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Repairing Plaster Walls

Updated on November 30, 2015

Repairing plaster walls...an inexpensive saving grace

Read on to discover an inexpensive way to re-face your plaster walls, repair cracks and get a beautiful drywalled finish ready for painting or wallpapering.

More and more in this economy it is getting cheaper to purchase fixer uppers and suddenly the DIY person is built. Man or woman you may find yourself doing things you never dreamed, like learning how to do simple plumbing or painting, drywalling, landscaping, many jobs that homeowners are now taking on themselves rather than hiring the job out.

You will surprise yourself in the hidden skills you have if you give yourself a chance, but please please please, finish what you've started and stick to one project at a time, it will make your life much simpler and less over-whelming.

The First Steps to a New Room

When I moved into this beautiful Colonial one year ago it had great bones but was in need of major repair, cosmetically. I first made the house livable with as much clean up as possible and made the only wood paneled room my bedroom. I'm assuming that since that room was paneled it was because the plaster behind the paneling was in such bad shape the only solution to the previous owner was to cover it. Not a good solution if you ever tried hanging a picture on a paneled wall with crumbled plaster behind it.

I want to tell you my journey with one room in particular. This most horrifying of rooms was a teenagers room at one point. It had many layers of paint and wallpaper on all the walls. At some point in this teens life he got his hands on a dart gun and a Sharpie marker. He shot up the walls with the dart gun and every where you looked there were tiny holes. If you have plaster walls then you know that when you pull a nail out of the wall it creates an outward dink in the plaster.

At First I tried to scrap the dinks with a drywall knife and that didn't do much of anything other then create even larger holes and dinks. Plus it was making a real mess of the wall paper. I must admit that after this first attempt I gave up on the room and moved on to something easier. For eight months I had that door closed and didn't go in there for anything, but after all that time I finally was faced to finishing the only room that need my attention.

Back to Square One

This first picture is the room that I am talking about. As you can see there are some very poorly built shelves in the walls and lots of peeling wall paper, what you can't see is all the plaster repairs. Later you will see a picture of the finished product.

Needless to say the walls with the built in shelves had to be rebuilt and drywalled. It took me and my brother two days to tear all of that out, stud it properly, and then I had the fun job of mudding the seams. Just a note, my husband is the pro drywaller in this family, but with him off on Army duty this was up to me and all that I learned from him. So here I am mudding all of these seams and screw holes and it got me thinking...

WHAT IF....I smeared this "mud" all over the plaster that I took the wallpaper off?

Before taking a project like this on you should know a few things.

ONE - Each wall needs at least 2 coats

TWO - Sanding is messy and VERY dusty

THREE - Patience is a must

Now that I prepared my walls by removing as much wallpaper and residue as possible and removed any and all nails and screws I was ready to start. At first I used only a five inch drywall knife, otherwise known as a spackling knife. The drywall compound I used I purchased in the three gallon sized buckets simply because I could carry it up all the steps on my own, they are HEAVY!!! Straight from the bucket after making sure it was stirred so there wasn't any setting water I started to apply the compound to the walls. I mostly worked in an area that was 4 feet by 4 feet. I started at the top half and then did the bottom half. Once the top and bottom halves were covered I lightly pulled the knife back up to remove any humps in the compound. You'll have some time to work with the compound before it starts setting. If it starts drying within minutes of applying then you are putting it on too lightly. You want to be adding a layer that is about a 1/8 of an inch thick on this first coat. Once you have covered the walls completely let the compound dry over night. The next day go into the room and inspect your job, it will look differently than it did the day before. The compound will dry to a nice white color. If you see gray areas that means there are areas that aren't dry and you will want to wait another day before second coating. In the mean time, assuming that you have gray areas that aren't quite ready for a second coat, look over your walls closely. Look for areas that may be extremely higher than others, you can mark them with a pencil if you need a reminder to not go so heavy in those areas on the second coat.

