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Freestanding steel studs are fine (assuming they are anchored to a sill and top plate). Steel studs anchored to the furring strips are fine. Why wouldn't steel studs anchored to the furring strips, plaster and lath be fine? The only limitation would be if the lath and plaster had significant bowing or hollowing in spots that the new studs came in contact ...


My house was built in the 1880s and has a stone foundation, mostly sand stone. The best fix for situations like this I have found is building a form and packing in stiff cement and as large of pieces of the original rock as I can get. If you do the form in a couple layers (say using a 2x4 or 2x6, the long way). Let the cement s set around 24 hours and brush ...


Where is the water damage relative to the exterior ground level? I note in the outside picture that there is significant slope to the ground - if the ground on the uphill and slope-side sides is not shaped to move water away from and around the house, it would be likely that there would be water damage on the lower parts of the walls from water flowing over ...


I'm not sure about the clay smell. I think the paint soaked in due to the porosity of the wall. I can't guarantee it will work, but you might check into concrete epoxy, sealer or stain, or try using a primer paint first and do more layers like you said due to the porosity. Epoxy is expensive and might not like the paint.

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