My brother looked up at the ceiling and said, "Holy shit, look at that crack!" My mom looked up at it and said, "We need to leave this room right now!" And we all did, except for the dog, who is a bit of a dumbass.
Then the living room ceiling — the whole ceiling — fell. How the dog was not killed, I can't really say. But there she stood in the middle of the room, covered in six inches of insulation, looking at me like "What the fuck just happened?"
What the fuck indeed?
People of Nashville, I live in a 1950s ranch. I drive around town. I know many of you also live in 1950s ranch-style houses. Listen carefully, then, to the hard-won wisdom of my home disaster.
There was a popular method of ceiling application at the time that went like this. They nailed up a thin layer of drywall. This was securely affixed to the joists, as you would expect. Then they put up a layer of something thicker — sometimes a thicker type of drywall, sometimes a type of sheetrock — but made certain that the joints did not line up with the joints on the drywall. This was to ensure a very smooth finish. This thicker layer was glued to the thin layer, and so it was not usually nailed into the joists as thoroughly as the first layer was. In some cases — such as my house — there was another layer of thin plaster over the top of all this.
This made an incredibly sturdy, incredibly heavy, incredibly smooth ceiling. But it also makes for a potential disaster when the nails eventually work their way loose.
I've asked around some since this happened to me, and while none of the homeowners I asked had any idea this could happen, every single person I asked who was involved in insurance, real estate, or construction, asked one question: "Was it water?" And when I said "No," they said "Oh, well, then it's the way they did ceilings back then. Those are prone to massive failure."
"Prone to massive failure" is just not something you want to hear about the heavy thing hanging over your head. There are solutions — new ceilings, using drywall screws to shore up the ceilings, and other things I'm sure I'll learn more about in the coming days.
But I am here to tell you that, when your insurance adjuster earnestly says, "Wow, you could have been killed. That's like having a bowling ball dropped on your head from eight feet up," it's something you ... OK, I ... have nightmares about.
So, dear readers, if you have an older home, and it has original ceilings, consider having a contractor come over and check to make sure those ceilings are not about to come down on your head. I had no idea this was something that could happen, and I'm sure I'm not alone. I'm also sure I'm not the only person living in a house with these ceilings.