Thought I knew my walls: plaster walls after removing paper

mbc468February 8, 2011

I've searched through pages and pages of questions on removing painted wall paper, and pages and pages about repairing plaster, but I need a little help with my walls underneath the paper.

The house is old (between 1910 and 1920), so I thought I had three layer plaster walls. I also happened to have decades old wall paper and coats and coats of paint on top. The walls were not pretty but structurally sound (keys attached to the lath and such). With the wall paper seams obvious from a mile away, and huge portions of the paper peeling off, I decided to rip the wall paper in one area.

I was hoping I'd get down to the white coat of the plaster, and be able to repair and paint on top of it. Well, I got all the paper off (it was easy...I'm not sure that wall paper glue had much adhesive left in it). Some of the largest cracks in the wall paper had been caused by the white coat cracking/chipping/bubbling off the base plaster. These holes I was expecting.

What I wasn't expecting was that once I got the wall paper off, it still looked like there was some sort of wall paper as the white coat. By this I mean there are distinct lines where the wall paper seams were on the plaster that look almost like where two pieces of drywall come together. These lines are where the wall paper seams were, and are bubbled up from the plaster underneath and are wavy.

Is this white layer really the white coat plaster? Do I have to remove ALL of it and start with a new finish layer? Could I just get rid of any of the white coat not attached to the base plaster, making a bunch of holes to patch?

Thanks for any help (or pointing me in the right direction)

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Many houses built in the era of yours did not ever receive a finish coat of plaster. It was assumed that wall paper would always be used. If you remove a bit of the final mystery layer, what's underneath?

    Bookmark   February 8, 2011 at 5:41AM
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Try a bit of sanding, either wet or dry where the 'seams' are...if that works, you have your answer. :) On one section of my stairs, the painted paper was cracked, so I removed that section, and revealed what looked like sanded surface. I skim coated that section, and removed all the paper in the downstairs foyer and the rest of the stairs--didn't see that in any other spot, so I think the finish coat had come off with the paper in that spot.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2011 at 7:43AM
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The wallpaper also often leaves stains on the wall even after it is removed.

Use Easysand or Durabond to repair the damaged finish coat unless you have a source of lime putty.

Durabond is so hard it is very difficult to sand.
Easysand is just that, easier to sand.

Both are setting type joint compounds.
You should use a bonding agent on the areas needing repair.
It prevents the old plaster from absorbing water the new material needs to cure correctly.
EUCO WELD is a good brand.
If you cannot find plaster bonding agent use Elmer's white glue cut 50% with water.

In either case, paint the agent on and wait for it to get tacky before putting the patch on top.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2011 at 9:45AM
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Underneath the white layer is grey/brown plaster. The white coat is thick and rigid. It's probably between 1/8 and 1/4 and inch. It's really smooth (on the flat parts).

I'll try sanding the "seams" to see if that will help, or give me some idea on the next step.


    Bookmark   February 8, 2011 at 9:50PM
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The gray/brown layer is the 'brown coat', which was either papered, or had the 'finish' coat put over it. Since your white coat came off in places, that was the fnal one. Patch the spots where that happened, and you'll be all set to repaint or paper.
Old plaster was almost always three coats: 'scratch' was reallyrough and is what holds to the lath, 'brown' goes on next, and is smoother--suitable for paper, 'finish' is last and can be painted directly or papered.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2011 at 1:33AM
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Did you wash the walls after you removed the paper? Could the ridges etc be partly old wall paper paste on the walls?
Try washing before you sand.
Linda C

    Bookmark   February 10, 2011 at 7:41PM
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I'll try washing the walls. The lines are exactly where the paper was, so I'm thinking it might be residue or some sort.


    Bookmark   February 19, 2011 at 10:53PM
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