Advice for fixing old lath-and-plaster walls?

Thumbnail image for wall with hole in itMatt emails:

Does anyone have suggestions for a contractor that can repair lathe and plaster walls? I have part of one wall that has sustained water damage from leaky chimney flashing and another wall where some of the final smooth coat has cracked apart. I've done some research and know that some contractors suggest tearing it out to the studs and replacing it with drywall (which would also give an opportunity to put in some insulation on the outer walls).
I like the plaster walls because they're thicker and more substantial than drywall, and provide good sound dampening between rooms. The idea of just ripping them out seems counterproductive (and quite frankly, a waste) to me. However, I realize repairing them is probably a lost skill and not many people do that anymore.
Any suggestions for contractors or input otherwise would be greatly appreciated.

This area has a lot of old houses, so we're guessing there are contractors who do this sort of work. But, as with most things that aren't common, it might end up costing a lot.

So, got advice or a suggestion for Matt? Please share!

Comments

I've read excellent things about Clay wall plaster. It goes over new drywall but natural clay plaster is a practical, environmentally friendly material that can be used instead of paint for walls and ceilings. This nontoxic covering won't off-gas harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs), as many paints do. Natural clay plaster is made from pure clays and aggregates, with coloring that comes from natural oxides and ochre mineral pigments. It also contains borax, a natural mineral anti-molding agent.

http://www.green-conscience.com/american-clay-wall-plaster.html

http://www.c4customwoodworking.com/Welcome.html

No affiliation. Haven't used him, but I believe he does plaster work.

Repair is the way to go, assuming these areas aren't widespread.

I don't know how handy you are, or how big the damaged areas are, but check out these videos or more on youtube, it's pretty basic home repair.

Patching areas
http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/video/0,,20555581,00.html

Crack repair / separating plaster
http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/video/0,,20210037,00.html

I love This Old House obviously...

I have an old house with lathe and plaster walls that need a lot of TLC.. some broken/bulged areas due to frost heaving, lots of small cracks and holes due to abuse. It's a 2015 project to tackle these. Not cost effective to hire a contractor.

Start by looking at http://www.plasterlord.com/notebook/faq.htm and then poking around the website. This is a contractor in Nebraska who is very generous with lathe and plaster repair tips. I have experimented with his technique for using fender washers and adhesive to reattach bulging areas of plaster to the lathe rather than just replacing. Jury out on my first experiment but promising.

Then, start googling. You'll find lots of perspective from restorers that it's better to fix your lathe and plaster than to replace it with drywall. And the most traditional methods, involving gypsum plaster to fill, seem to be the best.

John Kaniff does very good plaster/skimming/taping work at a reasonable price. He skimmed the walls for me in one of my apartments that had a very dated stucco finish and it looks great. It really is an art. His number is 518-225-4446

Just for the record, you mean lath (a thin piece of wood), not lathe (a tool for turning wood).

Editors: Thanks. Fixed. This will not go down as a great moment in copyediting on our part.

Thats an easy question, go to our above youtube channel type in your plastering request, i'll explain and show you how to rair at the same time, theres over 500 videos to choose from,
My sons and I have put these together for you DIY weekend plastering warriors.
Kirk giordano Plastering

https://www.youtube.com/user/StuccoPlastering

It has a lot to do with the scale of the damage. Small holes, etc, can be repaired with plaster quite easily. Long cracks, large chunks missing, etc, are much harder to fix. I worked on a house that had several damaged plaster walls. Rather than taking the risk of demolition (you never know what's inside the wall or what paints were used - i.e.: lead paints), I took all of the moulding out and resurfaced the walls with 3/8" sheetrock. The sheets are thin and easy to work with. They can be glued or screwed (I used both methods). You end up with additional insulation value on your walls. The sheetrock is very cheap.I hired a taper to do the taping, because I'm not very good at it. The taper was very fast. You end up with brand new walls that cover all of the imperfections and will likely stay stable over time, unlike plaster that keeps cracking and opening, no matter how much you fix it.

I would reach out to Historic Albany Foundation. There is an abundance of information they could help you out with. There is a contractor list that might be useful to you as well.

That is a good point that they are thicker and can provide some sound resistance. There are still people that know how to plaster walls, so it can be done. How big are the areas that we are talking about? If there are plasterers in your area, I'd ask for an estimate for their services just so you know where you stand with them. It wouldn't hurt to know.

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