How to Repair Plaster
Make damage to lath and plaster walls disappear for good using the right techniques and materials
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.
Fix the Lath
Replace any missing lengths of lath, and refasten all loose pieces. Use drywall screws, and always drill pilot holes to avoid splitting the wood. If there's no stud to anchor a lath end, slip a piece of lath into the cavity and screw it to the back of the existing ones, parallel with the studs. Then you can screw new or loose lath to it, as if it were a stud.