Aaron says : “Crack is whack.”

Ok, maybe I’m putting words into his mouth, but Aaron was determined to fix that huge, ugly crack in our dining room ceiling. I was 100% supportive. Since I stenciled the wall and painted the chandelier, our dining room has been getting a lot of attention from visitors. And though they all have very nice things to say, I see their view shift to that crack. I see the judgement in their eyes.

Maybe that’s a bit dramatic. Regardless, Aaron got to work. And since my role in this project was that of picture-taker and audience member (I mostly cheered him on from the couch while watching Harry Potter), I’m going to let Aaron tell you this informative (yet somewhat lengthy) story from his point of view. Yes, that is correct. Aaron, the guest blogger!

Before I get started, let me preface this project by saying that I’ve had a little experience with drywall repair.  I’ve patched small holes, like those left by the thumbtacks that held up the poster of a Kawasaki Ninja every pre-pubescent boy had on his wall, and those a bit larger such as the holes left by failed wall anchors.  But never have I attempted to repair a recurring 20 foot gash in a ceiling. Nonetheless, when I got up on Saturday morning and looked at the morning light casting a shadow across the unsightly crack I thought “Today is the day.” Unfortunately I was under the somewhat false pretense that this job would essentially amount to a more time-intensive thumbtack repair. Despite my confidence I decided that I should do a quick Google search for tips and tools that might prove helpful. So I headed to Lowes to stock up on supplies.  This is what happened…over the next week and a half.  Yeah…week and a half.

First, I stripped the crack of all the old drywall tape and spackle from the previous repair. I started by pulling the tape and any loose spackle I could remove by hand. At this point, my confidence was high and I was scoffing at the apparent amateur nature of the previous repair. They’d clearly had good intentions, and the crack may have disappeared, but you were left with a giant snaking bulge where the crack used to be.  This has always been a pet peeve of mine and I was resolved to do a MUCH better job.  My appreciation for the previous repairers skill would grow exponentially with each step.

Next, I used a 5-in-1 tool to clear all the old spackle out of the crack. As this is a recurrent crack, the initial repairer widened the crack in order for the spackle to better fill and stabilize the area.  However, that approach had failed and much of the spackle intended to stabilize the crack had actually cracked itself.

Once the tape was removed and the old spackle was gouged from the crack, I used the scraping edge of the 5-in-1 tool to remove all the remaining spackle that had been spread over the crack to smooth it out. Unfortunately for me, the previous repairers wanted to be extra sure to cover the crack and had spread a river of spackle nearly 10 inches across in some places.  This all had to be scraped away in order to avoid the aforementioned bulging appearance when you apply the new spackle.

I went on scraping like this for the next five hours.  If you do happen to have the pleasure of doing this, or any drwall work (including painting) in the future, do yourself a favor and get a Warner 5-in-1 tool.  It has a pointed edge for gouging cracks and opening paint cans, a small hammer side for closing lids to paint and spackle cans, a scraper, a nail puller in the center and a curved edge for squeegie-ing paint from used rollers.  If you’re feeling really industrious, Warner also makes an 8-in-1 tool with all the previously mentioned features and then some.

Hour two, or three.  I was still pretty happy with my life at this point.

Now is a good time to mention that this job will ruin your home. This is only about half of the mess that would result.  I would advise putting down some drop clothes or heavy plastic.  Lesson learned.

Finally, the prep work was finished and I now had a pretty convincing map of the Mississippi River and it’s adjacent flood plain.

Now it was time to break out the heavy artillery. I needed to stabilize the drywall on both sides of the crack in order to keep it from reappearing in the future. In layman’s terms (or “Rosemary’s terms”), one side of the crack would dip lower than the other side. This not only caused the crack to reappear, but it also caused the drywall tape to come loose, which made the whole ordeal doubly visible. To fix this, I needed to put screws through the drywall into braces that would be installed between the ceiling joists.  I was prepared for this process but after five hours of scraping I decided to try a shortcut and screw directly into the ceiling joists.  After 20 minutes of trying to get an accurate reading on my lousy stud finder, I gave up and resigned myself to a nice quiet evening in the attic.  Just me, my thoughts, some powertools and a ton of Gatorade.

After spending about 90 seconds in the attic I decided that I needed to minimize my risk of heat stroke by marking the location of the crack in a way that was easy to find.  I drilled a small hole at both ends of the crack and passed a straightened wire clothes hanger through it.  This allowed me to find exactly where the beginning and end of the crack were, without spending an hour digging through insulation in the 130 degree attic.  If you happen to have rolled insulation in your attic, you can simply roll the area back with minimal mess or digging.

