and small piles of dirt and debris that appear to generate on their own are a pretty good indication of active insects. Small rodents like mice will leave feces and bats will leave guano.
One indicator of insect infestation would be sawdust that collects in spider webs located in corners and around exposed beams near the top of the walls.
Additional information will be provided in the articles on attics and the exterior siding materials.
Record any signs of pest and insect infestation and consider a pest abatement contractor or termite contractor for further information and remediation.
CEILING FINDINGS: REMEDIES AND SOLUTIONS
If you had a leak that was repaired but the stains are still present, get rid of them before the home inspector arrives. The same is true of stress and settlement cracks. Remember, you still have to disclose the “material fact” that there was a water leak at one time. However, most buyers will accept this and the issue will likely become a mute point. They may ask their home inspector to take a careful look into the area in question, but if he doesn’t see a problem, there won’t be a note.
Removing water stains in the ceiling can be done very easily. Seal the area with a lacquer and then repaint the entire surface. If you just paint over the stain with regular latex paint it might bleed through.