drywall questions galore

fuzzySeptember 11, 2006

Okay. We're about to make an offer on a 1916 Foursquare that has major wall issues-- all walls are basically wood slats covered by either (original and/or multiple layers of) wallpaper or 1960s paneling. With no plaster professional available in our small town, it looks like thin drywall is going to have to be installed.

I had the drywall company owner (80 years old!) come out and give me an estimate last week-- approximately $9,000 for 1790 square feet. Yikes. Since, I've (naturally) thought of a thousand questions that I should have asked. I'm hoping that any of you who have had to use drywall can tell me:

-Do the door/window/baseboard moldings have to be removed for drywall installation? I believe he said something about running caulk along the baseboards to join the drywall with the moldings, so I'm thinking those don't. But the doors and windows?

-What happens with all the electrical outlets? Will they need to be moved and fastened to the new drywall? Do the drywall guys do that, can we do it ourselves (is it just removing screws etc), or will we need an electrician? Some of the outlets are original to the house, so I'm a little worried about disturbing original wiring.

-The drywall installers should leave the walls ready for priming, right? And clean up their mess?

Okay, and now for the last question: I hate that we're going to be using drywall on this age of a house. I saw an episode of an HGTV show that had a technique for creating textured walls-- the woman teaching the technique said that it was used in set design when the look of an aged plaster wall was needed. It was pretty simple-- just combining paint 1:1 with Durabond, applying with a brush, and rolling with a foam stucco roller to texture. Has anybody ever used this or any other technique to disguise drywall? Do you think it would work?

...looking at this, it's obvious that I need to call the drywaller for more information. I'd still love to hear others' experiences and ideas, though. Thanks!

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We are doing drywall in our 1850's house.

Cost: Does that include materials? We are doing 4 rooms (aproximatly 600 square feet) and labout only is $2300 (done by a family friend on weekends... so not the price if we had hred his company)

Trim: I would remove what you can and put it back on after. Sections of our house they paneled and didn't remove the baseboards, it is now partly covered and just looks funny. Remember you are adding depth

Electrical: not sure if they will do it or not(you would need to ask them) but you may need to move the boxes forward, again, you are adding depth so they will end up recessed (not only a PITA - likley against code)

No comments on the texture since I like smooth walls! And old - good plaster was ususally smotthed, not like a popcorn texture.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2006 at 12:38PM
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FYI if you put drywall on the walls without removing the woodwork the walls will stick out over the woodwork and stand out like a sorethumb no matter how much they caulk. Ive seen this it isnt pretty. On the other hand anytime you remove woodwork you risk damaging it.

I see several ways to go depending on howmuch $$$ you have. You didnt mention insulation or redoing your old wiring. If all you can afford are cosmetic changes I would texture over the existing surface until I could afford to do the walls properly. Later you could do your own demo work and maybe even hang your own drywall. You could have it professinally finished if you felt uncomfortable finishing it. That would save you a lot.

Have you considered just painting for now. Dont forget youre looking at a nekid house. Furniture, curtains, art work, and klediments will cover up a lot of wall space. Personally I think its wise to live in a space for a while and get the feel of the house. Sometimes when people are impatient they rip out too much and lose part of their houses charm.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2006 at 12:47PM
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Don't give up on plaster, yet. There are often hidden plasterers around, keep asking before you rush to dry wall. In many areas it's not that much more expensive than dry wall, and so much more preferable.

The advice to paint what's there for the short run is very wise. This will give you time to plan, and install, any mechanical upgrades inside the walls, then move on to wall finishes .

I give the same advice to all new owners who burst into this forum with so much enthusiasm: sloooooooow down! Do little else in your new house besides cleaning it thoroughly and living there for awhile - at least several months, a year is even better, before you embark on any change more permanent than painting and diverting leaks. If the house passed a pre-purchase home inspection notthing is all that urgent. Taking some extra tme will help you research your house and begin to see what needs doing much more clearly.

The period of living in the house allows you to work through all the ideas you come to the house with (which aren't, after all about it) and let the house tell you what it needs. Your first ideas are no where as good as the ones you will come up with after you've been there.

The other benefit of waiting is that one can recover from the intial economic stress of a move, and get a better handle on how much you can, and need to, spend, and it prevents you from paying big bucks for something and then winding up tearing it out later. Also by deferring some of the expenses for a bit you'll be more likely to have enough resources to do the most important things the right way (which is always more expensive, I'm afraid), the first time.

Linked below is my standard "housewarming present" for new old house owners who fetch up here. You will find very useful info about wall finishes, and host of other topics you may not know you need to know about (yet!)



