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How To: Repair Plaster Walls

How to repair plaster wallsPlaster walls are some of the most misunderstood parts of an old home. And many homeowners are quick to tear them down and put up drywall. But replacing plaster walls with drywall is not only a major mess and expense, but it also destroys the character of your home. Each plaster wall is unique. You can truly see the hand of the plasterer who made the wall as opposed to monolithically boring drywall. Combine that with the extra strength and soundproofing a plaster wall provides, and you now know why I won’t do drywall anymore.

The most common problem with plaster walls is cracking or pulling away from the lath behind it. If this is happening in your house, there is a simple solution that you can do to save your plaster and your money. At my historic restoration company, we started using Big Wally’s Plaster Magic for our plaster repairs. Funny name, serious product. The system is easy enough for anyone to use and it works great! In my opinion, it’s a much a better system than the old way of doing plaster repair which is why I offer their products for sale in The Craftsman Store.

So, we put together the video below to teach you the process we use and how you can do it in your own home:

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67 thoughts on “How To: Repair Plaster Walls

  1. We have bought a 1910 plaster walled home. Our walls and ceiling are covered with lining paper that was then painted over. The walls seem to be in good condition but the lining paper is damaged in some areas, moisture from floral wallpaper removal, and we can see the lines of the lining paper all over the house, ceilings too.
    Can we skim coat over the paper? Is it best to drywall over it once we remove knob and tube wiring and spray in foam insulation ? Small budget, lots of free labour to use!

  2. Thanks for a great helpful video. Do the plaster washers stay up or do you unscrew them after the Plaster Magic drys?

  3. l live in a stone and brick house. The front is completely stone and a foot thick. The windows are original steel casements making the interior window wells very deep. The walls of those deep window wells have a skim coat of plaster over wood.
    Can you recommend a caulk that will seal the seam between the steel and plaster, that will not crack? No matter what I try, even if it says it won’t crack, it cracks.

  4. My house has walls that are plaster over sheet rock. I had to cut a hole in wall to repair some rot. The area to repair is about 3′ x 3′. Is Plaster Magic the right stuff to use in this case? I’m having a hard time finding anything else. The local home improvement stores don’t seem to carry plaster.
    I understand I need a bonding agent? What is a good product?

  5. Hi Scott! I liked the video. I would have liked to have seen what you did with the washers and screws after you put them in. Anyway… Any tips on how to attach pictures, hooks and the like to player. I tried using anchors but I ended with holes and player that kept breaking off. Help! 🤦

  6. In 1989 my sister and I – unfortunately – tore out the plaster walls in our late-1940s tiny bathroom when we remodled it, putting up drywall.

    Fortunately our living room, kitchen and bedrooms still have the original plaster walls and ceilings.

    The other mistake [in hindsight] was to cover the curved/arched living room ceiling with popcorn (a layer over the plaster). I will be removing that one day soon, I hope, along with ripping up the carpet. We have wood floors in every room except the kitchen and bathroom. These two were vinyl tiled long before my parents purchased the house in the mid-1970s.

    The half upstairs has just a plank subfloor that had a blue shagg carpet (probably installed in the late 1960s) that we – thankfully – removed decades-ago as it gasped it’s last, over-worn and haggered breath.

    Finally I come to my point. Twice now we’ve had workmen damage the plaster walls. When a young man from Dish Network ran a cable between the livingroom and bedroom shared wall (to connect the two TV sets) he obviously didn’t know how to work with plaster lathe. He made a couple “mistake” holes in the wall until he figured out how to drill a cable-feed through something other than drywall.

    The same thing happened when AT&T came to install the WiFi via opening the wall to string cables and phone line.

    I think this means homeowners with plaster walls need to make sure all hired laborers and service techs have real experience with managing plaster lathe — BEFORE they allow any to set foot (or drill) inside their rooms.

  7. I’m so happy to find this blog! It’s going to help tremendously if I can only get the bathroom started!
    I as well have to transition a wall that they put up drywall around the shower and tub, which is now molding ughh!
    My question is now that I’ll be using drywall in that part of the room how do I make the transition ? They made fake soffits which I’ll be taking out in order to fit my antique claw foot.

  8. Such an informative and useful post for people those are looking for a repairman for walls, This post will be helpful for finding an experienced repairman. Keep giving updates.

  9. Big Wally’s repair system is great but I have a lot of plastering to do and have spent countless hours trying to figure out how to mix my own lime based plaster. By the way, one of the reasons old homes don’t get eaten up by termites may be due to the lime in the plaster that is used to repel insects in fruit orchards. I haven’t checked it out but my house was built in 1880 in a termite heavy area and when I bought it a few months ago, no evidence of termites thanks to the old growth redwood framing and fir flooring.

    Anyway, back to the plastering. Does anyone have a recipe for making this stuff?

  10. Hire the Best Plaster Repair Contractors. We used Bestwall Plastering to repair a damaged wall, and based recommendation I can give is that since this work was done.

  11. I just purchased a home built in 1904. The ceiling have delaminating plaster covered with wall paper and painted with a textured paint. We do not want the textured ceiling, but do not want to remove the plaster. Is there any downside to using drywall over the plaster on the ceiling?

    1. We have the same situation (delaminating plaster covered with wallpaper and then painted with textured paint) – and just found out the textured paint is full of ASBESTOS! Get yours tested before you proceed with anything!

  12. Protect walls and floors in the repair area with plastic drop cloths; use painter’s tape to hold the drop cloths in place.

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