View Full Version : Remodel with old plaster walls

08-18-2003, 12:08 PM
I work for a general contractor who is remodeling a home that was built in 1915 with plaster walls on wood lath. The remodel is fairly extensive (upgrades to electrical, mechanical, plumbing, insulation, tear out walls, build new walls, etc.). I am trying to decide if it will be more economical to tear off all of the plaster and lath or just cut holes and notch channels where necessary. Any suggestions? Some of my questions are: Can we patch the holes and channels that we dig with drywall so that it matches the existing plaster? When we cut a new hole, will it damage the surrounding plaster so much that we should just remove all of it? Should we do a skim coat over everything after all of our patchwork is complete in order to blend the new with the old? We are considering blowing cellulose insulation into the wall cavities to increase the R-value - I have never done this before, What problems might we run into trying to fill the whole cavity and patching the holes every 16"? I would like to read some thoughts from anyone with experience or expertise in this kind of work. Thank you.

08-20-2003, 09:26 PM
Gary, I have never done a entire house remodel but have done several rooms and such with plaster walls. It sometimes depends on just how much you will have to remove to know if it is worth doing the entire removal. It does make a much easier job if it is all gone for the electrician or plumber not always easier on the drywall guy. Although all that patching can get to be pretty problematic. How do you know if the plaster and lath you remove is going to be 1/2inch or 5/8 inch or like I have seen in some corners nearly an inch thick. Here are some other things to consider
What does the inspectors say about partial removal? Here once you take out so much they want it all gone to be able to really inspect what is going on in the walls.

How firm is the plaster? some old plaster is very crumbly and just a few shaking lath can really make the damage grow.

How much time will you spend taking it all off and out of the way as opposed to trying to make a bunch of holes/channels carefully so as to minimize damage? And will there be no surprises or changes so that once you think all the channels are cut you do not start over and add another outlet and have to channel all over again.

How good a patching drywall man do you have? He will spend lots of time floating the walls and you will have the potential for cracking later on down the line at the plaster/drywall merge.

It is really a tough call. Removal of all is a messy job, only more mess than removing just part of it. Also consider what it will cost for disposal of all the mess.


Tom B
08-21-2003, 03:07 AM
What about the possibility if asbestos in the plaster? If there is asbestos, you may pay as much to try to save it as to remove it. Also, I've seen it happen as beezo mentioned, it looks nice when finished, then later after settling cracks appear. Also you could insulate much easier with it all out.

08-22-2003, 11:33 AM
Why not laminate with 1/4" or 1/2" sheetrock and not worry about patching the old plaster? We just did one like this a few months back.

Tom B
08-22-2003, 12:27 PM

Tom B
08-22-2003, 12:36 PM
Yes that is a good way around the problem, but keep in mind all of the electrical boxes will need extending to the new wall thickness, and you will have to cut the drywall around all the moldings/casings.
If you can cut close to the moldings with the drywall, what I have done with great success is caulk the drywall/casing joints with paintable caulking. Unless you have stain grade casing/moldings......

Sam Singer
08-29-2003, 03:53 PM
An importaint thing to consider is how you will straighten the framing if you remove all the plaster. Often the old framing can be very irregular, and the walls and ceilings were leveled and plumbed with the plaster. If you remove the plaster and find the framing is off, you should either sister or straighten it or rock it with blueboard and have a two coat plaster job which will straighten up to about 1/2". Anything more irregular than that calls for a three coat plaster job which can make the worst framing perfect. Saving the existing plaster equates to saving even surfaces. We often resurface patched plaster walls with a fresh coat of plaster. Throwing up sheetrock and taping over old irregular framing is a bad direction to go.

Myron Ferguson
09-02-2003, 08:44 PM
Good answer Sam. I would still like a lesson in plastering, maybe this winter when work is a little slower.

Sam Singer
09-04-2003, 07:15 AM
Myron, I sure hope so, even if its for a couple of days. If traveling for you is difficult to schedule, maybe you could arrange a small plaster job up your way, wouldn't mind a change of scenery.

D.J .
10-02-2003, 04:17 PM
I ran into the same problem here in broolkyn,what we did is made channel for the electrician then filled in the patch with drywall.the plaster was thicker than 5/8 ' drywaal we used for the patch so we installed wire mesh over drywall,then applied stucco lite flush with old plaster then skim coated from there for our finish coat hope this helps worked for us. D.J. in the Bk