We live in a nearly 100 year old home, which means plaster walls and of course means that several of them have developed cracks. Some were addressed by the previous owner, but not very well in my opinion, in that you can see the mesh tape at nearly every patch spot (I'm more worried about the unpatched cracks at this point though). Being younger (mid-thirties) my first thought was just rip them down and put up drywall. As I began reading more about older homes with plaster walls I have developed a respect for our walls/home and would like to restore them as much as possible.
Instead of just diving into the entire home I have picked one particular wall in a lightly seen area to try and tackle and see how well it turns out. This wall has several cracks, one of which has bowed outward over the years. My plan was to repair/patch the cracks, then skim coat the entire wall since it is textured in spots and not in others and has large patch jobs which were not smoothed out at all. Then sand/prime/paint.
I have done a lot of research and read through forums, including this one, but every job is a bit different, so I thought I would get opinions on my particular situation.
First things first. I need to test the paint for lead, then I need to at the very least sc**** the paint off around the cracks along with other chipping paint. If my intent is to skim coat the entire wall, would it be best to remove all the paint (or least most of it)? I have read very little about sanding the paint off of plaster walls, is this because it's not a good idea? That was my first thought for removing the paint.
Second, repairing the cracks. It seems to me that the Big Wally's Plaster Magic will be the best way to address the cracks. I have been to the big chain hardware stores so far and most people don't even know what plaster washers are. I found a plastic variety. I could check the local hardware stores, but I figured going the plaster washer route would just be more to have to skim over. The Big Wally's is more expensive but looks to be easier and longer lasting, with less to skim over. With the bowing crack I'm planning to have to open up/chisel out the crack before re-attaching the plaster so it doesn't break off.
Third, patching/skim coat. This is where I need the most guidance. Like most home improvement subjects, there are opinions all over the map. Should I use something different for patching than I would for doing the skim coat? Should I patch the cracks first, let cure completely, then do the skim coat? I was leaning towards "hot mud" to patch the cracks. But then the skim coat was the biggest question mark.
I live in Minnesota. Winter has begun, so it is getting dryer and dryer. This particular wall is an interior wall, so it should be above 50 degrees. While I'm on that subject, would doing an exterior wall in and older non-insulated home like ours during the winter be a bad idea?
Thanks for your help!