I have lived in our 1957 ranch for 14 years. Some time back, there was an errant step by someone working in the attic, and a bit of damage occurred in the plaster ceiling in the master bedroom.

The crack was stable for years, but recently we discovered it was worsening. There has been major road work less than two blocks from our house (think once every forty years rebuilding of eight lane freeway) which I'm sure hasn't helped. Tiny bubbling in the plaster has also been noticed in the last month.

We went up in to the attic and found a small leak on the air conditioning unit (boiler heat through baseboards with AC unit in attic). Placed a pan under it until the spring when it's warm enough to repair.

We want a fix for the plaster, but aren't sure how to go about it. It's missing a teeny piece of plaster in the middle. Can we patch the plaster without making it a huge deal and pulling the entire ceiling down one piece at a time?

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  • This looks like plaster over lath, given how it's failing, but I'd like confirmation of that. If lath is there, it can be replastered, making sure to apply enough to form new keys to interlock with the lath... though what I did was use a piece of wallboard to fill most of the hole, then plaster to meld it into the surroundings. If it's wallboard, you probably need to install some support first
    – keshlam
    Mar 17, 2023 at 15:03

2 Answers 2


That grey substrate is the base coat of plaster. You need to check if the base coat is still attached to the lath. Put light pressure on the spot to see if it flexes. If the base coat can be flexed, it means there is a gap between the lath and plaster, and you should remove that part.

You need to use something stronger for patching a base coat, I recommend Structolite, but any base coat plaster would work. Don't fill it all the way flush to the painted wall, because you need to put a finish coat on top.

If the base coat feels attached to the lath still, then you can simply repair the finish coat using some setting joint compound. I'd recommend Easy sand, since you don't do this all the time and getting a finish coat smooth without sanding is really difficult. This setting compound will be the finish coat.


You should be able to just pick off the worst bits and apply new joint compound. Do it in 2 thin layers if the plaster is thick. It will look a bit patchy if you don't sand and paint afterwards.

  • 1
    This is substantial damage requiring a structural patch.
    – isherwood
    Mar 17, 2023 at 12:38
  • Maybe. If this is plaster-over-lath, the lath provides the structural support.
    – keshlam
    Mar 17, 2023 at 15:04

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