True Stories from the Savvy Surveyor   (really and truly!)

5 — Wood Plank Tenacity

The following conversation happened after closing hours in a very popular streetfront store up in the plenum (attic) above the sales floor.

"OK fellas, I'm ready. Push the plank up. Got it. Thanks. Give me a minute to get it placed. It is a little tricky up here. The last thing I want to do is lose my footing and step through your fancy ceiling. OK, I am back. Push it up. Got it. Thanks again. Remember to leave the ladder there so I can get down later."

Wood Plank
Now I had some boards to walk on in this unusually tall plenum. The store had closed just a few minutes ago. Down below, sales people were closing up and janitors were starting to clean. It was going to be a little challenging because I was having to stand on one while I moved the other one to slowly work my way around.


The night before, as I was measuring walls, I noticed one lone ceiling access panel close to the left wall near the storefront. All the rest of the ceiling was sheetrock with no places for access into the plenum (attic). I decided to take a look to see how challenging it was going to be. I got the ladder out, pushed it close to the wall near the access panel and climbed up. The lid was secured with three twist screws that were painted over and sealed tight. After scraping the paint away with my box knife, I was able to finally get them open thanks to the heavy duty screwdriver I was using.

High PlenumI climbed up higher to get my head in there and saw a very tall plenum with all kinds of things going on. I saw important structural beams and columns, HVAC ducts, roof drains, abandoned skylights at the roof deck, sprinkler mains, and more. The problem was that I could not see the entire plenum from my one limited vantage point. Since the plenum I was standing in, was the largest part of the "above ceiling" survey, I felt compelled to figure out how I could get up there, walk around, and get the information I needed.

The way the ceiling was framed, it was not a good idea to walk on it. I needed to walk around solidly... all over the attic. I needed a plank. So I went on a scavenger hunt for some kind of walk board. First, I looked in the stockroom for anything that would work. Nothing. Then I went out back into the alley and checked the dumpsters. Nothing. I asked multiple people in the stockroom if there was anything. Again... Nothing.

I was not happy. My client needed this information and was paying me to get it. They paid for my plane ticket, hotel, and meals. They were trusting me to do my job. For the lack of a walk plank was I going to go back home with my drawings noted up as "limited access" and miss getting all that information? NOT ON MY WATCH!

To The Lumber YardSo what did I do? I searched for a lumber yard... and found one a little over a mile away. I walked over there the next afternoon, bought two 8 foot long planks, and carried them all the way back. The car traffic was whizzing by but thankfully I had sidewalks all the way. That night, when the store closed, I got up there with those planks and slowly worked my way around the entire sales floor attic. I was able to document everything and got some awesome photographs! And NO... I did not fall through the ceiling!