Take the 2-minute tour ×
Home Improvement Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for contractors and serious DIYers. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Our new house has textured plaster walls that my wife and I don't like. We originally wanted to skim coat the walls to smooth them out, but a contractor suggested that we could put up drywall over it instead since we have some room to give on our baseboards and trim. He also thought it'd be cheaper and quicker to do so.

In addition we are going to be doing quite a bit of rewiring (removing knob and tube) and there are plenty of places where the plaster is cracking, so there is some repair work to be done beyond just skim coating the plaster in places.

This is somewhat related to this question but rather than being a single crack we're talking about most of the walls in a 1400 sq ft home, built in 1925.

Something about putting the drywall over the plaster makes me uneasy... Which should I do, and what are the relative pros and cons of each?

Our ceilings are also textured and we'd like to smooth them out, but I feel better about throwing drywall up over the plaster there. What about that?

share|improve this question
add comment

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Here's my take on drywall vs skim vs full update.

Skimcoat

Skim coating over the plaster that is already cracking would not be a good idea. Even if you use a harder more durable mud or plaster, it will still most likely crack because of the age of your house, and the fact that your walls are already cracking (and will probably continue to do so). The other down side is the sanding mess.

I recently bought a condo that had nasty texture as well on the walls which I wanted to get rid of. I decided for the first room that I would use a heavy 60 grit paper to remove as much of the larger chunky texture as I could. I then skim coated with drywall mud to smooth out the walls. It took several coats to get perfectly smooth, and a whole lot of cleaning afterward. But, in my case, I know my drywall is sound and not cracking underneath, so I could reliable coat without having to worry about patching too much in the future.

Drywall

Using a thin drywall layer over the top may be a quicker and cheaper solution. This will eliminate the cracking issues and will give you as smooth a wall as you like, with little mess in comparison to skim coating the entire wall.

I would still use a 60 grit paper or paint scraper (if it will cut through your texture) and knock down as much of the heavy texture to allow the drywall to sit closer to the surface. This will help eliminate waviness in the wall where the texture might be outrageous (like it was in my house), and allow you to use a thinner drywall.

A possible major downside to this is electrical boxes? Maybe someone with more electrical knowledge can speak whether adding 1/2 inch thickness to a wall would cause issues with the electrical boxes being set further in? If so, again, I would sand and use 1/4 inch.

Full Update

If I was going to be living in this house for the rest of my life, I would consider a full update, especially if I was already going to be making changes to wiring.

This solution is costly, time consuming, and messsssy! But, the upside is that you can fix/update your electrical to be safer, and more suitable to modern appliances. You can also add low voltage through the house which (if you're a tech nerd like me) may be a nice plus. This will also give you perfectly smooth walls that won't crack and a feeling that your not hiding a mess in your walls.

Hope this is helpful!

share|improve this answer
1  
+1 for adding drywall over the existing. Electric boxes are not supposed to be recessed, but there are extensions (like plastic collars) to build out the boxes to accomodate 1/4 to 3/4 inch plasterboard. –  bib Jul 25 '13 at 21:25
    
We did a test run with drywall over the existing plaster and it looks terrible with our trim, so we're probably going to go the skimcoat route, with more serious plaster repair where needed first. –  Joe Shaw Aug 26 '13 at 18:23
    
What do mean by terrible with your trim? Did you not pull the molding off first? –  John Smith Aug 27 '13 at 20:08
    
Correct, just placing the bottom of the drywall on the top of the baseboards and against the trim. Putting drywall over the existing plaster would change the size of the walls and the baseboards wouldn't fit back together. –  Joe Shaw Aug 30 '13 at 19:37
1  
Did the drywall company skim with plaster or with drywall mud? I'm just curious to see how it holds up over time. –  John Smith Nov 18 '13 at 18:40
show 2 more comments

John has a good answer.

I'd ask one question:

How important is it to you to have authentic plaster walls?

If you live in a historic district, or your house is particularly ornate and has retained all original details, and you feel that preserving authentic plaster is ideal from an aesthetic and resale-value perspective, then properly repair all the plaster walls.

However, since it sounds like you don't want to preserve the original texture anyways, my guess is that the above likely aren't a big deal. As such, I absolutely agree with your contractor in that putting up a new layer of drywall will be faster, easier, and less expensive.

share|improve this answer
    
I do prefer plaster, and a lot of the original character of older homes in general and this home in particular, just... not these walls. I am leaning toward the plaster repair for these reasons, however. Still, I am glad people are weighing in. Thanks. –  Joe Shaw Jul 25 '13 at 18:42
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.