Home>Discussions>INTERIORS>Molding & Carpentry>Repairing and Skimming Plaster Walls
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Repairing and Skimming Plaster Walls


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!


Re: Repairing and Skimming Plaster Walls

Well, I completed the first step of the whole process...testing the paint for lead. Sure enough, all the walls in this area tested positive. This is an area leading down to our basement, so it looks like this area and our basement all contain lead paint. This is going to reduce my options for attacking this project, particularly have young kids in the house. Looks like the options are paying to have someone remove all the lead paint or do a skim layer over the paint.

Re: Repairing and Skimming Plaster Walls

Big Wally's plaster magic is a very good product i use is for reattaching loose plaster and for cracks.
You can get the metal plaster washers from Charles Street Supply.
Ph # 1-800382-4360
If you use the metal washers you can leave them in place and plaster over them.
As for the Skim coat plaster i would recommend the Master of Plaster product.
For mesh tape you can also order it from Master of Plaster it is a finer mesh than the drywall mesh tape.
As for the paint you can apply Master of plaster over paint no bonding agent required.
No sanding if this product is used.

Re: Repairing and Skimming Plaster Walls

Thanks Clarence. I've checked into the Master of Plaster product having read about it on other posts. There doesn't seem to be many options available for ordering it. Do you have a supplier to recommend to order it from? I see it comes in 4.5 gallon buckets. Do you happen to know if it can be re-used once opened similar to pre mixed joint compound. If the experiment goes well on this first wall I would likely tackle the rest of the house, but I want to wait a couple weeks to see how it turns out and didn't want a whole bucket to go to waste. Thanks!

Re: Repairing and Skimming Plaster Walls

I don't know what area you are in, check with the manufacture Ph # 1-803-403-5252 to see if a supplier is in your area?
As for keeping it after openning yes it can be keep no life time limit.
The longer you store it the better it will work it is Lime and the older the lime the more user friendly it is.
Just add about 1/4 cup water and level it out before you cap it.

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