Repairing or replacing lathe and plaster walls

missouri1January 3, 2009

I am buying a house that needs signifigant repair. One of the issues will be walls. Some of the lathe and plaster has been removed already but most of the upstairs has it still and the bottom floor has a lot of the exterior walls remaining. Problem is that there are some large holes in the lathe and plaster walls. Holes through into the wall space, maybe 2 to 3 feet wide. The last owner was planning on ripping it all out and also removed a wall that we will be rebuilding because I happen to prefer the rooms instead of a big open space. It's a good sized house with each of the two floors measuring about 1440 sq feet.

Now my questions are is it practical to repair the holes and keep what lath and plaster I can in the bottom floor? There is a lot of gorgeous dark wood trim around the windows, doors and floor and I really don't want to have to tear that all off and replace it after sheetrocking but my husband would rather take it all out and sheetrock the bottom at least. Then the other thing I am wondering is am I going to (if I can talk him into keeping the lathe and plaster) be able to mix the two mediums on the bottom floor without it looking bad.

I wish I had gotten ahold of it before it was in the state it is now but that didn't happen so I might be there forever just repairing lol. That's fine by me though because I LOVE to tinker and fix things.

We have broken windows too and just a mess of things that will need to be done.

The house is a perfect size with an awesome lot and with a LOT of work it has potential I think.

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If you do not want top go to the trouble of putting up lath and a 3 coat plaster job, you can easily fill in the missing lath with some drywall and then finish the repair with Durabond.

Depending on the plaster thickness, a layer of 1/2 inch drywall and then 1/4 inch of Durabond makes an decent repair.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 1:08PM
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Oh that sounds like it might work, thanks, I didn't think of it. I know I am going to have to do some work to keep my plaster so the more ideas hubby might go for, the better.

We had a house once, not particularly special, just old bumpy poorly repaired lathe and plaster with no trim. THAT I was planning to tear out but this house has some character.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 1:38PM
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Congrats on your house purchase -
This has come up many times before, try searching, most here agree to salvage plaster whenever possible -
It has so many wonderful qualities about it - my favorite is the acoustics/sound deadening it provides in old homes.
Removal of plaster is a huge undertaking, makes a huge mess and typically will send lead airborne so not advisable w/o the proper equipment and certainly not if children are living in the home while that work is going on.

I love brickeyee's idea!

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 10:02PM
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I'm trying to find what durabond to use. It looks like there are quite a few products and I am a little lost. Can you tell me what works best? Thanks so much!!

    Bookmark   January 4, 2009 at 12:08AM
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It is not too hard to repair lath & plaster with original materials. They can still be obtained, but you will have to do some searching to find them. The lath can be repaired and/or replaced, it is simply rough sawn cedar strip, nailed to the vertical wall supports, called studs. Basecoat plaster can be purchased from a building supply company, the local hardware store will not have it in stock. It is quite simple to spread and smooth basecoat, because the final surface does not have to be smooth. Finish coat plaster is the more difficult part of the process. The materials must be of good quality, and in particular the gauging plaster must be dry and free of lumps. You will have to locate a source for finish lime, preferably lime that contains significant magnesium, also known as "dolime". The mineral used to make the best finish lime is dolemite. Be sure to pick up a pound or so of retardant when you purchase finish lime. You will be successful with finish coat plaster if you begin with a small repair, on the order of one or two square feet. Eventually you will acquire confidence in your skills, and be able to do a larger wall repair, say 50 square feet. Plastering a large ceiling will require a combination of skill, strength, and conditioning. Anyone can get the plaster up there, but not everyone will be able to produce an acceptable finish. If you have to do ceiling work, it should be put off until you have gained experience and success at wall repairs.
As others have pointed out, your existing plaster might be coated with paint that has lead pigment. Getting this material off the walls, bagged, and into a landfill without exposing yourself to lead dust is possible, but it requires thought and planning. Be aware that vacuum cleaners have an exhaust outlet, and that very fine particles will be ejected from the outlet when the vacuum is in operation. To remove old plaster safely, you must be concerned with the large visible pieces, and also the dust that is too fine to see. Cleanup must be thorough. Young children could pick up the fine particles on their skin, and end up ingesting it when they put their hands in their mouths.
The good news is that the raw materials used in plaster repair are not too expensive. If you can supply the labor, the total overall cost might well be under 1000 dollars, even for the extensive repairs you describe above.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2009 at 12:59PM
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Thanks for the detailed explaination. I hate drywall, and I wish I could do real plaster in the part of my kitchen I am remodeling, but since it will be behind cabinets... well, I'm "cheating" with drywall.
When I get around to adding on a new bathroom, however, I'm definitely going to do plaster, and your explanation is a big help!

Carla in Sac

    Bookmark   January 4, 2009 at 5:33PM
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"As others have pointed out, your existing plaster might be coated with paint that has lead pigment."

Lead oxide as a pigment is rarely seen in anything less than 100 years old.

The most common lead found in paint is lead acetate (AKA 'sugar of lead') that was used as a drier, hardener, and gloss improver.
It is not normally found in non-gloss paint.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2009 at 8:47PM
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