Six days before leasing signing, ceiling caves in!

122 Replies

Originally posted by @Max T.:

@Jim K.

I’m a good people person. **** happens. Nobody’s fault. I would get the debris cleaned up ASAP myself before they move in but I can’t take off work to fix the ceiling. But they will see me on site, see me coordinating the subcontractor, etc.. it is the best I can do in a bad situation.

Yes, that is an answer to a tough question. Good point, Max.

Originally posted by @Mark H. Porter:

Seriously, don’t sweat this.  Fix the leak and clean up.  Ceiling has to stay open to dry for about a week.  We’ve all been through this with water heaters, p-traps knocked lose by tenants, roof shingles breaking.

1. Plumber to fix the leak ~$100

2. Ceiling repair (cut wet rock out, replace, mud, tape, paint) - ~$500

Ain't got a week and it's going to cost a LOT more than that, Mark. The ceiling isn't drywall, it's plaster on plasterboard, house was built in the Depression, there have been multiple repairs here in the past.

Originally posted by @Jeremy Komer:

@Jim K.

Shouldn't be that expensive.

I would contact the regular people I use and see if they can do it asap as well as Facebook and next door offering a premium for quick service.

Or do it yourself.

You should be able to just cut it into a square and put up a sheet of drywall that is the same size, use a mud skim coat then use some spray texture from Home Depot. It's probably almost a full day project for someone that knows what their doing.

Oh, boy, a day project "for someone that knows what their [sic] doing." I've got some questions, Jeremy.

1. Tell me how to cut that square, with the understanding that this is plaster, not drywall.
2. Tell me how you would support and stabilize the existing plaster at the edge of the square. At least tell me where to buy what I need.
3. Tell me what thickness of drywall to use and how to put it up. This ends up being a 6x9 rectangle.
4. Tell me how to apply a mud skim coat on a ceiling.
5. Tell me how to mimic the crow's foot texture that's all over the rest of the drywall with a spray texture.

WHAT YOU LEFT OUT:

Tell me how to tie in the old plaster to the new drywall.

Talk to me about the plaster wall-to-ceiling tie-in. How do I handle that?

Most importantly, tell me how to handle the leak that caused this, WHICH YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT BECAUSE I'VE TOLD YOU NOTHING.

You forgot all about the painting involved. Do I need to prime and what should I use to prime?

Quite a few people, many of them unpaid millionaires, have made literally heroic efforts to turn these forums into something special. You want to write a helpful DIY post, write it. You want to shake your junk at people and patronizingly 'splain them that you're a somethin' somethin' and know all about renovation, my smug bucket is full.

wow, I am really surprised at how many people feel "working" is a dirty word and feel that maintaining their assets is something that should be relegated to the "help",  who, btw probably dont make very much and have zero incentive to ensure the work being done is going to last ....  I mean why would say a worker for a plumbing company have your assets best interests at heart? he actually is probably thinking about lunch.  This is also why I self manage as having someone who makes $12-15/hr manage my multi million $$ portfolio seems foolish at best. 

Owning rentals requires work - even if you buy new ones I like do - stuff happens and things need repaired....  if I can learn to caulk, paint, do basic plumbing repair, etc etc so can most folks....   would I rather be doing something else? sure, but if I am not "into" maintaining my portfolio and future income source why would anyone else be? 

Originally posted by @Jim K.:

Picture it...Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, home of old houses with serious problems and the people who live in them. At the end of October, the bathroom sink upstairs springs a leak. The leak flows across the tile floor and into the crack between the hall and the bathroom. It slowly soaks all the joists and the heavily-textured plaster ceiling downstairs. The house is empty, waiting for the tenants to move in on the first of November.

Oh Rhett, Rhett, whatever shall I do? Wherever shall I go? The tenants are scheduled to move in, their lease is up at their old place, where are they supposed to stay? Where am I supposed to find people to fix this quickly? WHAT SHOULD I DO???

Seriously, I'm extremely curious what those of who don't do any of the work in your own places do in this situation and under this time pressure. I know that you all believe your time is too valuable for this. "Work on your business, not in your business"...so what's your solution? Find a handyman willing to do this repair and pay him whatever he wants to get it done chop-chop? Call up your regular plaster repair contractor? How much money are you willing to pay to fix a hole in a dining room ceiling of this size? How much of a hit is your war chest going to take?

