Causes and warning signs of spontaneous ceiling collapse

This announcement is for: 
BuilderConsumerHome buyer / owner

The Building Commission has become aware of a number of ceiling collapses, particularly in homes completed between the years 2005 and 2009, which prompted an investigation into what caused the ceilings to fail.

The Building Commission has inspected seven homes where ceiling failures had been reported. The homes inspected were completed during the past 10 or so years.

The Building Commission’s Compliance Report – Investigation into gypsum plasterboard ceiling collapses found the positioning and amount of adhesive applied to the timber ceiling joists to be problematic at five of the seven sites inspected.

The Building Commission has developed a fact sheet for residents who have safety concerns about their plasterboard ceilings to help them notice and understand the warning signs of a ceiling under stress or failing.

“Ceiling collapse can cause damage to the contents of the room and serious injury,” Building Commissioner Peter Gow said.

“Causes of ceiling collapse may include incorrect access and use of the roof space; the use of inappropriate materials; or poor workmanship.”

Mr Gow said there are generally warning signs that a ceiling is under stress or failing and it is at this time owners need to be proactive and arrange inspection and repair of the affected areas.

“A number of home inspections have revealed that residents noticed warning signs of the ceiling being under stress prior to the collapse,” he said.

“Unfortunately, these warning signs were not understood by the residents and remedial work that could have prevented the collapse was not carried out.”  

Warning signs of a ceiling under stress may include:

  • a loud cracking sound in the ceiling;
  • a sagging or dropping of the plasterboard sheeting and/or the cornice; and
  • visual cracking and/or small circles or blisters (nail pops) on the ceiling, which are a sign the plasterboard sheeting may be pulling away from the nails or screws.

As well as the warning signs, the Building Commission’s Spontaneous Ceilings Collapse fact sheet includes checks home owners can carry out or have carried out, advice on what to do if they find a warning sign and ceiling care tips.

Home owners who are concerned about their ceiling should talk to their builder in the first instance. It is the person named as the builder on the building permit who is responsible for ensuring any building work carried out complies with the applicable codes and standards.

If the home owner does not get a satisfactory response from the builder, they should consider engaging the services of a qualified building inspector to identify the nature and extent of any problems.

The roof space has hidden dangers that include electrical wiring, overhead obstacles and unstable underfoot conditions, so home owners are advised against entering a roof or any confined space themselves.

If after writing to the builder the home owner cannot resolve the issue, and the home was completed in the past six years, the home owner can lodge a building service complaint with the Building Commission.

The Building Commission has also developed an Industry Bulletin and has acknowledged that since the plastering industry adopted the one third system of fixing ceiling linings around 2007/08, the incidence of failure has been significantly mitigated. The Building Commission is working with the building industry to ensure trades involved in the installation of ceilings are aware of the applicable building standards.

Further information is available on the Building Commission website, including:

Media contact: Phone 6251 1335 or 0466 409 828, or email bcmedia@commerce.wa.gov.au

Building Commission
Media release
11 May 2017

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