Repairing Plaster Walls


Old 04-05-06, 07:01 AM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Posts: 1
Repairing Plaster Walls

I have a friend that asked if I would be willing to do some plaster surface repair on his 85 year old farmhouse. It was built by his grandfather who was not an expert plasterer. The walls throughout the house are very wavy. The walls and ceilings have decades of old paint on them. They had someone else patch in paint throughout most of the house last fall, but they didn't do the kitchen. Now they want to do the kitchen and they'd like me to do it. When I went over there, I saw some minor surface damage to the surface coat. Some paint was chipped away, leaving shallow potholes.

They do not want to strip the old paint. They do not want me to make the walls in the kitchen perfect because they want the walls to look similar to the rest of the house. They are asking me to skimcoat the repairs wherever they are needed and then repaint the room. The previous guy used premixed drywall mud. Based on what I'm reading in here so far, that wasn't the best idea. I suggested using a real surface plaster, but maybe the 90 min drywall mix would be easier for me to work with.

So I'm looking for opinions on if I can do this job the way they want me to or do I say I need to strip the old paint. There is a concern about lead paint, which is why they are not liking the idea of stripping it all off, especially with the costs involved to abate it properly. They have a small child (1 1/2 years old) and another baby on the way.

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Old 04-05-06, 10:29 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 51
I'm not a pro, but have a fair bit of hard earned DIY expertise in this area. I think as long as the paint is reasonably well adhered you are fine to just patch and or skim over it. I would clean it well with TSP, scrape off any obviously flaking paint and if the surrounding paint is glossy, maybe rough it up a bit with sandpaper (assuming the top layer has no lead and you don't sand through it). I have used both Durabond 90 and mud. The Durabond dries a lot harder and does not crack when applied thickly like mud does, but I find it harder to work with and it is definately harder to sand. You may find that some of the paint and/or underlying wallpaper (if there is any) starts to lift from the moisture in the mud/compound, and you will have to cut or scrape it off and re-repair. My repairs done this way have been holding up for over two years with no apparent problems. Just my 2 cents. The pros may have different ideas.
Old 04-05-06, 05:29 PM
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: PA
Posts: 334
Hi Hawk,

It sounds as though they just want the walls "cleaned up a bit". The existing paint won't be a problem as long as it is fixed to the wall. I would recommend that you scrape off the loose stuff, as new paint on old paint that is coming off will be the nicest paint in the trashcan when the loose stuff becomes overwhelmed by gravity.

As far as cleaning up the walls, I would first clean them with either TSP, or a good household cleaner (Mr Clean, Simple Green, or something else that will get the grease off).

To fix the "ditches" left by scraped paint, one can use either "regular" (premixed) joint compound, or a setting type.

I prefer using easy-sand instead of durabond, because durabond is very tough stuff to sand if you get too much on. Easy-sand is harder to sand than regular dehydrating compound, but not as hard as durabond. Although any of these compounds can give you a good finish when you are done.

You may decide to use a setting type compound (such as easy-sand), because you can do the first coat, have the homeowner buy you lunch, and then do the second coat in the afternoon using either more easy-sand, or regular joint compound.

As you are just trying to clean up the walls, you should only need to coat those areas that need to be filled; and it will most likely take two coats. In the event someone put blobs of joint compound on to fix previous repairs, you may be able to feather those out and blend them into the wall surface, which will probably require "feathering" them out 12 inches on each side of the blob. (I prefer feathering out such areas rather than trying to sand down 10 layers of gummy paint, usually requiring you to feather it out 12 inches anyway)

If the areas you need to fill are about 3 or 4 inches in diameter, you could use an 8 inch drywall knife. If they are bigger areas, you may want to use a 10 or 12 inch knife.

For sanding those areas, I would use a medium grit sanding sponge because the walls are "curvaceous" (if that's a word) and a sanding block or sanding pole will not conform to the wall, in turn leaving grooves and unsanded areas.

After fixing those areas paint it with a good primer sealer before the finish coat. The primer sealer should catch /cover any greasy residue that you may have missed when you cleaned it. Grease will come through many layers of paint, if it allows the new paint to stick to the wall in the first place.

Good luck with your project. I hope this information helps you. Please feel free to ask questions if there is something you need clarified.

Best regards,


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