I've been skipping over this trending thread, not knowing it was yours, Jim.

Because it's you, you work in your business and know wth you are doing,  I see it for the learning experience it is for others.

Obviously I'd get on it myself, or in this case, call one of my tenants much better at drywall and plaster than I.   I would handle the leak. 

Along the lines of being a passive investor vs landlord DIYer, I've come to a realization.  Some assets work for a PM.  I have some without gas or furnaces that are managed fine.  If your property has an outlier/odd/quirky mechanical, (like nat gas is here) plan on taking care of it yourself until you die or sell.  

Good luck with your ceiling repair my friend.  Glad nobody was hurt.   

@Jim K. Jim, I can only tell you how I’ve handled it for 24 years.  The ceiling and wood underneath it needs to dry completely else you could run into issues with mold.

I’ve had houses built in 1863 and the turn of the century that had plaster over lathe ceilings that leaked.  I had to stack Sheetrock to get the depth but you could hardly notice the difference with the right feathering skill.

You’re call, you asked for advice from people that had been through this.

When we had a ceiling cave in, (no water leak, just a contractor's foot went through, oops), tenants were living there. We got a thin piece of plywood several inches larger than the hole in all directions, painted to match the ceiling and screwed it on to the joists from below. Looked fine. During the next tenant turnover, we took the time and fixed it properly. 

We'd fix water leak immediately, though. The rest can wait.

Originally posted by @Jeff T.:

@Jim K.

Lol , just get the can of crows foot texture spray from Home Depot. Ez. ;)

Or catch a crow and train it to walk on the ceiling. Don't wind me up, Jeff, I at least looked at your profile. You don't last 23 years in this business believing all drywall textures are created equal and there's a can for every one of them at the Big Orange Retail Giant.

Originally posted by @Tanya F.:

When we had a ceiling cave in, (no water leak, just a contractor's foot went through, oops), tenants were living there. We got a thin piece of plywood several inches larger than the hole in all directions, painted to match the ceiling and screwed it on to the joists from below. Looked fine. During the next tenant turnover, we took the time and fixed it properly. 

We'd fix water leak immediately, though. The rest can wait.

 You're aware that's an illegal fire hazard, yes? The reason plaster and drywall are used to cover walls and ceilings is that gypsum is fire-resistant. This is especially important for ceilings.

Originally posted by @Mark H. Porter:

@Jim K. Jim, I can only tell you how I’ve handled it for 24 years.  The ceiling and wood underneath it needs to dry completely else you could run into issues with mold.

I’ve had houses built in 1863 and the turn of the century that had plaster over lathe ceilings that leaked.  I had to stack Sheetrock to get the depth but you could hardly notice the difference with the right feathering skill.

You’re call, you asked for advice from people that had been through this.

You are, actually, right. I do understand that, Mark. This was thankfully plaster on plasterboard, as @David Coleman pointed out (he knows a surprising amount about this, actually) not plaster on lathe. I did let the ceiling dry out. Probably not enough.

Originally posted by @Steve Vaughan:
Originally posted by @Jim K.:

Picture it...Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, home of old houses with serious problems and the people who live in them. At the end of October, the bathroom sink upstairs springs a leak. The leak flows across the tile floor and into the crack between the hall and the bathroom. It slowly soaks all the joists and the heavily-textured plaster ceiling downstairs. The house is empty, waiting for the tenants to move in on the first of November.

Oh Rhett, Rhett, whatever shall I do? Wherever shall I go? The tenants are scheduled to move in, their lease is up at their old place, where are they supposed to stay? Where am I supposed to find people to fix this quickly? WHAT SHOULD I DO???

Seriously, I'm extremely curious what those of who don't do any of the work in your own places do in this situation and under this time pressure. I know that you all believe your time is too valuable for this. "Work on your business, not in your business"...so what's your solution? Find a handyman willing to do this repair and pay him whatever he wants to get it done chop-chop? Call up your regular plaster repair contractor? How much money are you willing to pay to fix a hole in a dining room ceiling of this size? How much of a hit is your war chest going to take?

