I have no experience working with plaster walls.

In the kitchen of a building I maintain, there are large sections of paint cracking off the walls. When peeled, I see several layers of paint (at least 3) over a thicker layer of what looks like joint compound or spackle over a gray, very pourous, plaster wall. I realized in one particular place in the kitchen (above the sink) that the plaster is coming off the lath and that it is very crumbly at that point.

I had intended to scrape the walls down to plaster and then prime and paint. I thought I may have to repair some plaster cracks. I am starting to think that this is not possible and more major repairs will need to be done. Do you have any insight? Will I need to seek professional help? I could donate a full week of my time to this task but we have new residents arriving in a couple weeks.

This is student co-op housing that has been run on a dirt cheap budget for 50 years. The house was built in 1907 and we have owned it since the 50s. I know that there was major repairs done to the building in the early 90s (was condemned by the city at one point for reasons I cannot figure out). It does look like the walls have been somewhat repaired before because there seem to be areas that were patched (uneven spots with tool marks painted over).


  • This question and its duplicate, may be of interest. And this one, goes much more in-depth than my answer.
    – Mazura
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 0:21
  • Why is plastering so much less expensive in the UK than in the U.S.?
    – mtdona
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 1:24

1 Answer 1


Don't worry about the cracks but you do have to patch where it's crumbly.

Only worry about the paint that comes off easily, no need to scrape down the whole thing.

Depending on the look you're going for, the whole wall would need a skim coat of plaster.

Condemned, eh? Does the roof leak? Did it? (sad face)

If you are going to contract it out, start making phone calls TODAY. You'd be lucky to find someone who doesn't have at least a 3 week back log during the height of summer.

  • This answer is useful to me because it means I'll be able to take care of it! Does this also mean though that my new paint job will eventually peel off too?
    – mtdona
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 13:31

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