DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It was the most unwelcoming of wake up calls — hundreds of pounds of plaster-covered sheetrock and insulation plunging down at 5:00 in the morning.
Christina Roy of Dallas says it recently happened to her at her North Dallas apartment.
“We thought the whole building was going to cave in,” she told CBS11.
Fortunately for Roy, her husband Brandon was awake downstairs. She says he rushed to the room after hearing the first crack.
“Had it not been for him, I would’ve stayed in the bed and not be here telling you this story,” said Roy, 40.
The Roys lived at the Davenport Apartments near the Dallas North Tollway and Belt Line Road for more than a decade. Westdale Asset Management, owners of the property, declined to comment. But a Westdale official told the I-Team a water leak did not create the cave in. He also said the insulation that fell was made from stone wool, which can have a darker appearance. The complex is still investigating why the collapsed happened.
Exact statistics aren’t kept for what some in the construction industry call “sudden” or “spontaneous ceiling collapse,” but the I-Team found numerous other cases of the phenomenon happening across the country.
“It’s a dirty little secret,” said Steve Hensel, a plaster expert in Davenport, Iowa, who devotes a page on his website to the issue. “Home inspectors don’t point these things out.”
Collapses are a particular concern in homes built before the 1980s when nails were often used to secure ceilings. Many building codes have changed over the years to require ceilings to be hung with screws instead of nails.
Construction experts recommend that people living in older homes should contact a professional if they notice sagging ceilings or a high number of stress cracks and nails protruding through sheet rock.
“Over a period of time when the drywall starts to age and the drywall is attached with nails, it creates weight on that … so eventually it can lead to that drywall coming off of that ceiling and collapsing,” said Eddie McCormick, executive director of DFW Drywall & Acoustical Contractors Association.
McCormick says more so in North Texas where heat, humidity and unstable soil play havoc on foundations, causing buildings to shift.
The Roys, who paid about $1,500 a month in rent, said they complained to apartment management for months about cracks in walls and doors that would stick.
The Davenport apartments were built in 1979. According to City of Dallas inspection reports, the complex has been cited several times since 2012 for cracks in exterior walls and sidewalks.
Roy, a Garland schoolteacher, made it out of bed that morning, but not out of danger.
“I was going to the bathroom,” she said. “Then I turned like this to come out, that’s when the boom hits … boom!”
She says a chunk of sheetrock struck her in the head, knocking her to the floor. Roy, who at one point called 911, says she was stranded in the rubble with debris a foot deep blocking the bedroom door. Her husband barreled through the door before firefighters could arrive.
“It was like something straight out of a movie,” Brandon Roy told CBS11. “And it freaked me out. I heard her screaming and I just snapped, just busted through the door. I ran and I got her, and got her out of here.”
The Roys, who have since moved, had renter’s insurance, but have also hired an attorney because they say the ordeal has created a major hardship. Family friends created a GoFundMe account to help the Roys with moving expenses.