I've been skipping over this trending thread, not knowing it was yours, Jim.

Because it's you, you work in your business and know wth you are doing,  I see it for the learning experience it is for others.

Obviously I'd get on it myself, or in this case, call one of my tenants much better at drywall and plaster than I.   I would handle the leak. 

Along the lines of being a passive investor vs landlord DIYer, I've come to a realization.  Some assets work for a PM.  I have some without gas or furnaces that are managed fine.  If your property has an outlier/odd/quirky mechanical, (like nat gas is here) plan on taking care of it yourself until you die or sell.  

Good luck with your ceiling repair my friend.  Glad nobody was hurt.   

As always, thanks, Steve. I agree that this is a blessing in disguise. There were clearly three or four previous (inadequate) repairs here. The plaster must have been already in serious trouble for this to happen. This is not my first ceiling repair in an elderly Pittsburgh-area single-family. And the tenants are not in yet.

We're coming along nicely on the repair. The asset is in otherwise exceptional condition. Custom brick-veneer single-family in this part of Pgh during the Depression were built at the height of this area's technical building prowess, by what really amounts to starving artists just trying to hang on and grateful to be given the change to work on something. This is the third Depression-built brick-veneer asset I've ever owned in this zip code. The level of quality building on these properties, which has led to extraordinary resilience over the decades for them, is really something special.

I also agree about the PM issue. From my perspective, you can't buy 80-year-old single family in the Rust Belt (and it's all gas here) and expect the kind of watchful eye on maintenance you need. It's just never, ever, ever going to work. There's only a very few ways to make it in low C-class SFR and small MFR in a place like Pgh, and you either thread that needle or take a bath again and again and again.

@Jim K. here are my thoughts:

1. People suggesting to call the insurance company, NO. This claim in peanuts and even if it was covered, we are not talking much above deductible. Worse yet, you then have a claim on your record. People don't understand that excessive claims can get you cancelled. Only make claims in serious situations. If you think this is serious, it is not.

2. Having good people to do work for you means having people that will "fit your job in" if there is an emergency. I have a good handyman who came over next day when a drop ceiling fell down. I have a sheetrock repair guy that will squeeze me in and a good friend who hangs sheetrock. Basically I would just start calling people and go down the list. If your list has just one person, you are screwed.

3. Some jobs are better left to professionals. Even as a DIY expert, I will pass on many jobs because an experienced professional does better. I believe mudding and texturing is one of those things that needs someone with experience. I just don't do it often enough to get great at it. I could do it and have done it, but given the option I will let someone else.

4. Those who said to cancel the tenant move in, that makes no sense. Six days is eternity to get something this small fixed if you hustle. It is hardly serious enough to cancel a move in and you sure shouldn't loose revenue over it.

5. Be prepared to do anything to fix a problem. If I had to, I would do the sheet rock replacement myself. At least get the old stuff removed, cleaned up and new pieces up. Worst case if I was waiting for a person to mud it, that would be manageable with a move in. Not everyone has the comfort level or skill set, which is find. That just means you need to hustle to find someone else to do it.

6. There is room for DIY and "work on your business versus in your business". There is no reason for anyone to belittle someone because they choose to be hands on or belittle someone because they choose not to get their hands dirty. Yes Jim, you have "street credit" for your DIY skills, but if someone can get a drywall person over to do it just as fast, there is nothing wrong with that either. 

As always Jim, you pose interesting and thought provoking questions. Great discussion everyone!

Originally posted by @Joe Splitrock:

@Jim K. here are my thoughts:

1. People suggesting to call the insurance company, NO. This claim in peanuts and even if it was covered, we are not talking much above deductible. Worse yet, you then have a claim on your record. People don't understand that excessive claims can get you cancelled. Only make claims in serious situations. If you think this is serious, it is not.

2. Having good people to do work for you means having people that will "fit your job in" if there is an emergency. I have a good handyman who came over next day when a drop ceiling fell down. I have a sheetrock repair guy that will squeeze me in and a good friend who hangs sheetrock. Basically I would just start calling people and go down the list. If your list has just one person, you are screwed.

