The WA Building Commission (“Commission”) released in May 2017, a number of documents relating to spontaneous ceiling collapses in WA homes, particularly relating to homes constructed between 2000 and 2008. Approximately 60 per cent of ceiling failures reported to the Commission occurred around 9 to 10 years after the home reached practical completion. Homes constructed during the years 2005–2007 appeared to be most affected.
Whilst a complex issue, the primary reason relates to how the ceiling was fixed to the ceiling frame and in particular the insufficient application of adhesive and fixings (screws). Revised trade practices where more widely adopted post 2008 where after the number of new incidences reduced.
When a ceiling collapses it can create significant issues for the property owner and or property occupant, none the least being the risk of injury. Where it can be demonstrated that the ceiling was not fixed appropriately, the issue may not be covered by residential building insurance policies.
In WA, where a property is less than 6 years old, home owners can approach the builder and make a claim under the builders defect liability period. Where a property is older than 6 years old, the only recourse may be civil action and legal advice should be sought.
Where a property is being purchased and the REIWA building inspection clause has been utilised, it is important to note that ceilings are excluded from the definition of structural defects under REIWA pre purchase building inspection clause in many “offer to purchase contracts”. Accordingly, any issues found in relation to sagging or ceiling collapses will not be covered by the terms of the REIWA clause.
Despite the recent Commission findings, ceilings have always been susceptible to failure for a variety of reasons, so the underlying issues is not new. What the Commission has identified is that homes constructed during a particular period may be more susceptible to failure than normal, due to the materials used and lack of fixings.
Waiting for the ceiling to collapse can be a disaster. A collapsed ceiling can do significant damage to a home and can cause significant injury. In addition your insurance company may not cover it.
Be Proactive – Look for Signs of Failure and Act Early
It is important that you look for early warning signs that a ceiling may be losing its adherence/fixings to the ceiling frame. If you have concerns about the stability of your plasterboard ceiling, there are checks you can do:
· Measure the height of your ceiling where it meets the wall and then measure the ceiling height in the middle of the room. A variation in heights of 12mm or more could indicate the plasterboard sheeting has detached from the ceiling joists.
· Place a straightedge or spirit level over an area of ceiling sheeting and see if there is unevenness anywhere in your ceiling.
· Check to see if there is a gap between the ceiling sheeting and the joists. This can only be done by accessing the ceiling space. Accessing your ceiling space presents numerous hazards and it is strongly recommended that you engage a suitably qualified person to carry out this activity. Should you choose to enter your ceiling space make sure all power is isolated before doing so.
If you have any concerns about your ceilings and want an independent investigation undertaken to check your ceilings then contact Houspect WA. Our Inspectors, all of whom are independent WA Registered Builders, can check your ceilings to ensure that the risk of a failure or collapse is checked.
Key Summary on Ceiling Collapses
- Ceilings can collapse, irrespective of the size, age and location of a property. Some argue it is in fact a maintenance issue.
- There can be several factors that can contribute to a ceiling collapsing.
- The WA Building Commission has recognized that during a period of time in WA, the practices utilised to secure plasterboard ceilings in some WA homes may have been sub optimal. The position has been improved, however homes constructed during a period of time may be more susceptible to ceiling failures because of the lack of fixings and adhesives used.
- Monitor your ceilings for any signs of movement. If there are signs, act early and decisively to have your ceilings checked.
- If you are buying a new home make sure your building inspector checks the ceilings. Checking ceilings is outside the REIWA building inspection clause and outside the definition of structural defect so consider if you need to have the property inspected prior to submitting an offer.
- Houspect Building Inspectors can check ceilings to provide assurances as to the integrity of existing ceilings