"Plaster Problems" - I have repaired thousands of plaster problems over the years. Most of the problems are caused by one of two things - water damage or movement/settling of one type or another. Water damage can be caused from a tub overflow, leaking toiler or shower, a plumbing or roof leak, storm damage, leaks around a chimney, and the list goes on. Movement is caused by settling of the house, expansion or shrinking of the wood inside the ceiling and/or walls, vibration from outside construction, traffic, or even sound waves that travel through the walls. In this gallery I am going to include a few of the more common problems and some brief descriptions for each one, to give you some background information on them. So here we go:
Photo #1: Many modern homes have 'popcorn' texture on the ceilings. This ceiling that I was called in to repair has some water damage that has not only caused some of the popcorn to come off, but it also sustained some staining. This is often caused by water coming down through a roof or ceiling and collecting rust from nails, or some other dirt or debris. This mixes with the water and Kabingo - it comes through and leaves this behind on the surface of the ceiling. If there is just stains on a ceiling, I often suggest to a homeowner to try a mixture of bleach and water - about 50/50 - and spray it in a mist bottle on the stains. Spray it till its wet but not dripping (and be sure to cover and protect anything that could get ruined by bleach below where you're spraying). Let this set for a few hours and you should see the staining fade. If not, give it another misting. This really works well on a lot of stains.
Photo #2: When I travel I seem to notice the plaster or drywall damage that is in the hotel room I stay in. That was the case when I stayed in Florida with my family a few summers ago. Plaster and drywall can get pretty ugly when exposed to water, which is exactly what happened here. Fortunately this was just the finish coat that was affected. Better still - I asked for another room and didn't have to deal with this nasty situation!
Photo #3: I find a lot of garages with 'old' drywall. That's what this is a photo of. The years have turned this drywall dark brown over time. Homeowners often ask if this can be plastered. The answer is yes, but it has to be treated much differently than ordinary 'new' drywall. First, it often has to have some screws and/or plaster washers added to give it stability and to secure it in place. When it was first put up they used 1 1/4" long ring shank nails, which over time 'slip' and the board starts coming down - either slowly - or in some cases, with a whole sheet coming down all at once. After securing it, the board has to be treated with a 'sealer'. Usually cars have been brought in and out over the years into this garage area, and the exhaust will leave a 'film' of oily residue on the drywall. Attempt to simply plaster over this without treating it, and the results can be disastrous. Believe, I know this from firsthand experience...! So there are certain steps to take before the plaster can be applied. However, once these are done, then things will turn out very well. Which is good news for anyone wanting to spruce up an old garage!
Photo #4: This is one of the most common problems that I repair - plaster falling off a ceiling. In this photo you can see that the wood lath is all that's left in this area. What caused it? In stairways it's often the vibration of people going up and down the stairs for fifty years. The vibration that occurs travels through the plaster and causes hairline cracks between the wood lath and the plaster that was applied over it. When it was first put on the wood lath, the plaster was pressed through the wood lath and it formed 'keys' on the other side of the wood lath - and that's what kept it in place through the years. Once the vibration started causing cracks to appear, it was just a matter of time. Slowly the plaster begins to sag where the cracks have formed. Then a complete separation occurs, and the plaster falls. This can also be caused by water damage. The plaster and wood lath are bone dry. Water from a leak flows down through and soaks into the old wood lath. The wood lath swells up and causes a lot of pressure to build on the plaster that is between the pieces of lath. The plaster cracks and then it's just a matter of time before gravity pulls on it to the point that it begins to fall. Depending on the preference of the homeowner, plaster can be used to go back over the wood lath, or plaster board can be secured into place over it and then the plaster applied over the board to build it out and finish it to match into the existing area.
Photos #5 & #6: Here are two examples of something that many homeowners dread - tile adhesive! In the first photo it shows veneer coat plaster over plaster board and then the brown hard adhesive used to glue tile in place. In the second photo it's a full coat plastered surface with the same adhesive on it. I have met many a homeowner who has spent hours and hours - sometimes DAYS - sanding, grinding, chipping and going bonkers over trying to get this stuff off the walls! The good news is - if you're just starting to take this type of adhesive off, STOP! It doesn't have to be taken off. A latex bonder can be put over this followed by a coat of plaster to fill and cover right over it. This is called 'resurfacing' and works fantastic on this type of project. Once again, Plaster Saves the Day!
