We had a fire last year and had to remove our plaster ceilings. We’re left with beams that have all kinds of shims etc. that were used to level the lath. Every drywaller has had a different idea of how ceiling should be prepped. A few have said they didn’t want the job.

None of the joists are structural. I just checked the floor/ceiling above and it is pretty level and flat.

The floor of the room is definitely not level so measuring up from the floor (one suggestion) wouldn’t work. The beams are definitely not level as they are all different sizes and have been affected by settling. We are installing floor to (almost ceiling) pantry cabinets on one wall.

Would it be easier to just remove the old joists (we would reuse them wood for a furniture project) and add new ones - measuring down from ceiling/upstairs floor to the lowest point of the beams?

The picture with door shows the one beam that has 2.25 change in level. Thanks for your input.

enter image description hereenter image description here

  • 1
    What do you mean by "none of the joists are structural"? They all seem to be holding up a floor.
    – isherwood
    Feb 20, 2019 at 19:52
  • The joists were put up for to hold lath and plaster and “level” the ceiling. The beams are supporting the floor.
    – Mark Bea
    Feb 20, 2019 at 21:59
  • Hello, and welcome to Home Improvement. I think that means that those aren't "joists". Would you clarify, perhaps with some arrows on your pictures to show which you're talking about? Feb 21, 2019 at 1:37

2 Answers 2


1st off, make sure all structural elements are sound before closing. And it's a good idea to clean up the patchwork up there. It's actually very easy to level. Use a lazer level adjusted to your lowest point. Sister any joists to that line. This image shows how with T-bar drop ceilings but the concept is exactly the same. enter image description here

This one shows how to do it using steel stud.enter image description here


I like the look of old beams exposed if such is possible. The character you get from them outshines anything new.

What you could do is run a line from wall to wall to find the lowest beam and them from there sister 2x6 (probably even 2x4) against the line. This would then make the ceiling the same height for the drywallers and could forgo having to shim.

  • We’re keeping the beams exposed in another room. The beams here are only in part of the room - in a previous remodel 100 years ago - the back porch was closed and made part of the kitchen.
    – Mark Bea
    Feb 20, 2019 at 19:31

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