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Ideas from Ed: Plaster disaster (Volume 5, Issue 12)

This month’s article is one I never expected to write. I just never thought I’d need to write it, because I thought that everyone already knew how to deal with situations like this. However, I visited an acquaintance who is working on an old house, and he was trying to use drywall joint compound to fill in some larger holes in a very old plaster-over-lath wall. He had attached a screen to the surviving lath so the compound wouldn’t all just push into wall voids, but was having a tough time getting the joint compound to stay in place, and it obviously had to be very thick to match with the face of the wall. I didn’t want to make him feel bad, so I didn’t take any pictures, but I hope you get the idea.

Here’s the kind of issue I’m talking about, on a project I did some years ago:

In my situation, the first step was to ensure that roof repairs were made, since leaks were likely the source of the problems in this attic area.

So what’s the method I thought everyone knew? It involves breaking away enough damaged area so that what remains is good, solid, and tight, and then cutting pieces of drywall to fit into the area as patches. Although initially the damaged area is enlarged, opening it up to solid material is the right thing to do. Here are the 2 areas in the photos above with patches screwed in place. It helps if the drywall patches are of the approximate thickness of what is needed to bring the surface of the patch flush with the original surface.

Once the main damaged area is “filled” with the patches, the odd areas can be addressed as needed with joint compound. Be sure to use tape of some sort on all joints. Here, I used a fiber/screen tape, which you can see embedded into the first layer of the troweled-on joint compound in the first photo below:

It’s much easier at that point to address all the “edges” rather than the whole area, which should be pretty flat from the use of the drywall sheet. You then just need to sand and finish the area as you normally would after the use of joint compound.

For “inquiring minds” who wonder how my overall project went, here are a few before, during, and after photos.

I hope all your projects go well. Thanks for reading, and happy restoring!


If you’d like to download a PDF of this “Ideas” column, click here:

Ideas from Ed 2022_December_Plaster_disaster
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