My Experience With Plaster Walls

When I was first starting out my career over 4 decades ago, the first type of work that I got into was dry wall and plastering walls. I remember my boss at the time wouldn’t let me install any of the product, I just had to move the materials from one builder to the next.  My boss would later teach me the basics to install drywall and re-plaster walls.  Now I know that many homeowners (myself included) do not like plaster walls, but back in my youth every home had them.

Plaster Walls as a Skillset

This is a random textured drywall wall. It has slight depressions that were added to an even surface

Textured Dry Wall Close up

When working with plaster the goal is to create one of two appearances. The first is an easy and smooth surface that will look like drywall (we will go into the benefits later). This smooth surface took a great deal of time, skill, and patience. In fact, if you younger internet readers have ever seen someone smoothing out concrete, it was a similar process with plaster. The second appearance that is usually desired in larger more elegant houses is a textured appearance. Depending on the texture, different approaches can be done to create this appearance. If you were looking for a repeating pattern, then we can have a custom pattern made, and then pressed against a smooth plaster surface. The more expensive version, and to be honest it is definitely worth it if you have the money, is to have a design created in plaster at the interface where the ceiling or floor meet the vertical wall.

I first learned how to install plaster walls when I was 24 years old.  Plaster was all the rage back then, but in the years leading up to my retirement, I was working more with drywall more than anything.


Plaster Composition

Plaster has a similar construction to concrete but is primarily made up of gypsum and lime, but sets as hard as concrete.


Benefits of Plaster Walls (A Bulleted List with Comments)

  1. Sound Resistant – Plaster is like concrete, it is thick and it is hard for sound to travel through it
  2. Luxurious Feel – Plaster walls can be completed with a smooth finish, textured finish, or a decorative finish
  3. Permanence – Plaster walls are thick and set after they dry which means they will be less prone to damages from a heavy impact.


My Experience with Repairing Plaster Walls

Contractor smoothing out plaster defects

Plaster / Drywall contractor repairing some small defects

As I mentioned above, there are several benefits of installing plaster walls, but there are also several things that you have to watch out for as well.  When I was younger, I started working to repair existing drywall because the homeowner already knew there were defects and anything I did would make it better. I also had to worry less about making mistakes because they are easier to cover-up on a repair job.

Uneven Plaster Walls

Unevenness is the best problem to have with plaster if you ask me. In this case, the material could have been laid on too thick, or could have set slightly as the house settled. In any event, this can be fixed by applying another thin coating to even out the walls.  Do not get this confused with sagging.

Sagging Plaster Walls

If you see your walls sagging, or essentially folding over or bubbling on itself, that is most likely due to the plaster becoming detached. Some homes settle and this can happen relatively quickly, other it happens because of the slope of the wall or ceiling.  The easiest way to fix this is to very gently push the plaster up without forcing it. This may take several attempts and many days for the sag or bubble to disperse.  If this method does not work well for you, it’s probably because the plaster is detached from the wall and will not ever be fixed.  I know a few companies in the Milwaukee area if you are interested in hiring a Wisconsin crew. I also know that many of the readers are from all over and may not even speak English.  So if you’d like to reach out to the company where I worked as a contractor I’ll give you their phone number.

Cracks in Plaster Walls

When the plaster sags for a long time or too much it can crack. It can also crack when it detaches from the wall.  This is the most severe form of plaster repair, and can be caused by a plumbing issue. If this is indeed a small crack caused by sagging or the house settling, then it should be very easy to fix within an hour or two by filling in the crack COMPLETELY. Do not just fill the exterior crack to make it look nice because it will return very soon. Be sure to push the plaster all the way through the crack in your wall so it fills in everything.

Plaster Walls vs Dry Wall

Well, it looks like I’ve written quite a bit about plaster walls, and will not be able to finish writing about drywall yet. So I guess for tomorrows project I can write about what these younger and lazier homeowners are using now-a-days.  But I can’t really blame them, it is faster and cheaper to use dry wall. And if you are only looking for a smooth surface, it is by far the best.

See you later,