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Improving Your Home: Sagging drywall tape could indicate moisture problems

Drywall taping compounds are water-based, and typically about the only thing that will cause the tape to come loose is if the drywall gets wet.
BY PAUL BIANCHINA Published: February 15, 2014

Q: I live in a house built in 1979. The drywall tape that was used all over the house where the ceiling meets the walls is pulling away from the ceiling.

I have thought about putting up crown molding to cover the problem. The only place that I’m not sure will look good in the great room. It is a very angled ceiling on one side, and of course the worst area where it is pulling away. I have popcorn on my ceiling so I don't want to remove the tape and try repairing it that way; that seems almost impossible. Any suggestions?

A: Once the joint tape begins to come loose, there really is no good way of repairing it other than reattaching it with new joint compound. In the case of your acoustic “popcorn” ceiling texture, that would mean scraping off the popcorn in the affected areas, re-mudding the tape, then spraying on new texture. Most paint stores, home centers and other retailers that handle drywall supplies will have the popcorn available in spray cans for touchup use, and it’s not as difficult as it might seem.

However, before making the repairs, I would want to explore why the tape is coming loose. Drywall taping compounds are water-based, and typically about the only thing that will cause the tape to come loose is if the drywall gets wet. I would want to make sure that you don’t have a roof leak or some other problem that is causing an excess amount of moisture to reach the drywall.

One other thing. Most popcorn acoustic textures contained asbestos up until it was banned in the 1970s. Existing stocks were still allowed to be sold, so it's possible to find asbestos in ceiling texture in homes built in the mid-1980s. If you're going to scrape off the popcorn, have it tested for asbestos first, and then follow the government’s guidelines for safe removal and disposal.

Q: I just purchased a new house with no blinds or curtains. Would you consider that a somewhat easy task to install all these by myself? Any tips?

A: That's a fairly broad question because there are so many different types of window coverings available, along with many different types of mounting options. Some types are quite easy to install with only basic tools and skills, while others can be fairly tricky to hang correctly. Here's what I suggest:

Begin by looking through some decorator magazines, watching a few design shows on TV, and doing a little browsing online. Look at the window coverings in finished homes and get a general idea of what appeals to you — shades, blinds, curtains, drapes, shutters and so on. Make a list of what window coverings you'd like in which rooms, since they won't necessarily be the same from room to room.

From there, depending on your budget and level of ambition, you can talk in person with an interior designer or a window covering store, or you can shop at a home center, department store or online. The advantage to the first two is that you'll get a lot more help, and they'll come out to the house and take all the necessary measurements for you, which is a key component in getting your window covering installation done correctly. The advantage to the second options is that you'll probably save a little money.

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