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I live in a townhouse (about 40 years old) and my neighbors recently had a piece of drywall fall from their attic roof and create a hole in their upstairs bedroom ceiling.

I examined my attic which is really just a crawlspace and on both ends there is drywall shimmed against the attic ceiling, about 3 rafter sections on each end have this drywall. There is about 20' in the middle with no drywall. It is not nailed or held in place by anything except smaller pieces of drywall about 3" by 3" that are nailed to the rafters. The drywall against the ceiling rests on these smaller pieces. About 25% of the drywall has sagged and has fallen down onto insulation (luckily it hasn't punctured my upstairs roof).

Why would a builder do this?

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It's an "approved" substitute for a "fire wall" that does not extend 30" up through the roof.

The Code requires fire walls (and sound walls) between multi-family housing units to extend 30" above each unit. However, one approved "alternate" design allows the fire wall to terminate at the bottom of the roof sheathing, if gypsum board extends out from the party wall 5' (I think) on the bottom of the roof joists. (The portions that are missing, could be sloppy work that has already fallen down and removed.)

  • Sounds plausible, since my attic and my neighbors have the exact same setup. They are tearing all the drywall down, do you think it is worthwhile to fasten them better so they dont fall or tear them down? – GER May 6 '17 at 21:42
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    How well do you want to sleep at night? I think the "fire wall" idea is to give a person a reasonable amount of time to escape in the event of a disaster. (I'd double check the smoke alarms tonight before I went to sleep.) – Lee Sam May 7 '17 at 1:43

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