|Old farmhouse lathe and plaster walls.|
Old PlasterPlaster was the primary process used for interior wall and ceiling covering pre-1950. As shown on our kitchen wall above, lathes are narrow strips of wood that are nailed horizontally across the wall studs. The lathes are nailed to include spaces so the plaster can ooze out of the back. The ooze can also be called "the keys". You will find old horsehair incorporated in some of the old plaster work. The horsehair and "the keys" help reinforce the plaster which means it would not break away from the lathe. When professionally done, plaster has a warm patina look and feel. Plaster creates a nice solid wall.
I grew up in our 1905 farmhouse so I had been looking at cracked plaster that was repaired and painted over a thousand times my entire life. Frankly, I lived with all the old cracks and the look of old repairs because it was my family home. You can laugh but most of the time we just hung pictures where the cracks were the worse! I didn't think anything of it until renovation.
Flaws just add to the charm and character of an old house, right?
Pick your battles
My Tip of The Day!Insist on a personal meeting with your General Contractor and the Drywall/Plaster subcontractors during the bidding process. Review your house plans. Inspect walls and ceilings. Make a decision right on the spot which walls and ceilings will be saved and repaired and which walls and ceilings will be replaced with drywall. Make sure the proposal is specific and detailed. List each room, each wall, and each ceiling. Don't assume. Decide what final finish you want.
Beware of the General Contractor that will discourage a meeting with the subcontractor that will be doing the work. Why? The contractor may want your job and think the lowest price will win him or her the contract. Be cautious. When the drywall/plaster contractor finally appears on the job and announces he can't save the old plaster, you are faced with an expensive "change order" and budget increase. It is you that will be faced with paying more money - not the contractor. He already has the job and knows you don't have a choice. This is a time when you need to be detailed if you want to stay on a realistic budget.