We bought a house built in 1846. In one room, the ceiling has suffered immensely from a previous, serious roof leak. In said room, almost all the plaster skim coats over the lath and keys are missing, broken, falling down, etc. The room is quite large at 18x18. We have never worked with plaster before and it's a large area that we do not want to learn on.

What options are out there for fixing this?

What we have considered thus far:

  1. Drywall..but I think it would cost a small fortune as it's a big room with 12 foot ceilings. We would have to hire someone to do this for us. Plus..I'm not sure if it would anchor properly to the lath.
  2. Re-plastering. Again, we'd have to hire someone as we have no experience with such a large area of plaster work.
  3. Clean out the keys and install furrowing strips (tightly together).
  4. Clean out the keys and install shiplap or something similar.
  5. Ceiling tiles..but again..with the lath and keys exposed..it's not a truly flat surface. We would also have to clean out the keys here. Not sure if this is a good idea.
  6. Bead board with furrowing strips at all seams.

Any suggestions (and hopefully DIY and reasonable in price) would be great!

  • The original plaster used was pushed between the laths to help fix it so it did not fall down - due to the consistency and often-times it had fibres (such as horsehair) incorporated in the plaster mix.
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Apr 18, 2019 at 6:25

1 Answer 1


I would:

  1. rip down all the remaining lath and plaster.
  2. check how level the joists are
  3. fix up any crazy out of levelness with shims/wedges (depending maybe apply new furring strips)
  4. rent a drywall lift - they typically reach 15'
  5. install the drywall boards
  6. hire a drywall guy to do the mud / tape / sanding (unless you already know how or feel like learning that part).
  • Drywall finishers really hate to follows diy installation of Sheetrock. But your approach to fixing this ceiling is the right way.
    – Kris
    Commented Apr 18, 2019 at 11:38
  • I have done that (hung my own drywall and called a finisher) many times, most of the drywall finishers I've used are fine with doing just the taping and texturing. Hanging it is the hard physical labor part, and although I'll say they are MUCH faster at it than I, the finishing is the "art" that they like to take pride in. As I always tell people, a good finisher can cover a multitude of sins, and I'm a big sinner. You can usually rent a ceiling lift that you use to hold the drywall sheets in place until you fasten them, it makes it a lot easier.
    – JRaef
    Commented Apr 18, 2019 at 23:05
  • 1
    From the attic (this is an upstairs room) the joists look pretty darn solid. They are the most massive joists and beams I have ever seen to be honest. Held together by these huge wooden stakes...and in 173 years, it doesn't look like they have budged. We are pretty good at drywall, hanging and finishing. I would almost rather pay someone to hang it and finish it myself. We live in a very rural community in GA and I am still trying to locate a guy who will do 12' ceilings. They must be a real pain to do. There are the bigger places nearby..but we really try to keep our jobs local. Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 10:54

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