A collapsing ceiling can be a harrowing event. Especially if you had no idea that there was a problem. This can be even worse if you were in the room at the time.
There is obviously a risk of injury, damage to personal possessions, furniture, and flooring. Plus you now have a big hole in your ceiling, which will need fixing at some expense. As well as any issues that caused the collapse, such as a leaking pipe, or any other underlying issue.
Needless to say, if this has happened, the first thing you should do is make sure everyone (including yourself) is OK.
Following this, you will need to call someone in to repair the damage.
The most common cause of ceiling collapse is water damage. This could be something quite aggressive like a burst pipe. Or something less obvious, like a small leak or moisture penetrating from outside.
Who you call, will depend on what has caused the damage. If there is obvious water damage, you will need a plumber to discover what caused the leak. Once they identify the problem, this can be fixed to avoid future issues.
To repair a collapsed ceiling, you will need a plasterer. The plasterer will remove any other areas of the ceiling that is damaged. Following this, they will patch the ceiling up with new plasterboard, and re-skim with fresh plaster.
If there is no obvious sign of water damage, the problem was likely a poorly fitted board. In this case you will only need a plasterer.
Finally, if the plumber, or plasterer has concerns about the joists, or there is obvious sag in the ceiling, you may want to speak with a structural surveyor. However, this is less likely and will only be a more serious issue on rare occasions.
Can you spot ceiling collapse before it happens?
In some instances, there may be obvious signs that your ceiling is at risk of collapse. If you notice damp marks or mould on the ceiling, this could be a clear sign that there is excess moisture in the ceiling.
The most common cause of this, would be a leaking pipe. However, if it is to the edge of the room, next to an external wall, this could be a sign of water ingress from the outside of the property.
You could inspect yourself, and look for any obvious signs of damage on the outside of the property. If you see anything such as missing pointing, damaged bricks, cracked render, it is possible moisture is coming from outside.
The first person to call would be a plumber in most cases. If the plumber finds the problem, and it is a plumbing issue, they can fix it. If they determine it is not plumbing, and they suspect damp, you can speak with a damp specialist.
The good thing with damp specialists, is they usually offer free surveys. So, the initial inspection is often free of charge.
Whatever the problem, you will be able to get it fixed before the ceiling collapses. At this point, you may still decide to replace the plasterboard, especially if it has become saturated. However, you won’t have all the mess and extra expense caused by a collapsing ceiling.
Claiming on your insurance for a collapsing ceiling
Let me start by saying, we are not insurance experts here at The DIY Fix. Also, rules will be different with different policies and insurers. However, based on our understanding, there is a good chance that many policies will cover for this type of damage.
Certainly, if there is a burst pipe and you have no chance of stopping the ceiling collapse. This would usually be deemed as an insured event.
You may have a problem, if the insurer claims you knew there was an issue and didn’t resolve it. For example, if you had a wet patch on the ceiling and obvious sagging, you should have had this looked at, before the problem escalated.
However, you should be able to claim if you didn’t see any warning signs. Even if the leak and damage happened over a prolonged period of time.
You can see an example of the Financial Ombudsman helping a woman get a claim approved here. Essentially, the insurer said she should have been aware and resolved the issue before it collapsed.
The Ombudsman disagreed and instructed the insurer that they must honour the policy and pay the claim.
If you have suffered with a collapsing ceiling, there is a very good chance this was caused by water damage. This is true in the majority of cases. In most instances, a plumber can fix the underlying issue, and all your repairs can be performed by a plasterer.
The cost of fixing a collapsed ceiling can range from a few hundred pounds, to well over a thousand. This will depend on the repairs required, and the extent of the damage.
You should check to see if your insurer will cover the repairs. There is a reasonable chance that this type of event will be covered in your policy.