Saturday, June 7, 2014

the tower room

We've been bouncing around with several different projects over the past few weeks.  Given the periodic torrential rains and such, it's been about 50/50 whether I'm inside or out.  During the showers (and overly sunny days too) I've been slowly putting the third floor tower room back together.  I started this over the winter, and since then have cleared the room, stripped the wallpaper from the walls and ceiling (only one more room to go!), reinstalled the storms (only ones in the house), demoed the bad plaster, repaired and insulated the eaves and begun completing the electrical.  With the lines in place I could finally start patching the walls.

victorian tower bedroom before...
wallpaper stripping begins
The whole third floor was inundated with water for years (decades?) from the failing roof flashing. This has obviously caused a number of issues with the plaster, everything from rotted lathe and plaster, to wholesale failure, broken keys and cracks.  All these issues mean I'm using every trick in the book for making repairs in this little room.  For holes, I typically do true three coat plaster, using wire lathe on top of the existing wood lathe to make sure things key properly.  I was lucky in that when we bought the house (and contents, mostly bags of trash) there was also a box of expanded corner lathe, which when flattened out is perfect for patching these smaller holes (using several overlapping pieces instead of trying to cut a piece from a large razor sharp sheet).

This room only had a handful of spots that lent themselves to this though, the slanted ceilings were too much for this self-taught plasterer to handle, so I used 1/4 inch drywall instead (also came with the house, and using it seems to be easier than throwing it away), taping the joints on the first pass, and I'll fill in the rest on the second pass (I use 90 minute durabond for the first coat, and premixed to smooth it out on the second pass).

In spots where the whole wall came down we used half inch blueboard, and will do two coat veneer plaster over it, again using durabond to bed the tape.

That's great stuff foam filling the gaps in the cornice

When possible (it wasn't in this case) I like to leave the lathe behind the blueboard - while the veneer plaster looks excellent, it has the same hollow feeling as drywall if there isn't a solid surface behind it.  This knee wall was interesting to work on, it turns out the dividing wall between the two rooms (now covered in old rock lathe) had been moved a foot forward at some point, this necessitated sliding the blue board through the gap where the walls met into the next room, as there were no studs to fasten it to.

Last but not least, I've been trying my hand at repairing the cracks and loose plaster.  The first year we owned the house I tried plaster washers, which were junk as far as I'm concerned.  Since then I've either ignored the problem, taped the crack, or just opened up the bad spot and did a standard repair.  Since seeing others use Big Wally's Plaster Magic I thought I would try it, until I saw the price...  To do the work required in this house would likely require several hundred bucks, which is just not an option.  Instead, I figured I'd try it using materials we already had on hand, pink plaster bonder, construction adhesive and fender washers.  So far my results are mixed, although admittedly I likely didn't vacuum the holes on the first pass adequately as I was afraid of pulling the plaster off the wall.  

If you're curious about the process, here's someone's tutorial which is more or less the same thing I'm doing.  Once I get more sections done I'll talk more about it, and well, if Big Wally's wants to send me some of theirs I'll gladly do a side by side comparison...

I swear my walls aren't bleeding...


  1. I bookmarked this page for the plaster crack tutorial, thank you! …can't wait to see this room finished. All of those yummy angles!

    1. It's always nice to come across something saying you're doing things right! BUT, so far I'm not sure how effective the approach actually is for truly deteriorated plaster, although I suspect your walls are in far better shape than ours lol...

  2. Nothing like failing plaster to make you humble, huh? We did okay with plaster washers on one of our water damaged upstairs ceilings. Finished the repair with mesh tape and premixed drywall compound, which was easier to work with and lighter to handle overhead. What you've done so far looks great! (did you know that you can make the photos bigger in your posts, so we can see all the great details without having to click to access the gallery to get the larger version of the photos? I can help you with it if you want.)

    1. I try to save the big pictures for pretty things lol... I've done major plaster work in most every room in the house, but I still can't help but try new things - those metal washers just devoured our soft lime plaster though, so that was a definite never again moment. And now, off to drool over your gardens....

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