Q: The electrician who put in new light switches left gaping holes in our lath-and-plaster walls. How should we fix them?
- Daniel and Lauren herlocker, Brattleboro, VT.

A: Retrofit work by clueless electricians is the number one cause of damaged plasterwork these days. But it's easy to make the damage disappear for good if you use good techniques and the right materials.

What's the wrong material? So-called patching plaster sold at home centers. It's much harder than the wall's original plaster, and it sets in the blink of an eye. A softer, slower-setting lime-based plaster, like the one I developed for Big Wally's line of plaster-repair products, takes about an hour to set, isn't prone to cracking or delaminating, and needs no sanding, which keeps dust to a minimum. Just follow the steps on the next page, and your electrician's less-than-handiwork will be history.

Pictured: Rory Brennan uses a damp sponge to smooth the final coat on a plaster patch.
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    Tools List

    • drill
    • 1/8-inch drill bit
      -inch drill bit
    • 3/16 masonry bit
      3/16-inch masonry bit
    • wetdry vac
      Wet/dry vac
    • caulk gun
      Caulk gun
    • cleaning rag
    • small plastic bucket
      Mixing bucket
    • margin trowel
      Margin trowel
    • to mix and apply plaster
    • plaster trowel
      Plastering trowel
    • to spread and smooth plaster
    • notched trowel
    • six-inch taping knife
      6-inch taping knife
    • grout sponge

    Shopping List

    Wood lath
    1-inch drywall screws
    Plaster conditionerPlaster adhesive
    Patching plaster
    Ready-mix joint compound