Consumer GuidesWalls & Ceilings

Understanding Plaster

Whether you’re remodeling a kitchen or simply hanging a mirror, an understanding of wall coverings is essential. The two most common interior wall surfaces are gypsum wallboard, usually referred to as drywall or gyp board, and plaster.

If yours is an older home, built before the 1950s, chances are it contains plaster walls and ceilings. Appreciated for its versatility and ability to reduce noise and even fire from other rooms, plaster was used over brick, stone or frame construction, and it worked nicely for flat or curved surfaces.

Even in smaller houses, plaster was applied to finish interior walls and then whitewashed, painted or easily covered with wallpaper. Traditionally, plaster is a mixture of Portland cement, sand and water that is applied in layers to a base of wood or metal lath or perforated plasterboard. First, a scratch coat is troweled onto the lath; the plaster oozes through the lath and grips the backing when it hardens. Then a finish or white coat is troweled onto the scratch coat for the final surface.

Over time, plaster walls and ceilings may develop stress-cracks. A professional plasterer has the specific materials and techniques needed to repair these cracks, based on the particular condition of the damage. A service professional can also advise on stripping paint from plaster walls and ensuring that the new paint adheres to the surface.

Decorative plaster in historic or period homes may seem beyond repair when in fact a skilled plasterer, trained in the use of special tools, may be able to save it. In new home construction or for additions to homes, there are materials available, such as veneer systems, which can simulate the look of original plaster.

Some of the latest materials for new interior construction are similar to dry wall but are stronger and more durable and can be finished with a coat to provide the beauty and feel of plaster. The questions in this interview will help us find you a professional who can do you wall or ceiling plaster project.

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