Photo #7: Plaster problems often occur in small areas, but the solution takes a lot of skill. This photo shows one such spot: Around an outlet box. This particular area was just crumbling apart. Sometimes someone gets a little too happy with a hammer and this the unhappy result. The good news is that this area can be put back together in short order. A little bonder, base coat, mesh and finish and this area is looking good!
Photo #8: In this kitchen the paint was peeling off the plaster. You can see that before it bubbled and burst out like this, water had been held for a while on this ceiling. We can tell this is the case because there is evidence of black mold on the ceiling. The solution is quite simple: Remove the mold and old paint and apply a latex bonder and then follow up with a skim coat of smooth plaster. This area looked like new in under an hour. Another miracle made possible by Plaster!
Photo #9 & #10: Water leaks can do a lot of damage to plaster. But so can high humidity areas, such as around showers and tubs in bathrooms. Often the damage 'settles' down to the lower part of a wall, such as in these two photos. At first a little bubbling will occur, creating some really bad looking surfaces. But if it's let go for a period of time, the damage can be severe. The number one thing to keep in mind when dealing with this sort of water damage problem is: Find the source of the problem and get that solved first. After that's solved, then get the plaster repaired.
Photo #11 & #12: Damage to walls can be at the top of the wall, at the bottom, or anywhere in between. These two photos show damage that's occured. In the first one it's damaged the wall clear down to the wood lath. This damage was caused by a water leak. In the second photo there are open holes all over as well as cracks going across the surface of of a smooth coat wall. The holes in this wall were not caused by water damage. They were caused by something that occurs often in older homes with wood lath and full coat plaster. It's called 'oversanding'. Let me give you some background on this, so you understand the problem.
When the plaster was first put on a wall, it was put on in three coats - a 'scratch' coat, 'brown' coat and 'finish' coat. Now back in the 1800's and early 1900's, plaster was hand mixed, often in big long metal tubs, with one or two guys mixing it back and forth with long hoes. A certain amount of sand was mixed in with the gypsum plaster. Sometimes too much sand was mixed in with the gypsum. Now the problems with 'oversanding' didn't show up right away. But the facts are, having too much sand in the mix made the wall weaker. It just didn't stand up over time as well. The keys that held it in place against the wood lath cracked and broke, and so the wall started to crack on the surface, or bulges began to show up, as well as sagging in the ceiling, which has led to ceiling areas falling over time.
On walls, an oversanded wall will be evident in another way. When a hole is cut in the wall, sometimes sand will literally start streaming out like a little dry river! In the second photo, there were 'loose' areas on the wall. Something had to be done. Sometimes I drill a little hole in the plaster and squeeze in a little adhesive. This gets between the wood lath and the loose plaster and sets up hard, holding the plaster in place. Then the surface can be repaired and everything is great. However, sometimes the plaster is so oversanded that it actually disintegrates when its scraped. This was the case on this wall. The areas were so loose and damaged that it was impossible to use adhesive, so I scraped off the loose areas, which fell off very easily.
Some areas of the wall were solid enough that I could apply a latex bonder over the cracks and then use mesh and plaster to make the repairs, so the wall was nice and smooth at the end of the project.
Knowing about plaster that has been oversanded can prove helpful for several reasons. One is that if you're a homeowner and you drill or cut a hole and sand starts running or streaming out, this might be the reason. You'll know that the plaster was weak when it was put up and over time, because of settling or vibration or sound waves hitting those ceiling or wall areas over 50 or more years, the plaster literally started to break down from the inside. It started to crumble away from the wood lath and then it just sits there inside the wall. Now when any holes are cut or drilled, that opens up a place for it to come out. And another reason this knowledge is helpful is that if you're thinking about doing this type of work for a living, you need to know how to handle this type of repair, especially when it comes to knowing how much work is going to be involved, which is going to affect the price that is charged for doing the work. I've had some projects that even surprised me, where I started out scraping a small hole and it keeps growing and growing and pretty soon the whole wall is falling down. Oh my goodness!
Photo #13 & #14: Once again water has caused some really bad damage. The first photo shows damage to the paint. And it actually goes deeper, as I had to also remove the finish coat plaster under the paint. But this is a good example of how crackly and ugly things can get. In the second photo water has caused the finish coat to separate, and this can easily be seen just looking at the area.
