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Radiant Ceiling Heat - Drywall Falling Again

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Old 09-11-2009, 08:28 PM   #1
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Radiant Ceiling Heat - Drywall Falling Again

Hey Guys,

A year and a half ago I repaired a ceiling for a family friend. The house has electric radiant ceiling heat which is not common in this area and not something I've encountered before or since. I understand it is sometimes set up different ways, this particular arrangement has 1/2" drywall, then the heating wires are spaced about 4" apart and embedded in about 3/16" of plaster. The house is about 35 years old and in the 3-5 years prior to my work the ceiling started to sag and crack in every upstairs room. In the kitchen it dropped a full eight inches in the center. It looked scary- the wires were the only thing keeping it and the attic from falling in I'm sure.

I was able to jack the ceiling back up and screw the heck out of it without busting a single wire. I probably put 3 times as many screws in as I would in new drywall. I taped and repaired the cracks, retextured and left it looking pretty good. "Good for another 30 years", I thought as I patted myself on the back.

Now, exactly 18 months later, the ceiling is cracking and falling again. It's not bad yet, but it's happening. What can I do? Where did I go wrong? I remember thinking then that the drywall felt a little mushy when I put the screws in, but I convinced myself it was just the difference between old drywall and the new stuff I'm used to.

Does anyone have any experience with this problem? Why exactly is it only happening in rooms under an attic? The attic is insulated way better than average and there is no sign of water damage at all. Could the temperature cycling from the heat be ruining the drywall? Is the drywall still viable? Short of putting cap nails in I'm not sure what else to do.

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Old 09-11-2009, 10:30 PM   #2
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Re: Radiant Ceiling Heat - Drywall Falling Again

you've got a mess on your hands,,,, you can't fix it, really. heat expands, cold contracts,,, drywall was never intended to handle that,, and the plaster, just aggrivates the problem, drywall and plaster are not compatable, and heat wires are less compatable with either. It was a good idea that just didn't work.

You could see if you can talk em into using some wood strips, perhaps stained to look like beams? to hold the cieling up.

The only real fix is to take it all down, re-hang drywall and get a heat pump or some other type of regular heat.

Good luck!!!


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Old 09-11-2009, 10:59 PM   #3
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Re: Radiant Ceiling Heat - Drywall Falling Again

I dont know, first and only time I ran into radiant ceiling heat apparently the elements where in the sheetrock itself. 70's house remodel, only problem in house was texture coming off of kitchen ceiling. Scraped off what was loose and matched it back. Its been three years and no complaints (she would complain)
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Old 09-12-2009, 06:22 AM   #4
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Re: Radiant Ceiling Heat - Drywall Falling Again

I just did some checking and if you go to How stuff works dot com they have a article how it works and how to install, from what I read they say 5/8 sheetrock or 1/4 plywood or 3/8 wood panels should be used, they also say that blown in insulation should not be used, but it sounds like they might have some type of moisture problem if the ceiling is saging, but check the site out Good luck


type in the search area radiant ceiling heat and then go to the installation section hope this helps, Oh and Radiant floor or ceiling heat will blow any other heating system out of the water

Last edited by Frankawitz; 09-12-2009 at 06:24 AM.
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Old 09-12-2009, 10:34 AM   #5
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Re: Radiant Ceiling Heat - Drywall Falling Again

Hmm, i mis-read the initial post so now i have to retype this. It would seem the best thing to do is remove the heat source and upgrade it on the second floor. You can buy radiant heat now that goes under your flooring and this is what i would advise. You could then repair the ceiling with no worries of the drywall getting to hot as the sheathing for the second floor would be a barrier.

Last edited by woodchuck2; 09-12-2009 at 10:40 AM.
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Old 09-12-2009, 11:20 AM   #6
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Re: Radiant Ceiling Heat - Drywall Falling Again

Since the kitchen is a problem,
it sounds like moisture.
Attic not vented well enough,
or worse yet, a vapor barrier on
the wrong side.
I have seen several where someone
pit in 6" kraft face vapor barrier up.
Then later someone else blew another
6-8" on top of that....
A real mess.
Put your location in your profile!
(Sorry....it seems there really are dumb questions)
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Old 04-04-2010, 01:43 PM   #7
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Re: Radiant Ceiling Heat - Drywall Falling Again

I am working on a house that was built in the early 80s. It has electric radiant heat in the up stairs ceiling. There was about a 1 foot square that was sagging in the kitchen, but the rest of the house looks okay. I jacked up the kitchen spot and screwed it with a ton of screws and patched it with mud. It seemed to work fine. I did notice that all of the drywall that has the radiant heat seems very brittle. I just started paint and and places where the ceiling looked fine are not looking so good through the paint. There are stripes all over the ceiling where the wires run. Do I need o prime it first? Should I just put a ton of coats on it? It is like where the wires are the paint is soaking in more than the rest of the ceiling.
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Old 04-05-2010, 04:18 AM   #8
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Re: Radiant Ceiling Heat - Drywall Falling Again

From the way it sounds you have condensation taking place, if the plaster feels soft I would cut a test hole and pull the piece out and have a look at the back side of the rock lath, is there anyway to get in the attic and see if you can find some sign of water or dampness, if that ceiling is coming down it could all give a one time and if that ceiling is plaster it could weigh in around 1000 pounds depending how large the ceiling is.


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