How to save these plaster walls

j-tropolisSeptember 28, 2010

Let me preface this by saying that I love plaster walls and would prefer to save them unless it becomes too cost prohibitive.

My husband and I are in the process of buying a house from the 1870's. It has the most bulging and wavy walls that I have ever encountered. The walls themselves are solid and the keys seem to be tight. There are areas where the plaster is so built up that the baseboard is now embedded and flush with the walls. The waves do not look like patches and are present throughout the entire house.

So, how do we salvage this? Remove all of the baseboard and skim coat? Tear it down and start over?

Thank you!

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For a long while, it was customary to install the moldings (casing, chair rail, baseboard) first, to the brick or framing, and then plaster them in.
Second, if the walls only got a "two coat" plastering job to begin with, they will look wavy; you're seeing the pattern of the lath underneath.
But, if this is not true in you house (1870 would be quite late to find embedded moldings, but just right to find two coat plaster) you will need to get things smoothed out to suit you. I'd start with some exploratory scraping/probing near the moldings to find why they appear buried.
The bulges I can't explain without seeing them.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2010 at 1:54PM
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Our plaster has bulges and waves also. I wanted to find out what was going on, so I bashed a hole in a wall (that we were planning on covering with beadboard). I found the reason for our bulges and waves....we have a log home, built in 1814, and by log, I mean the framing timbers actually still look like trees (complete with bark!) They are not all straight, and at some point in time, the lath and plaster was added to the walls, which really accentuated the waves. Perhaps this is the case with your home also.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2010 at 12:55AM
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Removing old plaster is a dirty, messy, extremely heavy job I plan never to do again. In your case, it sounds as if the plaster is in good shape in terms of its attachment to the lathing. In the long run, it may be easier to increase the thickness of the baseboards and moldings as a first step. The plaster could then be given a skim coat to even everything out. Using drywall joint compound over wide self-stick fiberglass mesh (there's a relatively new thinner version of this product) is an easier alternative to actual plaster.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2010 at 5:44AM
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