Top layer of plaster peeling?
Up and down one short wall in our stairwell, the plaster is peeling. I'm not sure how to describe this, but it's like these thick pieces that are the entire top layer of plaster. It's definitely more than just paint. Underneath, the plaster is smooth. One spot has entirely broken off, two others are cracked, and looking closely, there are lots of small areas. It almost looks like the top layer is somehow buckling?
The area in question is at the landing halfway up. Interior wall. The problem only goes for a couple feet, and then the rest of the wall up the stairs looks fine. I can see this "buckling" all the way up this one area though. The adjoining exterior wall is also fine. No other place like this in the rest of the house.
So, my questions...
1) What causes this? It was like this when we moved in a year ago, so I'm not sure how long it has been like this. Is this actually buckling from settling?
2) How in the world do I fix it? Patch it where it's bad, or scrape off the plaster on that entire wall? Either way, what do I use and how to I match the texture?
Scrape off the loose plaster and patch it where it stops coming off. There could be so many causes for the loose plaster it would be impossible to tell you exactly why (from my desk here) but settling could have certainly contributed to it. Settling almost always results in cracking. Buckling is usually moisture or impact damage, improper preparation or a previous patch over cracking plaster.
Dig in and look for evidence of what may have happened
Let us know :)
Ok, will do, and I'll post some pictures.
What do I use to patch it? The aisle at the store was filled with all sorts of compounds, but I wasn't sure which to get.
What I usually us for patching is a setting type joint compound (often called hot mud) This is the stuff that you mix yourself. it usually has the numbers 20, 45, or 90 as an indication of the time that you have to work with it before it sets. The actual working time is less then the indicated time.
If you have some level of comfort with this type of work this is the method that I use.
1. After scraping as Square Eye described I would prime the area which will seal anything that could keep the joint compound from sticking.
2. then I would take a 12" drywall knife and spread a mixture of joint compound that is mixed fairly thick but will still spread easily along the edges of where the plaster did not come off. You should be left with edges that tapor down from the thickness of the top layer of plaster down to nothing over the full knifes width.
3. You have to be comfortable with a trowel to go this rout but I mix the joint compound thin and mix in some sand Maybe 1 part sand to five parts compound (the sand helps the compound to spread evenly and gives the compound build and it hides the inconsistency that you're covering over) With this mixture cover the entire wall with two thicknesses of this mixture scraping down the ridges in between coats. If your good with a trowel and have a heavy texture it could be ready to texture at this point. If it's a light texture I go over it with plain joint compound covering the entire surface and then sand the surface.
The danger with this method is that you cannot sand the coats that have sand mixed in so have to be confident that you can apply it pretty evenly.
I would not mix sand into premixed compound as the setting type has higher adhesion that is not compromised by the added element of the sand.
If you are not comfortable with a trowel and your not interested in developing your trowling abilities I would use strait up joint compound applying layers and sanding until you have the surface that you like.
The thing with the setting type compound is that it doesn't sand as easily but it doesn't shrink ether so you have to sand less.
Unfortunately as with most of these projects the biggest factor is just enduring enough frustration to beguine to get a feel for it.
I hope this is helpful.
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