Here is a link that might be useful: Link to Preservation Brief Series

    Bookmark   September 11, 2006 at 4:10PM
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Thanks, Stanlie and Molly, for your cautions-- I'd normally totally agree with your suggestions, but our life at this moment is very conducive to "getting it done" quickly for the following reasons:

1) We have our first baby right now (10 months old), and will probably have 1-2 more in the next five years. In other words, we'll be baby- or toddler-occupied for quite some time, and not wanting to expose them to dust or lead or other hazards. We'd normally love to DIY, but given the baby, that's a little unrealistic.
2) We are currently living rent-free in my parents' basement, and can stay there while the drywallers, floor refinishers, etc. work. Our belongings are all in storage. This actually makes estimates cheaper, as they don't have to cover or maneuver around all kinds of furniture and such.
3) The house we're buying has ugly walls but has been VERY well maintained electrically-- they've been changing wiring out as shorts develop, but the house is grounded and safe, etc. Current owner estimates 80% of wiring has been replaced, and the rest is not causing problems. (Of course, this is prior to inspection, but I'm inclined to believe her- she's a family friend.)
4) We're moving from a downtown metropolitan neighborhood to small town Arkansas. This gives us a little cash to work with.
5) Utility bills are cheap for this house. Last year's January gas bill was $108. Nothing creaks, the wallboards are 1" thick and laid side-by-side-- solid walls of wood. Given that, and the fact that there's still some original wiring inside the walls, I don't see a real need to insulate.

Finally, this is our third old house (and our oldest-- previous were 1928 and 1948), so we do have some idea what we're getting into here.

Thanks again for your input. I'm still thinking over the drywall matter. I'd hate for the house to look altered, and it seems like it might even if we use the thinnest type of drywall (3/8 inch, I think? or was it 1/4?).

    Bookmark   September 12, 2006 at 1:04AM
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Well put Molly!

To O.P., is the old plaster completely trashed? A lot of times people tell you it HAS to be completely drywalled but that's only becuase thats what their skill is, that's what they know how to do...and so its not cost effective for them to repair plaster... when the reality is if you get someone who knows plaster repair or do it yourself, then it really can be the way to go.

My house has needed a combination of plaster repair AND a few walls that were so far gone that I had to use drywall patches. Using that approach you dont remove the baseboard, you leave the original plaster there Generally its pretty firm around the trim and baseboard, because the trim and baseboard is holding it in place. Its only loose where its bowed out. You remove the loose plaster and then attach 3/8" drywall (or however thin your original plaster walls are). Use bonding agent and plaster to fill gap between drywall and original plaster, feathering the top coat to conceal where the joint is....

Just butting the drywall up to the baseboard and caulking... if its what I'm thinking of... is
just plain UGLYYY!!!

Im not sure how well I'm describing this, please email me if I'm not clear.

Re finishes, an orange peel finish is probably what you want, it sort of resembles an old wall which has been painted.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2006 at 1:48PM
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Kashka kat,

There is no plaster in the whole house, and never was. Nada. Just wallpaper hung on bare board walls-- thick ones downstairs, and slats upstairs. Some 1950s-1960s paneling (thin stuff) thrown up in various rooms over that. This would be a from-scratch plaster job.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2006 at 2:50PM
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I found something that might help-- on the Old House Web forums, a homeowner mailed me pictures of her house-- a PO just caulked and painted her boards. Thought it might help illustrate what we're dealing with downstairs. (Our upstairs is more slatty than boardy like this).

Here's basically what our downstairs walls look like under the wallpaper. I have to admit that I like the look of this, but I know that no 1916 homeowner would've been caught dead with the painted boards showing in their house. But maybe caulking and painting the boards like this would be a good "wait and see" option for now:

    Bookmark   September 12, 2006 at 3:19PM
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re: my treatise on plastering -- never mind :-)

Yes definitely, go with the painted boards-- how unusual and completely charming that would be! If I was looking at it as a house to buy, it would be a plus. To my way of thinking even though the original occupants may have never painted the boards, it would still be more true to the house than putting drywall over it. Voila, trim and baseboard problem solved, plus you have 10,000 to spend somewhere else! My own old house restoration philsophy is "first, do no harm" and keeping as true to original as possible-- so this solution would certain fit w/ that...

    Bookmark   September 13, 2006 at 10:32AM
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Thanks, Kashka. After showing my husband those pictures, that's what we're going to try to do (of course, you never know until we strip the wallpaper off and see what it looks like under there). We went back and took a close look at the paneling upstairs, and will probably try applying some textured plaster skim finishes to the bedroom walls, one at a time. The ceilings will probably all be drywalled just to give them a consistent look and smooth finish-- and to cover up some ugly paperboard tiles that are glued on in about half the rooms.

Thanks to all that disparaged the drywall-- you confirmed my feelings on it, and helped me keep looking for other alternatives. Awesome forum!

    Bookmark   September 14, 2006 at 9:37PM
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