Plaster & Lathe or Modern Drywall & Insulation?

Discussion in 'Walls and Ceilings' started by TheLadyBrooke, Sep 1, 2012.

  1. Sep 1, 2012 #1

    TheLadyBrooke

    TheLadyBrooke

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    My husband and I are in the process of purchasing a home built in 1916. I have been trying to research and decide what is the best option for us to take, but I'm finding a pretty even list of pros and cons on both sides. Should we keep the original plaster and lathe walls, which need repair in many places, or bring them down to the studs and rebuild with new insulation and drywall?

    I would -prefer- to have modern walls installed, but I am unsure if it is necessary. I hate how the plaster cracks and how cold it feels. I'm use to modern drywall, I guess.

    What are your opinions and thoughts? Experiences? We will be doing all the work ourselves with the help of my father-in-law, who has experience in construction and remodelling.

    Eventually down the road we want this house to be completely brought up to modern codes and comfort, but with the original old style and charm.
     
  2. Sep 2, 2012 #2

    AndyGump

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    Well I think the proper answer to your question is inelegant "it depends".

    How bad is the existing lathe and plaster?

    What is your budget?

    If you remove the L/P would that impact the trim around the windows and doors and cause you to have to cover-up part of or fill into the trims and sill etc.?

    Do you have wood siding that could be removed every other course or third course to install insulation into. I would NOT recommend having an insulation company drill holes on the exterior and fill with insulation.

    Do you need to remove interior walls to bring electrical up to snuff? I doubt it.

    Where do yo live? Southern Calif. or Manitoba?

    Andy.
     
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  3. Sep 2, 2012 #3

    TheLadyBrooke

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    Well actually we have to redo all the electrical. It's all still nob and tube. We're in southern Indiana.
     
  4. Sep 3, 2012 #4

    joecaption

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    Removing the plaster would allow access to to fire blocking (if you have ballon framing) seal up any holes where plumbing and wires were run, far easyer to run new wires, if the old wooden siding was just nailed to the studs with no sheathing you could add House wrap beteen the studs to cut down on air infiltration, inspect of insect and water damage.

    Since now there's most likly lead paint on all your trim by removing it you get rid of the lead and get new trim that is all nice and smooth.

    As far as having to deal with the trim around the windows and doors it's as simple as shimming the studs so the sheetrock will come out even with the jambs.
    I'd bet your heating and cooling savings would pay back all the cost over time.

    You'll be shock what your going to find behind those walls. Bare wires, burn wires, dead critters, being able to see cracks to the outside between every piece of siding, stuff that's fallen all the way down from the attic, ECT.
    If you planed on redoing the wiring anyway you start by having the incoming power line up graded, new panel box so there's some place to run the new wires to.
     
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  5. Sep 3, 2012 #5

    TheLadyBrooke

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    Wow that's very helpful. Thank you! We are leaning more towards taking the walls all down to the studs, now. It'll be a lot more work and money at first, but well worth the benefits in the end. :)
     
  6. Sep 4, 2012 #6

    CallMeVilla

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    Removing the L+P will be dusty and messy but you will be glad you did it. Exterior walls can be energy sealed. Interior walls will be open so you can remodel to code for wiring and plumbing. In fact, once the walls are gone, you might want to move some walls, create closets, expand the bathroom . . .

    If you are paying for electrician time, believe me, its faster and cheaper to have walls stripped. Also, this is when you can add recessed lights or move HVAC -- even add LED task lighting under your kitchen cabinets.

    You will have to adjust door jambs but so what? Get new jambs and use old doors with new casing. The finished look will be great.

    I envy the adventure you are about to launch! :)
     
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  7. Sep 10, 2012 #7

    TheLadyBrooke

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    Ok now I have an additional question. I was told it's illegal to remove plaster walls without a contractor because of lead or asbestos. Is this true?
     
  8. Sep 11, 2012 #8

    nealtw

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    Find the people that test for bad stuff and take them a sample. You will deffinitly have lead paint. Any insulation in the attic will likely to be bad stuff too. It is well worth it to get all that junk out once and for good, evan if you have to pay someone to do it.
     