3. Some jobs are better left to professionals. Even as a DIY expert, I will pass on many jobs because an experienced professional does better. I believe mudding and texturing is one of those things that needs someone with experience. I just don't do it often enough to get great at it. I could do it and have done it, but given the option I will let someone else.

4. Those who said to cancel the tenant move in, that makes no sense. Six days is eternity to get something this small fixed if you hustle. It is hardly serious enough to cancel a move in and you sure shouldn't loose revenue over it.

5. Be prepared to do anything to fix a problem. If I had to, I would do the sheet rock replacement myself. At least get the old stuff removed, cleaned up and new pieces up. Worst case if I was waiting for a person to mud it, that would be manageable with a move in. Not everyone has the comfort level or skill set, which is find. That just means you need to hustle to find someone else to do it.

6. There is room for DIY and "work on your business versus in your business". There is no reason for anyone to belittle someone because they choose to be hands on or belittle someone because they choose not to get their hands dirty. Yes Jim, you have "street credit" for your DIY skills, but if someone can get a drywall person over to do it just as fast, there is nothing wrong with that either. 

As always Jim, you pose interesting and thought provoking questions. Great discussion everyone!

 Thank you, Joe. I am very pleasantly surprised at how much sausage got made in this thread. I completely agree with you that DIY is not the way to go for everyone. But if anyone thinks that's going to save them work or time or heartache in a situation like this, hell no. One thing that is blazingly obvious to me about running rentals is that the clock stops for no one and it's all hands on deck doing WHATEVER THEY CAN until the problem gets solved. You can pay someone to take on that burden but it isn't going to be cheap and a competent person in this situation is worth a LOT more than what PMs typically make in the traditional payment structures we have for them.

What that means as far as hiring competent PMs to take care of a place like this I leave to those with the capacity to judge.

As for me, if I intend to survive, I had best get out of this property class. There's a clock on how long your body will do what you need it to do in this business. DIY is not any kind of good answer as the clock counts down and your age ticks up.

I think I'll bring up the skill issue you mention elsewhere, Joe, because you're also right about that.

Originally posted by @Jim K.:
Originally posted by @Scott M.:

You knew about this yesterday, Nov 1 is move in day.  Have a weekend in between with Halloween as well.  I might not be the person you are asking this question to but I simply get one of our crews to handle it.  1-2 Day job.  

@Jim K.you must understand that you are a unicorn right?  If no one has told you this, sorry to break it to you, but you are a unicorn.  Now, I have never met you, never had a conversation with you but from your postings here you are indeed a unicorn.  

Your say you are a handyman but you are very knowledgeable about a lot of aspects of real estate investing, including handyman stuff (renovations).  That said, I am sorry to report to you that not everyone has your skillset.  For example me.  I am a licensed builder in MI but I could in no way handle this project myself.  If I was forced to deal with this alone it would cost me far more time and money to get this done right then it does to call my crew.  

This is why I encourage other investors (in fact, just today in another thread) to be nice to their contractors and go to the site and meet them if they only have a 1 or 2 homes etc....build up a relationship because when you need them, you need them.  

You, of course, don't know this because you are a unicorn and simply jump in and handle it.

But for us mere mortals, or simply for those who chose to concentrate on another side of their business VS doing maintenance and turns even if they have the skill, no need to shame them (me included).  

I applaud you for jumping in and getting that work done.  As someone w/o that skill set I find if amazing.  Well done!.  But for those who view their business different and would rather have their contractors handle it so they can deal with other parts of their business, that is great too.  All different.  

I know I wish I wash handy around the house but understand my shortcomings.  Won't play in the NBA nor fix holes in ceilings.  

For you, well done, I look forward to the finish photos!

Just for you, Scott, this is where we're at as of 7 pm Wednesday: Drywall prefill with hot mud, seams taped and mudded first coat. I'm using Strait Flex for the wall-to-ceiling edges, six-inch wall fabric and plaster washers for plaster-to-drywall.



Wow, so this really happened? I thought you were just providing us with a hypothetical scenario to think about.

So does this mean all that tenant drama you posted a few months ago involving Tiffany was real too? (sorry, the name might be might be wrong)

@Jim K.

