Our house was built in 1941, so all original walls are plaster (I'm assuming lath and plaster?). This is true for the bathroom in question. The walls in this bathroom are plaster, and are painted with latex paint. Where the shower curtain rod is in contact with the wall, the plaster has begun to break away, most likely due to continued exposure to moisture. I noticed this when I went to swap out the rod for a new one, and began to peel some of the bubbling paint away. See the picture for detailed shots.

My question is what I should use to repair this damage. I've read that normal spackling can be used to repair minor plaster damage, but is that best to use in a moist bathroom setting? Or do I need to go the route of dry mix plaster that I smooth over?

And as a side question, if there are any suggestions for what I could do to not have the shower rod in direct contact with the wall, that would also be appreciated. Thanks.

Shower1 Shower2 Shower3 Shower4

  • You need to remove all plaster that is moisture damaged. By the time that is done, it is well beyond a spackle patch job, it requires re-plastering. Dry mix would work of course, though I would expect that pre-mixed patching plaster would be available in most areas. Damage is because water got past the paint film. Any installation that prevents water ingress should be fine as long as the paint is maintained. – bcworkz Apr 9 '14 at 17:39
  • Personally I would remodel. Replace the plaster with greenboard or another water-safe wall. Uncover the electrical in the process and bring it up to modern code. Inspect the 70+ year old plumbing and make fixes/improvements where necessary. But that might be overkill for your situation. – user4302 Aug 8 '14 at 5:08
  • You could repair that damage by using standard joint compound (not the lightweight variety or spackle). Do your best to remove the damaged plaster. If you can, avoid using the shower for a few days to let it dry out more. You can also use a hair dryer or heat gun on low to speed up the process. Then put on thin coats of compound and let it dry thoroughly between coats. Once that is done apply a good coat of primer that is rated for interior and exterior use and then add the top coat. You may want to add paintable latex caulk before the final coat where the tile meets the wall. – Jason Hutchinson Nov 6 '14 at 23:24
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    Thanks Jason, it turns out I followed nearly that exact process, and the repair turned out great. Only difference was that I didn't apply several layers of joint compound -- only did a single layer. Thanks for the advice! – MegaMatt Nov 7 '14 at 3:01
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    @JasonHutchinson Could you make an answer out of that? – Chris Cudmore May 26 '15 at 13:05

There are a few options that can be used to repair this damage. You can use standard joint compound (non-lightweight), and apply it in thin coats to avoid cracking due to shrinking, joint compound mixed with plaster, or professional grade oil based drywall spackle.

The first step would be to dry the wall and inspect it for mold. If there is any surface mold present, you can kill it with a bathroom cleaner that has bleach in it. After the surface has been cleaned and dried out thoroughly, you would want to apply a stain blocking primer like Kilz. This will give you a good surface to bond the repair to. You can then apply the drywall filler of your choosing. You may need to apply it in several layers to get a good result.

Once you are satisfied with the repair, then you can begin to prepare the wall for paint. I suggest priming the wall with an interior/exterior grade primer that will be able to stand up to the moisture. 2 - 3 coats should be enough for good coverage. I also recommend that you extend the primer past the damaged area to ensure that the same problem won't reoccur. If you can, prime the whole area around the shower. After it has been primed, then you can apply the top coat. A good idea would be to repaint the entire bathroom with paint that is made for kitchen and bathrooms. This kind of paint will resist water, and can easily be cleaned. Many brands are also resistant to mold.


after replastering the damaged wall, you can use water-proof paint to protect the plaster. The items and materials used in bathroom and kitchen should be anti-moisture.


bcworkz and Snowman are right, but I would like to add some details. This is without doubt moisture damaged, and everything that has moisture or water damage must be removed and changed. Also, water and sewerage pipes in this bathroom are questionable, at best, so I strongly recommend that you check them.

But, I’m not sure that is the end of your problems: you should apply some hydro insulation both on the floor and on the walls, because even if you floor is OK now, materials applied are mineral based insulation meaning that gradually they disintegrate. and since you should apply insulation on the walls, it is a good thing to make a "bathtub".

I'm afraid that ceramic tiles are hiding an even bigger issue, that’s why I suggest all of this. When it comes to greenboard, I disagree. Because if you put that in, then ceramic tiles wouldn't be "in front" of the rest of the wall, but in the same plane, or even worse "behind" the tiles which is really bad. I would suggest that after you remove plaster you apply layer of mortar, than some insulation, and then you paint it over. Of course this is cheaper, fix the burning issue solution. Complete solution is elaborated earlier.

When it comes to shower rod, you can paint just that part of the wall, or that one wall with acrylic based paint, like the one they use for façade.


Here's what I would suggest for repairs like this

  1. Just spackle the wall. Nothing special needed here
  2. Prime it. Can use oil or latex primer
  3. Paint it with a semi-gloss or hi-gloss paint. The gloss part will resist the moisture better than a normal latex. You can also opt for an exterior oil-based paint, which would afford the same or better moisture protection
  4. Install a permanent shower rod. Tension rods will tear your wall up and leave you in the same situation down the road. Caulk the edges on the wall if you want maximum water resistance.

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