  9. Sep 11, 2012 #9

    joecaption

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    Home owners can do anything they want to. If a contractor does it they have to be certified and have a special licence.
     
  10. Sep 11, 2012 #10

    CallMeVilla

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    Answer: Get the surfaces and insulation tested. Worth the expense due to the on-going health risks. Once air borne, lead paint dust is very bad. Same with asbestos. There used to be asbestos in drywall years ago too.

    Take it slowly and make informed decisions along the way.

    Good luck
     
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  11. Sep 13, 2012 #11

    Mr. Victorian

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    Normally, I would favor plaster for all its benefits over drywall (insulation, fireproof, soundproof, mold-resistant, etc), even in the face of major repairs (and have done so), and I additionally prefer the look of it, especially for historical homes. It's subtle imperfections (faint waviness) lend some historical character, especially in the right lighting. Drywall has always looked sterile to me, and easily damaged. I intend to build a home myself one day, a Queen Anne revival, most likely, and definitely using lime plaster walls. (And yes, you can still buy lath & lime plaster, and relatively cheaply at that.)

    In a 1916 home, there's a good chance that the plaster is a gypsum plaster (same stuff as in drywall) rather than lime. Lime is actually more flexible and more waterproof. Gypsum is harder and sets faster than lime, and nearly dissolves in water, but being harder actually lends it to a lot more cracking than lime. My home was built in 1906 and uses gypsum plaster; The repairs I've had to make were far more extensive than those in my mom's late 1800s home, which uses lime plaster. Hers was even subjected to heavy leaking from an incomplete roofing job, and still required far less repair than mine. Plaster can be deceptive about it's condition as well: it can look terrible, but be structurally sound, or it can look good and be on the verge of falling off the wall (subtle bulging would be an indication), or anything in-between. If you look at a piece of your plaster, everything under the top coat of gypsum plaster would be gray, whereas lime would be white. (The top coat, often called the finish coat, would be lime in both cases.) Modern plasters, however, cannot as easily be distinguished this way, as there is white gypsum on the market now.

    During the early 1900s, as others have pointed out, asbestos began replacing horse hair in plaster (known as "asbestic plaster"), so you risk releasing that into the air by removing it. Even disregarding that, removing plaster is an extraordinarily dusty job.

    It may be worth noting, as an example of insulating properties, that I have a 2500 sq. ft. plaster home with no insulation, and I only pay about $200 a month in utilities (based on a year-round average). I have one room in the house that's drywall & insulation, and it's the hottest room in the summer and coldest in the winter. One of the reasons plaster usually feels cold to the touch is because it doesn't change temperature very quickly.

    If the plaster is still secured to the wall and not loose, repairing cracks is fairly easy: Stick some fiberglass mesh tape over the crack, and cover it with setting-type joint compound. (Regular drywall mud can be used, but setting-type is better since it's technically a plaster that fully sets up chemically rather than just drying out like drywall mud.) The mesh tape allows the underlying plaster some leeway to move without causing the repair itself to crack each season (plaster expands & contracts seasonally). If the plaster is loose from the wall, check out some products like Big Wally's Plaster Magic. There are some cheaper alternatives, like using plaster washers. I've used them, but I'm not sure I'd use them again just because they're a bit challenging to conceal correctly unless you're skim-coating a whole wall, plus you end up with metal embedded in the wall.
     
  12. Sep 13, 2012 #12

    nealtw

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    Mr. Victorian; That's all very interesting but cutting holes in walls to do wiring and plumbling and just moving walls still puts all that nasty stuff in the air. Removing it to the bear bones allows all repair and upgrades and firestops and value when you can garrantee no asbestos, lead, framing problems.
     
  13. Oct 9, 2012 #13

    CallMeVilla

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    Sometimes, you have to move on from the old tech. This is why we gave up on mud huts. ;) Plaster is just one of these things too. You can use drywall and then skim coat it if you want an historical look. You can use batt insulation to achieve both teamperature control and sound proofing easier and faster.

    Ripping out old walls allows for easier repairs and discovery of problems. Working around the plaster is inefficient and allows defects to go undiscovered.

    Plaster is great -- in a book on historical building techniques next to thatch roofing and out houses. :D
     
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