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Will Sarah Find a Human Body Hidden Above the Drop Ceiling?

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Sarah Buys a House is a chronicle of Sarah DeGiorgis' journey along the road to home ownership and renovation in West Philadelphia.

By Sarah DeGiorgis

Question: What would lead someone to put an ugly, office-type drop ceiling in their house? Wait, never mind. I have so many questions I'd like to ask the former owners of this house (mostly relating to paint color choices and linoleum) that the drop ceiling isn't really high on the list. Plus, I can just push some of those gross "tiles" out of the way and take a look for myself! Which is exactly what I did the other night.

See, I'm painting the dining room and it would be a lot nicer if I could paint the walls up to the real ceiling rather than the drop ceiling, about 5 inches below the real ceiling. Nitpicky, I know, but what can I say? With approximately half a house left to paint and going on 15 gallons of this bright white eggshell paint/primer, I'm striving for, well, ease. I'd really love to just pull down that entire flimsy metal framework holding this abomination aloft but I'm a little afraid of what's under (over?) it.

I did look under it once before with the inspector. I was worried it was hiding something serious like water damage, but he told me if that was the case, I'd see evidence of it coming through the drop ceiling. Not satisfied, I climbed up there to take a look for myself and saw nothing but a normal unfinished ceiling and lots of cobwebs.

But now it was time to actually start removing those wretched tiles that seem to be made of some heavy-duty Styrofoam that manages to look both cheap and ugly at the same time.

So. I got my least shaky ladder and climbed up there. I was a little nervous about what I would find. I don't know how long that drop ceiling's been there but certainly long enough for some little rodent to have died up there, and I didn't really want dead mice (or anything dead, really) falling on my head. The funny thing is that whoever installed this drop ceiling didn't even bother to change the light fixture, so there's lots of light up there to see any and all dead rodents.

I pushed on the edge of the "tile" directly above me and nothing happened. I pushed harder and still nothing. I've done this before so I knew that the tiles are really light and usually very easy to push up, so I started getting a little worried. Maybe there was something heavy up there like a particularly large rat? Or (gasp) a human body? Forgive me, it's close to Halloween and my imagination likes to run rampant. I tried another tile. This one pushed up! But just a few inches. Enough, though, that I could peek around up there and see if there was anything, uh, blocking the other tile that wouldn't budge. Nothing but cobwebs and dust bunnies. With renewed courage I pushed on the tile as hard as I could and broke it in half, sending a shower of dust and mouse turds onto my head.

Now I could really get a good look up there. Dust, lots and lots of cobwebs, dead bugs, mouse turds...and then! The Reason For The Drop Ceiling: a hole underneath the upstairs bathroom. Ah ha! It's not a very large hole—maybe a foot across—and nothing seems to be leaking out of it. This is good, as far as potential Reasons For The Drop Ceiling go. Unfortunately, it also means that I have to get someone to patch it. I have sheetrock—oh, do I have sheetrock—as well as spackling. So maybe I'll try it myself! Famous last words, right?

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