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1901 Plaster Walls

We just bought a house with the orginal plaster walls built in 1901. When we moved in, there was a textured wall covering that had been painted with 5 layers of wall paper under it! We scraped and steamed and now have bare walls that have a few baseball sized holes, a few 4 foot cracks and some weal spots that move when slight pressure is applied. We thought about using beadboard to cover it up, but there are four doors and a bay window that would be difficult to work around b/c we are diyers. Then we thought about hanging dry wall, but the thinest we can find is 3/8" and this would mean that we would have to remove the orginal base boards and crown molding which we don't want to to. We are thinking of patching the holes and using a textured plaster which we could paint. Is this method the best? I was not so sure that textured plaster would maintain the acrhitectual integrity of the home. If it is ok for hte period of the home and it would be the best fix, what materials should we use and how difficult would this project be for two people with not much experience? Thanks for your help!

Re: 1901 Plaster Walls

Normally the loose plaster is secured with Plaster Washers and then a skim coat applied over them.
One easy method to consider, if you ar painting the walls is to fill the holes with dry wall mud, prime and seal patches and install Embossed Wallcoverings.

Re: 1901 Plaster Walls

Ah, brings back memories. I skimmed every square inch of a house all by my little old self. One thing about it, you can put your membership to the gym on hold for a while ‘cause your shoulder and arm muscles are going to let you know they are indeed alive. LOL.

It’s really not all that hard to do. They make some packaged patch kits for the larger holes and you can put fiberglass mesh tape over the cracks and skim over them.

Here is a hint though;

I bought premixed topping (Not joint) compound for the skim coats in five gallon containers. You may want to use joint compound for your repairs but topping compound dries softer and is easier to sand out.

I also bought a five gallon empty bucket for mixing and used a half inch drill motor and paddle mixer made for the purpose to mix the topping compound with some water. You want the topping like soft butter and not the way it comes out of the bucket from the factory.

Once you get your precious topping ready keep the bucket covered and don’t let it dry out. There is nothing ( Okay, maybe a few things.) worse than having a dried out clump of mud on your knife and having it end up as a clump on your wall.

Buy some plaster knives in a variety of widths, you may want to start with maybe a 12” and then go wider.

Try and keep ridges forming when you pull the topping on the plaster and off the edge of the knife, and if you do get them smooth them out right away. You’re better off with a few divots to fill with a succession of coats than with a bunch of sanding between coats to knock off high spots.

Oh, and get a corner knife and do the inside corners first with a couple coats. They probably need to be cleaned up and straightened anyway.

You will probably need 3 or 4 or 5 coats to really smooth things out but just remember it is always easier to float a little more mud on than it is to sand it off. Also remember that if mud starts to dry in your pan clean up and start fresh.

Re: 1901 Plaster Walls

Until you stabilize the plaster your cracks will keep coming back and your repair will not last. After you stabilize the plaster almost any repair will do. Watch Ask TOH show 603. Read on-line article http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/article/0,,1628100,00.html
Good Luck you can keep the plaster in good shape.

Re: 1901 Plaster Walls

I have a resin based plaster product that will adhere to the existing lath, bond to remaining surrounding plaster, and is easily worked to the same level of surrounding plaster. It is sandable, and water resistant. Please email [email protected]

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