One of the fastest ways to cover old, damaged, or cracked plaster walls is to hang drywall over them. Using 1/4-inch sheets, you can cover old imperfections without adding too much additional finish work. But before you decide to go buy a stack of drywall, let's take a little closer look at a few of the circumstances where this may be more beneficial than trying to repair the existing walls.
Drywall Over Damaged Plaster
If you have cracked plaster, you can try to repair it. It is possible for an unskilled homeowner to repair the cracks, but to get a seamless look that mirrors the original wall, you will probably need to find a professional who specializes in floating plaster walls. One of the reasons that many people choose to simply hang drywall over a damaged plaster wall is because these plaster professionals are expensive, and they are getting more expensive as there are fewer and fewer of them. If you want to preserve the integrity of an old home and can afford the hourly rate, by all means have them redone—but if you just want a clean look that you can do yourself, hanging new drywall may be the best solution.
Drywall Over Paneling
There are several ways to deal with paneling. 35 years ago, wooden paneling was a very popular product used to finish interior living spaces. It was often dark and created a very warm living space that was complimented by earthy colored carpets and furniture. That trend—thankfully, some would say—has moved on. However, if you are stuck with walls covered in dark paneling, there are a few options available to catapult you into the 21st century. One is to simply paint the paneling. Make sure you prime it first because the paint won't stick very well to the slick, laminated paneling surface. The second option is to hang drywall right over the top. When finished properly, this will give you the clean smooth look that provides a pallet for the bright spaces that dominate today's decorating styles. And unlike paint, the paneling will be totally hidden, with no grain or seams showing through.
Drywall Over Damaged Drywall
The last situation that may require you to hang new drywall is when you have tried to remove stubborn wallpaper from existing drywall. Did all the face paper of the drywall come down with the wallpaper? Do you have big brown spots that are flaking? While these can be skim coated and repaired, it is very difficult to get them looking like new, so this is a great situation in which to consider re-hanging the drywall.
Tips to Remember When Hanging Over Existing Walls
Once you have made the decision to go ahead and re-hang, there are just a few simple things that you need to remember before you start.
All of your electrical outlets and light switch boxes are now going to be 1/4-inch too short. They were installed so that they would fit flush with the original wall, but now you are making the wall 1/4-inch thicker. No need to panic. You can buy extensions for these boxes at your local home improvement store, and they aren't difficult to install.
Door Jambs and Windowsills
Another feature of your house that will need to be extended is the jambs of the doors and windows that are on the wall you are re-hanging. The same principle applies as with the electrical boxes. You can buy extensions in the molding section of your local home improvement store and cut them to the length you need once you get them home.
The biggest challenge, especially if you have stained woodwork, will be getting the jamb extensions to match the original jambs when you stain them. You might consider removing a small piece of your woodwork and taking it to the store with you so you can get an accurate match.
Molding and Trim
The last thing to remember before beginning is that your baseboards, chair rails, and crown moldings will have to be removed and re-cut. If you are careful when removing them, there is no reason why you can't re-use them. You just need to keep in mind that for every wall you re-hang, the perimeter of the room gets 1/4-inch smaller, and the trim pieces will have to be trimmed down accordingly before you can reattach them.
Hanging new drywall over existing walls is very similar to hanging drywall in a new construction setting. The most notable difference is that you can't see the studs to know where to put your screws. If you're willing to spend the money, you can solve this problem by buying a stud finder and marking where it detects studs after you put up the drywall. If you can't find a reputable stud finder or don't want to spend the money, you can also combat this problem by making small marks on the ceiling beforehand that designate the location of the vertical studs. Do what you need to do as far as marking up the wall underneath since you will soon be covering it up anyway. This process is relatively simple with walls that are paneled because you can actually see the original nail holes with the naked eye. Just follow the holes to the ceiling and make a mark. If you don't have paneling, you can usually assume that there is 16 inches between the studs, but it is a good idea to find a stud, measure it off in both directions, and then test to see where the next one is. This will save you a lot of headache after you have started hanging your new pieces.
Go take a look at the room you want to redo. A quick assessment should help you figure out if you want to repair what you have, or re-hang the room. Either way, start making a plan. Projects like these can work wonders as you seek to update your living space and increase the value and appearance of your home.