Adventures in plastering

Of course, it wasn’t all bad! As the work progressed, we started to see the individual pieces come together, with more than a few surprises along the way…

One thing about working on an old house is that appearances are not always what they seem and wallpaper covers all manner of sins. Once we began to remove the chipboard wallpaper, we found that the plaster had blown on 2 of the walls in our bedroom and subsequently we have discovered blown plaster in every room in our house. We also discovered about 6 different layers of wallpaper and paint – it was a virtual tour of previous owner tastes and it was “interesting” to say the least!

Top tip if you’re in the process of buying a property, simply tap the walls (and pay attention to the walls under windows) to see if it makes a hollow noise. If so, your plaster has probably blown and when it comes time to make your new space your own you’re likely in for a bigger mess than planned! It’s not a structural worry, but if you’re only interested in slapping a lick of paint on a wall, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

So after stripping the walls and surveying the damage, we removed the blown plaster and began the process of boarding out the walls. While a plasterer will do all of this for you, we wanted to save costs where possible as we were going to need more work done to address the blown plaster. As highlighted above, the biggest problem areas for us were under the windows. The previous owners had installed new double-glazed windows some years before we moved in and we suspect that when the old windows were removed the plaster was compromised. With the wallpaper holding everything in place, it was easy to ignore the obvious issues with the wall.

The aftermath of a day spent stripping wallpaper in the sweltering heat.

To make sure any new plaster and plasterboard stuck to existing cracks and problem areas, we used a combination of a stop bead and a stainless steel mesh, alongside joining tape for smaller cracks. When thinking through whether you need to go to these lengths, it’s helpful to understand that mesh reinforcement for internal plastering is designed specifically:

  • For use as joint and crack reinforcing as well as over chases
  • To reinforce plaster across differing background materials and substrates

To actually get the plasterboard to stick to the walls, we used a basic adhesive which can be found at any hardware store.

In the end, the plasterer had a much bigger job on his hands and that also impacted the cost of the job. While we did a great deal of work to remove the blown plaster, remove all of the wallpaper and board the walls, we could only take it so far. In this instance, the learnings I took away included:

  1. Know your materials. Plastering is one of the more straightforward steps in the construction process, but it does come with multiple steps and materials. I was definitely surprised that we needed mesh and joining tape alongside the plaster. Needing these materials will add to your budget and the costs can add up quickly.
  2. Expect the unexpected. Unless you’re in a new build you will find bodge jobs and this will impact your ability to complete projects (usually timeline and budget go out the window. Try to set aside some form of contingency, whatever that means.
  3. Ask for help. We had a family friend guiding us through this process, but without his knowledge, I know we would have skipped vital steps and wouldn’t have been so pleased with the end result. So ask around at your local hardware store. Search online, but don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations and advice.

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