I'm going to add here some information about 'lead' and the new law that went into effect April 22nd, 2010. This has to do with contractors being 'certified' when working on this type of project. Here's what this new law means: When there is damage to this type of painted surface, especially in homes 1978 and older, lead is often present in the paint. This is a real danger, and one the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is really concerned in protecting homeowners from - especially children under 6 years of age. The new law make it necessary for anyone working on such projects as those shown in these photos be certified. This means that they would know how to set up the project, so the lead 'dust', which is what is harmful, is not allowed to fly loose all over the house when it is scraped off to do the repair work. Just something to keep in mind. More and more attention is being put on not only doing a repair job, but doing it safely. Which is a good thing.
Photo #15: This photo shows a situation that to many homeowners creates a big problem. They want to remove the old paneling on the walls, to give the house a new look. But when they take the paneling off, several things can happen. One big one is that the paneling is attached with nails and when they tear it off, the plaster board or drywall underneath is torn as well. The paper often gets ripped and shredded, which can lead to some challenges when the time comes to put a new finish over the walls. Add to that the fact that the paneling was usually put on with the use of some type of glue or adhesive. The paneling comes off, but the glue stays on in many cases. So now the glue poses a problem as well.
Something else that is not always known by the homeowner is that the paneling usually contained formaldehyde. This can leach over into the plaster board and it creates a film or residue that can really goof up whatever is put over it in the future, if it's not dealt with in the right way.
The good news? All of the problems mentioned above can be solved with plaster! There are actual products that you can be used to 'seal' the surface of the plaster board or drywall. A bonding agent can then be rolled on and plaster base coat applied right over the entire surface. The base coat can even cover the glue and adhesive, so it's not necessary to remove it. Now any texture can be applied, from a heavy texture to smooth coat.
If you have any questions about this, be sure to contact me and I'll be glad to help answer your questions!
Photo #16: I was called in to this job to take a look at a 'sagging' ceiling. By the time I got there, the ceiling had already fallen. And believe me, it was a mess, to say the least! This photo shows the area where the ceiling collapsed. It had sustained water damage and had absorbed a lot of weight from that water. It was slow to dry out, so the weight just couldn't be held in place by the plaster. It hasn't happened often, but I have had two experiences where the entire ceiling collapsed while I was in the room. Those experiences taught me one thing: A ceiling is not something to fool around with!
In the photo, take a look closely around the edge of the hole - on the left and right. The gray insulation is visible, and that too had gotten wet and created a lot of weight and stress on the ceiling in that area. Notice how far down the edges have sagged away from the wooden joists. This project required most of this ceiling to be taken completely down, including the board, plaster, and insulation.
Let me give you a few points to keep in mind when it comes to ceilings. First, in older homes, where wood lath and full coat plaster were used: If the ceiling starts showing cracks, that's not always a sign that it's going to fall down. Some cracks are just simple stress cracks and pose no threat or danger. However, IF the cracks start running in several directions, or if they start 'squaring' off - which means they start outlining large squares of the ceiling, or if sagging starts to occur, then it's best to have it checked out by a professional. Ceiling plaster, especially full coat plaster, can be very heavy, and could hurt if not kill you or someone in the home. Or it could do extensive damage to artwork or your prized possessions. So don't risk it - get it checked out if you have any doubts about it.
Photo #17: This is one of the most common problems that I repair - a classic hole cut by a plumber, so they can get to the leaky pipe. And the number one question I am asked is, "can the area be repaired so it doesn't show?" And the answer of course is "Yes!" The great thing about plaster is that it doesn't need to be sanded. Instead, it is smoothed out and can be feathered in to the existing ceiling so it's not even visible as a repair.
I like to tell homeowners that it's best if the plumber cuts a hole so the work can be done quickly. No sense to have them make a tiny hole and then spend extra hours dinking around through the small opening. It puts them in a bad mood and ends up costing more money. So let them cut a larger hole, as it can be filled in and repaired successfully afterward. The main thing is to wait long enough while the hole is open to make sure the leak is fixed. Sometimes it's been caused by an upstairs toilet or bathtub and it needs some time to make sure it really does not leak anymore. Nothing is worse than to close it up and fix it, only to be called back again to fix it 'again' because the leak came back, or was never fixed in the first place.