Well, I figured the wink would let you know I was joking. Now I can’t tell if you you could tell or not.

I like the trained crow idea though, even better . Cheaper too.

The only fake story I've made up on Bigger Pockets was one about finding $800K in the wall with a rusted Glock on top of it. OK, maybe a couple others about running an international real estate seminar training program that you pay in McRibs to get into.

Tiffany and the caved-in ceiling are 100% real.

If you make a 2x4 "tee" with a height just less than the height of the ceiling you can put up drywall pieces single handedly. Which is how I would tackle this tough problem. Since its extra nasty and toxic work, it would be tough to get my weekend warriors to turn out for that. Use a breather and tyvek if you want to come away alot happier after this serious ***** is tamed! good luck.

@Jim K.

I'm in drywall country so I'd be out of my element with plaster. Fix the plumbing leak and get some fans running to dry it out and make it habitable for the incoming tenants is about the best I could do until I got someone out to fix it.

Hard to understand how anyone is in this business without at least some basic handyman skills or mild construction experience. Too many repairs and capital expenditures to occur without trying to pick some of it up. I think it's important to try and learn as much about the different aspects of one's business as possible. Everything you know saves you money, even if you don't self perform.

Repair looks good. New tenants won't even know it happened.

@Jim K. After catching up on this thread, it looks like there was never any emergency or real concern. You seem to have this already handled from the beginning.

Good job.

Hope the tenants are able to move in on time.

We all have differing methods of REI, and I respect your hands on approach. This thread serves as a good lesson for all members, mainly new guys like me, to pick up the many hidden gems after reading through the posts.

Originally posted by @Gordon Starr:

If you make a 2x4 "tee" with a height just less than the height of the ceiling you can put up drywall pieces single handedly. Which is how I would tackle this tough problem. Since its extra nasty and toxic work, it would be tough to get my weekend warriors to turn out for that. Use a breather and tyvek if you want to come away alot happier after this serious ***** is tamed! good luck.

 Solid advice. I did spring for a gyp jack a few years ago, though. Gordon. Not my first rodeo, thankfully.

Originally posted by @Todd Rasmussen:

@Jim K.

I'm in drywall country so I'd be out of my element with plaster. Fix the plumbing leak and get some fans running to dry it out and make it habitable for the incoming tenants is about the best I could do until I got someone out to fix it.

Hard to understand how anyone is in this business without at least some basic handyman skills or mild construction experience. Too many repairs and capital expenditures to occur without trying to pick some of it up. I think it's important to try and learn as much about the different aspects of one's business as possible. Everything you know saves you money, even if you don't self perform.

Repair looks good. New tenants won't even know it happened.

I think there's a chance that it would work out as long as you didn't buy anything built pre-1960 or anything tract-built from 1970-1995 or so.

You get a lot of contradictory advice from the gurus, Todd. "Know your business well, but don't work in your business." How are you supposed to know anything about renovation if you've never worked in any of it at all? People always bring up Andrew Carnegie as an example of someone who hired experts successfully. Carnegie never learned how steel is actually made. The Bessemer process was a mystery to him. He just knew how to hire people who knew how to make good steel.

I live in Carnegie's hometown, within walking distance of his greatest success and failure story, the site of the Homestead Works. Carnegie made it because he was a logistics expert, a railroad expert trained in the field by the Civil War, and that's what was needed to recognize it's potential for building railroad bridges and reinforcing concrete, and to bring cheap steel to market successfully. Carnegie didn't need to know how to make the steel, or keep up with advances in how it was made. The comparison to renovation is idiotic. I don't know how to mix up joint compound or glue bristles into a paintbrush. But I do know how to use a taping knife and cut in an accent wall.

Originally posted by @Sam Yin:

@Jim K. After catching up on this thread, it looks like there was never any emergency or real concern. You seem to have this already handled from the beginning.

Good job.

Hope the tenants are able to move in on time.

We all have differing methods of REI, and I respect your hands on approach. This thread serves as a good lesson for all members, mainly new guys like me, to pick up the many hidden gems after reading through the posts.

Glad you see this now in the spirit it was presented, Sam. No, there was no real emergency.