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I am restoring some plaster walls in my very old house. Most of the areas that need restoration are around the bottom of the walls since I ripped out old ugly baseboards and that also crumbled the old plaster. Since the walls are plaster-over-brick, there are 2x8 wood inserts into the brick that were used as anchors to nail the baseboard to.

Now, what confuses me is this: The inserts are flush with the brick -- how plaster should be bordered around those inserts so as to not smear it over the insert but be butted all the way (or close) to it in its regular thickness? What I did was make small 2x8x3/8 plywood cover shims and screw the (1, 2 or 3, depending on the offset as it varies since the wall is old) into the insert to be flush or close to flush with the projected finished plaster (approx. 3/4"). In fact, since I am now ready for the final coat of plaster, I think I may add another shim on every insert so that it goes above the surface of plaster and then, when the plaster dries, take the top one off.

I hope you understand what I am saying. I did not want to plaster over the inserts because the baseboard nails wouldn't make it through the plaster. Ideally, the inserts would be coming out of the brick for the thickness of the plaster and not be flush to make this easy but they don't.

My questions are:

  1. Am I overengineering this?
  2. Is there a better way to do it?
  3. Do baseboards even need to be nailed? Can I just liquid nail them to the plaster without using actual nails? I was thinking to do both -- nail into the inserts and do liquid nails between inserts.

See the pics. One shows bare brick wall with the original inserts, the other shows shims on top of inserts with the base coat of plaster around them.

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Your shimming idea seems to be a very reasonable scheme. One thing that comes to my mind....do you intend to replace the baseboards with ones high enough to come up the full height of the original wood blocks? If so proceed ahead. Otherwise consider making your shims shorter height. –  Michael Karas Jan 8 '13 at 6:46
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Gluing the baseboard to the plaster may not be a good idea. First of all if you ever intend to take the boards off for some reason you'll just be doing that plaster work all over again. Second the linear expansion of the wood boards over temperature is bound to differ from that of the brick wall. Any sheer caused by differential expansion will likely simply tear the liquid nails glue from the surface of the plaster under the boards. –  Michael Karas Jan 8 '13 at 6:50
    
Are you using "modern" or "old-style" baseboard? Modern is intended to lay on top of a finished surface, and in this case you'd carry the plaster all the way to the floor. If doing old-style (2-piece) baseboard, you might go ahead and install the lower baseboard, finish up to it, and then install the cap. –  Bob Jan 8 '13 at 16:54
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