Let’s take it from the top

Our story so far: My husband Tyler and I purchased a 126-year-old Methodist church to turn into our home. Three months in, we had completed demolition and were deep into the framing and mechanicals phase of the project.

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Chapter 21

Our Number One design rule was “details matter,” and this was most important starting at the top: The ceilings. The high ceiling in the sanctuary—our future great room—was the whole reason we were interested in a church so we wanted it to look not just good but grand. This is where the finishing work began.

As soon as they had completed demo on the sanctuary ceiling, the drywallers got to work installing the product from which they derived their name: Drywall.

Drywall, for the uninitiated, is a panel made of gypsum plaster pressed between thick sheets of paper. In modern homes, drywall is rarely seen but it literally surrounds us, concealed with paint or wallpaper or paneling inside our walls and ceilings. In the 1950s, it began replacing the traditional lath and plaster as a speedier alternative. We’d removed a good deal of plaster lath from the church to expose areas where we required ducts, pipes and wiring, but on the whole we left it intact where we could because it was strong and secure. But this wasn’t the Sistine Chapel, and we weren’t creating frescos in the plaster. Our sanctuary ceiling required new drywall to replace the fiberboard tiles that were there when we bought the church.

before drywall
The sanctuary ceiling, post demo. You can see the fiberboard tiles on two-thirds of it. We just covered them up with drywall.

Drywall comes in 4-by-8-foot sheets, and the drywallers chose to get it into the church with a boom truck through the upstairs windows. One might think an eighth-inch doesn’t make any difference in most matters, but not Tyler. He chose 5/8-inch drywall for the sanctuary ceiling because it was stiffer and laid flatter. It was also heavier. At one point, Tyler’s hired man St. Johnny and I moved a few pieces out of the way, and it was like, well, like hitting a brick wall.

But the unwieldiness of these large sheets of drywall didn’t deter the drywall team, even as they navigated scaffolding fifteen feet high and higher. Mudding the seams came next, and in a matter of a few days, they had performed their magic.

The great room ceiling, post drywall and mudding.

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Tomorrow: How many gallons does it take to paint a church ceiling? Read about it here.

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