Ready for the second coat, all the areas of the walls are a chalky white color and you’re ready for the second coat. This coat requires a touch of finesse. This entire job can be therapeutic. Working in areas as big as entire walls can actually be relaxing, moving the compound in this way and that to get a clean finish is an accomplishment. This second coat doesn't need to be as thick as the first; basically it can be just to perfect your first coat, covering any gouges or extra deep holes. Don't worry if you get some bleeding from the old wallpaper, chances are you are already seeing that coming through on that first coat. Bleeding will easily cover with a coat of Kilz brand paint, or any other brand that has a stain blocker.

Once you have completed all your walls in a second coat and feel comfortable with your job let it dry, very very dry, give it at least 2 days, you don't want any moisture in that compound for sanding.

OKAY....SO I CHEATED THE SANDING...

WEAR A GOOD DUST MASK!!!!!!

Sanding drywall has got to be one of the most back breaking jobs known to man. After sanding a few minutes your arms will feel like wet spaghetti noodles. So I cheated the sanding as any determined woman would do. I got the vibrating sander out and a semi fine sand paper and got to sanding. This worked awesome!!! I even did the new drywall that we installed like this. I sanded 2 times, the second round I used a much finer paper and this gave me a very paintable surface. But let's slow down for a second before we get to painting.

Check your newly sanded walls for any imperfections that you would like to fix. Add some compound to those areas let dry and re-sand. Next you will want to do some clean up. I took a dust brush, like you would have with a dust pan in the kitchen and dusted the walls and then I cleaned up the floors, this took a shopvac, a regular vac, and an open window, and several bag changes.

Let the dust settle for a few hours and pick a paint brand and color. I used Kilz brand paint and it took 2 coats. Even though technically your walls aren't brand new they are going to act as virgin drywall and need primer. That compound is going to soak in the first coat of paint for sure. You could just use a primer but if you were like me and had that old wallpaper bleeding through you'll want to know going into this job that it's going to get covered.

This room has been easily one of my biggest accomplishments with this house, not because it turned out the nicest, but because it was me going outside my box and saving a ton of money. The room looks great and the walls don't have a single dart gun hole in them and oh did I mention the horrible art work form the Sharpie marker? Nope that's right because I was trying to forget about it. But that too will never be seen again thanks to the resurfacing of the old ugly plaster walls.

OKAY....SO I CHEATED THE SANDING...

WEAR A GOOD DUST MASK!!!!!!

Sanding drywall has got to be one of the most back breaking jobs known to man. After sanding a few minutes your arms will feel like wet spaghetti noodles. So I cheated the sanding as any determined woman would do. I got the vibrating sander out and a semi fine sand paper and got to sanding. This worked awesome!!! I even did the new drywall that we installed like this. I sanded 2 times, the second round I used a much finer paper and this gave me a very paintable surface. But let's slow down for a second before we get to painting.

Check your newly sanded walls for any imperfections that you would like to fix. Add some compound to those areas let dry and re-sand. Next you will want to do some clean up. I took a dust brush, like you would have with a dust pan in the kitchen and dusted the walls and then I cleaned up the floors, this took a shopvac, a regular vac, and an open window, and several bag changes.

Let the dust settle for a few hours and pick a paint brand and color. I used Kilz brand paint and it took 2 coats. Even though technically your walls aren't brand new they are going to act as virgin drywall and need primer. That compound is going to soak in the first coat of paint for sure. You could just use a primer but if you were like me and had that old wallpaper bleeding through you'll want to know going into this job that it's going to get covered.

This room has been easily one of my biggest accomplishments with this house, not because it turned out the nicest, but because it was me going outside my box and saving a ton of money. The room looks great and the walls don't have a single dart gun hole in them and oh did I mention the horrible art work form the Sharpie marker? Nope that's right because I was trying to forget about it. But that too will never be seen again thanks to the resurfacing of the old ugly plaster walls.

Great books to help with your Home

Having books to reference is an inexpensive way to either help with ideas for decorating and painting and especially helping with small repairs.

The best way to get ideas for your home is to see or hear other home owners stories, chances are someone would love reading your comments

Let me see your photos or hear your home remodeling adventures

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