April 14, 2024
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April 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

One thing my wife and I noticed while taking down the plaster ceiling of our boys’ room is that if you take down the ceiling of a room, the pieces that land on the floor will take up more area than the surface of that room. The ceiling is bigger than the floor, apparently. Who knew?

We didn’t take down the whole ceiling ourselves, of course. Gravity helped. A little. Basically, gravity’s main role was that, a couple of days ago, part of the ceiling in my boys’ bedroom collapsed. Baruch Hashem, no one was hurt, although all of my boys, collectively, decided to sleep on the bottom level of the bunk bed that night.

This was a long time coming. Our house was built in 1937, and back then, walls and ceilings were made out of plaster. You know how you learn in school that in the old days, they used to build huts out of mud? That’s basically what our house is. Of course, there also has to be something for them to smear the mud onto, so first the builders nailed up a million thin pieces of wood called “lathe,” which are not actually strong enough to support anything, yet they smeared what is basically cement on them, on the ceiling, and prayed that it dried on before it started to fall.

The lathe was a relief, though. I didn’t actually know there was a lathe. In fact, I don’t actually know how construction works. My wife does, conceptually, as an interior designer, but if she took the time to explain to me every little thing I didn’t understand, she’d never get around to designing interiors. So I’m genuinely surprised when we pull back a layer of wall and see what’s underneath. I guess my point is that when the patch of ceiling came down, I was pretty surprised to look up and not see boxes of clothing and sukkah decorations.

So we decided to tear down the entire ceiling and replace it, so this wouldn’t happen again, at least in this particular room.

And yes, this isn’t a house we want to stay in forever. But on the other hand, we didn’t want to pour a ton of money into the repair, because this isn’t something that increases the resale value of our house. Sure, having a ceiling is better than not having a ceiling, but it’s not like this is something we can mention to potential buyers.

“So what’s good about the house?”

“Well, the ceiling won’t fall on your head anymore.”


“Well, the one in the boys’ room.”

So we found someone who was willing to replace the ceiling, and then asked if he would give us a cheaper rate if we tore down the old one ourselves, and also helped him so he could take less time and therefore be able to fit us in that week. We then pulled everything out of the kids’ room and got to work ripping down the rest of the ceiling. Here’s something I discovered about ripping down plaster ceilings: If you look at what you’re doing, you get a face full of plaster.

So you also have to make sure that you’re wearing:

A. Goggles, which didn’t help anyway

B. A face mask, which prevents you from breathing in too much dust by making it impossible to breathe, and

C. A “Verizon” hard hat that your wife borrowed from a neighbor, who doesn’t actually work for Verizon. Verizon workers use hard hats when they’re fixing phone wires, so that if they fall off a telephone pole 50 feet up, you know which company to call to come take their employee off your lawn.

Ski masks and bike helmets were also involved.

Then we collected all the pieces into heavy-duty garbage bags, and we realized that since plaster is basically cement, a heavy duty garbage bag holds way more than a person can actually lift. And if we can’t lift it, there’s no way the garbage man is going to take it.

And this is not to mention the dust. The dust gets everywhere. When you try to sweep it, it flies up and turns into a fog. Then you mop the floor, and it looks clean, and five minutes later more dust has settled on the floor. And then your wife goes, “I thought you were going to mop.”

Then the repair guy came, and I had to help him get the drywall into the house and up the stairs and around corners and hold it up over my head and yell while he screwed it in. I think the best part about drywall is that it takes four to five trips to get enough drywall up the stairs for an entire room, whereas to get rid of the same amount of plaster, you have to throw 50 million bags out the window, drag them to the curb, find out that the garbage men still won’t take it, put it all in your minivan, find a client of your wife who currently has a dumpster, and drive over there while coughing and wearing a ski mask and hoping the cops won’t pull you over and open up your trunk and see that you’re transporting what appears to be a giant cloud of dust.

We spent all day taking down the plaster, and when the guy came, we spent an hour putting up new drywall. But now we know how to do it. I think that next time, we’re going to offer to do the drywall, and have him take care of the plaster.

By Mordechai Schmutter

Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia, The Jewish Press and Aish.com, among others. He also has four books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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