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  • Writer's pictureMildred Marie

save the plaster

Updated: Oct 8

Have you heard someone say "we need to remove this plaster" in order to xyz.. Well, I am here to say

"keep the plaster!"

lathe and plater walls

There are several reasons why it might be worth it to save old plaster walls instead of tearing them out and replacing them with drywall. Plaster walls have a unique texture and aesthetic that cannot be replicated with drywall. They often have a timeless, classic look that can add character and charm to a home. These walls are typically more durable than drywall and can last for many years with proper maintenance. They are less prone to cracking and denting, which means they can stand up to wear and tear better over time. Not to mention removing old plaster walls can be a messy and time-consuming process, which can result in additional costs for cleanup and disposal. Saving the existing plaster can be a more cost-effective solution in the long run. My absolute favorite feature of preserving old plaster walls, reusing existing materials helps to reduce waste and minimize environmental impact through production of new materials and landfill waste.

Of course, there may be situations where tearing out old plaster walls is necessary, including severe damage or structural issues. We will get deeper into that in another post! However, in many cases, it can be worth it to consider saving and repairing the existing plaster walls instead of replacing them with drywall.

texture & aesthetic of old plaster walls

The texture of old plaster walls can have a unique texture that is difficult to replicate with modern materials. The texture is often referred to as "swirl" or "comb" texture, and is created by using a trowel or comb to create ridges in the wet plaster. Over time, the surface of the plaster may become rougher and more uneven due to wear and tear, which can add character and charm to a room. Honestly, the texture of plaster walls makes me want to light a candle, pour a cup of coffee, and read a book!

The aesthetic of old plaster walls is both timeless and charming. Over time, plaster walls develop a subtle patina that adds to their beauty and character.

One of the defining characteristics of old plaster walls is their imperfections. The small cracks, chips, and dents that naturally occur in plaster walls add to their charm and character. These imperfections can be seen as a reminder of the history of the building, and the many years of use that it has seen.

Another aspect of the aesthetic of old plaster walls is their ability to reflect light in a unique way. The texture and subtle variations in color can create a soft, almost ethereal glow that is unlike anything found in modern construction.

The unique and charming texture, mixed with the patina, and timeless look give a true testament to the craftsmanship of the past, and a reminder of the beauty that can be found in imperfection.

why are plaster walls durable

When it comes to the durably of plaster walls, this award goes to the materials used in their construction. Plaster is made by mixing gypsum powder with water to create a paste which is then applied to a surface such as drywall, wood, or masonry. Once the plaster dries, it hardens into a strong, solid surface that can withstand a lot of wear and tear.

One of the key advantages of plaster walls is that they are resistant to cracking. This is because when the plaster hardens, it shrinks slightly, which helps to prevent cracks from forming. Additionally, plaster is also able to absorb moisture from the air, which can help to prevent the growth of mold and mildew.

Fire resistant! Plaster walls are also fire-resistant, which means they are able to withstand high temperatures without catching fire. This is because gypsum, the main component of plaster, is a naturally fire-resistant material. I will never forget sitting around with a friend one evening while she recalled a house fire that happened in her childhood. Her mother insisted that the reason the fire never spread to the other rooms was because of the lathe and plaster that acted as a barrier to keep the fire contained to one room. Until that moment I had never known that about plaster and at that moment I regretted every home I gutted out!

Some homeowners may complain about their plaster walls, but their durability and resistance to damage is absolutely superb. With proper maintenance and care, plaster walls can last for many years without needing to be replaced.

hazards of old plaster wall removal

When it comes to reasons in saving plaster walls, let's not forget the work involved to remove this old beauty. Removing old plaster walls can be a challenging task that requires a lot of effort and caution. There are several hazards associated with this process that you should be aware of to ensure your safety.

First and foremost, old plaster walls may contain harmful substances such as lead and asbestos. Both of these materials were commonly used in construction before their health risks were fully understood. If inhaled or ingested, lead and asbestos can cause serious health problems, including lung cancer and brain damage. Therefore, it is important to take the necessary precautions when removing old plaster walls, such as wearing protective clothing and using a respirator mask to prevent inhalation of dust and debris.

Another hazard of removing old plaster walls is the risk of injury from falling debris. The weight of the plaster and lath can cause large pieces to break off unexpectedly, potentially causing serious injury. To minimize this risk, it is important to wear protective gear such as a hard hat and work gloves, and to use proper tools and techniques when removing the plaster.

Let’s not forget the mess, when removing this can be a messy process that creates a lot of dust and debris. This can cause respiratory problems and aggravate allergies and asthma. It is important to take measures to minimize dust and debris, such as using a dust mask and vacuuming the area regularly.

"Overall I am a fan of keeping plaster walls when and if at all possible!"

Preserving this work of craftsmanship is worth it for several reasons, including the unique texture and aesthetic, durability, cost-effectiveness, and sustainability. In many cases, repairing existing plaster walls can be a better option than replacing them with drywall. For these reasons, I hope more will consider saving this piece of history and embrace being surrounded by a work of art that will last a lifetime.

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