After locating the crack and clearing all the insulation, I took measurements between the ceiling joists for the supports that would be installed. Unfortunately, I was only able to talk Rosemary into staying in the attic long enough to take a couple of pictures, none of which are actually of the supports.  So you will have to use your imagination a bit.  I bought two 2 x 6 ceiling joists and cut them to the dimensions measured between the existing ceiling joists.  I then laid each support between the joists, above the crack, and screwed them into the ceiling joists.

Fortunately for me, I was spared from having to hold a flashlight in my mouth for three hours when I discovered this baller light set that the previous owners left for me in the attic…

…among other things…

After the supports were in place, I came back to the air conditioned promised land and placed screws on either side of the crack securing the drywall to them. This was the end of night one and I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing.  After all, I had broken out the power tools, mastered the attic, and made a pretty nice mess of the dining room.  The only thing left to do was just slap some spackle on the thing and smooth it out.  No biggie…right?

The first pass was just intended to fill the crack itself. For this, I again turned to my trusty 5-in-1 tool which I had seen used to apply spackle online.  For this first step it worked OK, but would later prove to be too stiff to really be efficient.  This led to another trip to Lowes for a set of plastic putty knifes that were much more flexible.

After the crack itself was spackled flush with the ceiling, it was time to apply the drywall tape. Most spackle and joint compounds shrink as they dry.  This will likely result in applying multiple coats in order to get the area flush. This would become the bane of my existence for the remainder of this project.

In hopes of avoiding that bulging, “amateur,” appearance I despise, I purchased “super thin” drywall joint tape. I decided to apply a thin layer of spackle and then press the tape into the spackled area.  After all the tape was in place I went back and added another layer of spackle to cover the tape.

After many layers of spackle it was time to sand the area.

Since the spackle was initially kind of rough, I used a 220 grit sandpaper and sanding block to quickly cut the excess.  If you look past the terrible look on my face you might notice the amount of dust and debris this creates.  A mask or respirator would have been nice, but in the absence of both, I trudged on, bronchial irritation be damned.

Again, A LOT of dust and debris.

Between the last picture and this picture I repeated the process of spackling and sanding at least four times.  In retrospect, I should have applied the spackle much thicker than I did.  But again, I was very sensitive to not having a large bulge in the ceiling.

FINALLY it was time to paint.

So that’s how my brilliant Saturday morning idea turned into a week and a half of torture.  I would like to think that when I tackle one of the other three large cracks that still remain in the house I will be able to apply some hard earned wisdom.  But luckily for you all, you get to learn from my mistakes.

{Aaron is my boyfriend. He owns this house I’m constantly tearing apart. And sometimes he’ll write blog posts about things I do not enjoy or understand, and therefore, am not qualified to blog about. He is pretty much the coolest.}


13 Responses to “Aaron says : “Crack is whack.””

  1. 1 nicole b. July 26, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Dude, I am beyond impressed. Because of your hard work, you now have a beautiful dining room AND a Scooby Doo talking animated phone to show for it! Well done.

  2. 2 Ciara July 26, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Wow! Not only am I impressed with your crack attack, I am largely impressed with your ability to tell a story and Rosemary’s willingness to go into the attic!

    • 3 rosemaryonthetv July 26, 2011 at 2:28 pm

      I knew he had it in him. Before we were dating, he’d send me lengthy, hilarious e-mails that made me LOL in my office at work. Where has the romance gone?

      As for the attic, I didn’t last very long. Less than a minute. I’m too afraid of critters!

  3. 4 localeyesark July 26, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    This is amazing! I have a very, very visible and taunting crack in my bedroom ceiling, which has now become a lovely crack-ring. I get the feeling I will be sending this link to my live-in handyman. Thanks!

    • 5 Sarah Shipp July 26, 2011 at 2:54 pm

      I hate “text speak” and avoid it at all costs, but this deserves a big fat OMG! That ceiling looks amazing now!

  4. 7 Bradley Fogleman July 29, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    I’m incredibly impressed. I would’ve given up about the time I found that sweet-action Scooby Doo telephone.

  5. 8 Monique August 19, 2011 at 10:19 am

    Visiting from Tobi Fairley’s blog and found this post. Wow, Aaron, you did a fantastic repair job! The ceiling looks incredible. Can’t tell there was even a problem. Love this blog and I’ll be back to read about more of your house exploits.

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