10 Hidden Dangers at Home

Cracked or loose plaster ceilings

At first, Ivana and Philip Lipscomb didn’t pay much attention to the small crack on the living room ceiling in their Rodgers Forge rowhouse.

But one day in late January, they noticed the crack had grown, extending the entire length of the room, and the ceiling was sagging. The couple decided to tackle the repair project the very next day.

They never had the chance. That next morning the Lipscombs were awakened by a crash so loud that their neighbors heard it.

“It sounded like a bomb,” Ivana Lipscomb said. “We all jumped. The kids started screaming.”

They ran downstairs to find the entire living-room ceiling lying on the floor. “I was freaked out when I saw the thickness of the ceiling and the nails,” she said. “If my kids were under the ceiling, they would be dead.”

Since the incident, the couple has learned of a number of incidents of plaster falling from the ceiling.

Michael Cleary, owner of Five Arches Plastering, says that while it is unusual for an entire ceiling to collapse, it isn’t unusual for pieces of plaster to fall from a ceiling if it is damaged by water. Homes built between the 1920s and the 1940s are particularly at risk because the plaster was applied using straight nails, he said.

“What you really want to look for is any sagging in the ceiling,” Cleary said. “It’s usually pretty obvious.”

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