Drywall over Plaster?!?! Please help!!

kkelly028May 21, 2009

I'm in the process of remodeling my bathroom. The size of the room is 8ft by 16ft. Currently the entire area is plaster (walls and ceiling). I am debating tearing down the plaster and then drywalling everything out again, however I've been getting recomendations about just drywalling OVER the plaster. The only thing I'm concerned about is how that would look with drywalling around the window and door frames. Has anyone every done this before? If so could you provide me with some insight.



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Why not leave the plaster, it is often a superior finish to drywall.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2009 at 10:50PM
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Doors and windows are always problematic when doing this type of thing. You need to redo/rebuild them to match the thicker wall and this can take a lot of time, especially with the door. I have done this type of thing when I furred out my exterior walls to make them 2" thicker. I had to build new window sills and had to attach extenders for my door. (Lot's of time!) To see what will need to be done, temporarily attach pieces of drywall next to your door and windows. And don't forget about any heat ducts coming out of the floor - these may need to be moved as well.

If you do indeed take off the plaster and lathe underneath, you also will be able to do any electrical updates like adding outlets.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2009 at 7:29AM
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Why not leave the plaster. Unless it is in poor shape it is far superior to drywall. If you do gut down to studs you will probably be REQUIRED to update the electrical as part of a major remodel.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2009 at 8:27AM
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For the extra time it takes to retrofit doors, windows, etc, just tear out the plaster. It's a thankless job, but more than likely, there is no insulation behind the plaster either. Once you gut, you can update electrical, add insulation, add venting and bring things up to code. It's not that hard, just heavy.
Most plaster walls are not smooth and even either. This is your chance.
I just tore out an entire 1500 square foot basement of plaster and I am glad that I did. Updated the plumbing and everything else as well as added insulation and vapor barrier.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2009 at 2:49PM
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Another idea for you. Drywall products are available that could integrate into detailing required around doors and windows. They are not cheap, but for the size stated, cost may be negligible.
Web search "raised panel drywall"
I'd think 1/4" sheetrock with the butt edges against the trim would minimise invilvement as well.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2009 at 4:40AM
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If you don't disturb the wiring you will not have to upgrade it but you might want to anyway. Adding 3/8" GWB can sometimes be accommodated at the edges depending on the size of the existing trim. It's all a matter of edge detailing.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2009 at 7:13AM
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"Most plaster walls are not smooth and even either."

All the plaster walls in every house I have owned have been far smoother than any drywall job, and the noise attenuating properties are far superior to drywall.

It is not that hard to put insulation behind plaster, and update wiring without tearing out a surface you are very unlikely to be able to afford to have replaced.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2009 at 12:28PM
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Be aware that if you remove the plaster the studs might not line up straight enough for drywall. A lot of shimming could be involved.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2009 at 2:39PM
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"Be aware that if you remove the plaster the studs might not line up straight enough for drywall. A lot of shimming could be involved."
And THAT is a fact! There's a reason those old timers used such long floats.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2009 at 7:05PM
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Be aware that the demolition will release lots of lead paint into the air. Take appropriate precautions.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2009 at 8:56PM
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"Be aware that the demolition will release lots of lead paint into the air. Take appropriate precautions."

Most lead paint is gloss paint, not normally used on walls but occasionally in kitchens and closets.

Most of the lead paint will remain firmly attached to whatever it was on, not end up in the air.
It is paint, not powder.

If you must demo plaster wakks try and take the largest pieces you can handle from stud to stud, lath and all.

Larger pieces mean less dust and less cleanup compared to breaking it all up (though this seems to be popular on the DIY TV shows.

Cover the floor with thick plastic (the stuff in rolls) taped down at the edges (2 inch blue painter's tape), then place canvas drop clothes on the plastic to limit tears and improve footing.

For very large jobs I have even been known to anchor the drop cloth with battens nailed at the very edge of the floor (if you pull the baseboard and any quarter round the nails go into the sub-floor outside the finished floor area).

Shimming studs meant for plaster work is a real PITA.

It is easier to sister 2x2s to the sides of the stud just proud of the face and create a new plane for the drywall.
A laser level projecting a vertical fan beam can be set up a few feet from the wall, and a length of wood marked with the desired spacing from the beam to the face of the studs.

Rip 2x4s in half to get ~2x2s.
Attach at top at correct spacing, then plumb with laser beam and attach at the bottom.
You need to use screws or a nail gun or the hammering tends to throw things out of plumb.
Go back and attach the sister every foot with nails.

Repeat as required.

You can divide the sister into pieces as needed to get around obstructions like electric boxes on the side of the stud, fire stops, etc.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2009 at 11:43AM
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Just add the drywall...Tearing out thr plaster was how I became stuck in what has become a 7+ year rebuild! In a house I have yet to live in! Might as well...while we can...do this so...Yes, all great ideas, but once you open a can of worms...

FWIW, Some of the rooms in my house had 1/4" drywall over the plaster- I didn't know it until I took the walls down in the particular rooms. The loss of 1/4" didn't make a noticeable difference at the trim.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2009 at 10:34PM
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If you drywall over the plaster, leave the existing trim as is and just add a backband around the existing door and window trim.

Easy, fast, inexpensive, and it'll add another shadow line to the trim to trick it out a bit.

You'll need box extensions for any junction boxes in the room. They sell those at the box stores.


    Bookmark   May 27, 2009 at 12:25AM
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There have been plenty of good suggestions about how to minimize problems when drywalling over plaster, but I don't see what the point of it is. Why not just repair the plaster that's there and skim-coat the whole thing if necessary? That would eliminate all the trim and box issues, plus be much less work, in my opinion.

Skim coating over previously painted plaster can have some bonding issues, so be sure and add a bonding agent to help the first coat stick. A base coat of durabond 90 or 45 with a top-coat or two of easy-sand 90 should be enough to create a nice smooth finish for a skilled drywall finisher, with a minimum of sanding.

A skilled trowel or drywall knife can eliminate a lot of unecessary labor hanging drywall and extending trim.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2009 at 1:35PM
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