Saturday, July 18, 2009

Day 2

Today is Saturday, the first real day of work. I woke up today with a vengeance to start repairing the large-ish cracks in the plaster walls. I had placed an order for Big Wally's Contractors Pack from Plastermagic ( on July 10th and received it on the 15th. Now, it was time to bust it open.

Having watched all the videos available on their website and This Old House's website, I was not surprised by the contents of the relatively small box. A bunch of tubes of adhesive, some spray bottles of conditioner, buttons, screws, and ... latex gloves? Psh, latex gloves. Pansies.

I decided to start in the bedroom, but found out quickly that the plaster cracks in the bedroom were actually poorly jointed dry wall seams. Whoops. Moving on...

I found a crack in the living room and got to work. The procedure goes somewhat like this -- drill holes on either side of the crack. Vacuum the holes. Spray conditioner in the holes. Wait 10-60 minutes. Shoot adhesive into the holes. Screw the button into the lathe (clamping the plaster to the adhesive to the lathe). Wait 24-72 hours, sand, paint, and move on with life.

So back to me -- I drilled into my wall and hit a dead end of red dust. I moved over a bit and tried again -- same result. Apparently the wood lathe in my plaster was made out of red bricks. Apparently not all plaster is created equal -- some is on wood lathe, some on metal lathe, and some on masonry. Mine is the latter. Although Big Wally's Plaster Magic is reported to work on masonry, they only give instructions for wood lathe type plaster. Stumped, I left the plaster for a few hours to work on some other things.

Later that day -- Eureka! Wood shims! The pinch hitter for every construction project -- I laid wood shims across the repair and nailed the shim into the good plaster surrounding the crack. Instead of using the buttons to screw into the lathe, I would use the "good plaster" surrounding the crack to brace the repair. My wife was skeptical of my plan -- see the pictures for proof.


Prepare to make a mess. A big one. Especially if you're working on the ceiling. Also, expect to get rained on by plaster, conditioner, adhesive, and everything else. Clean freaks, abandon all hope. Those latex gloves they include -- don't use them unless you've a poncho to go with it. 

If you are repairing over a previous repair, like I was, plan to use wood shims creatively. The repair won't allow the shims to sit flush to the crack -- use a 2nd or 3rd shim to shim your repair. (Too many shims?)

Don't get too aggressive. If some of your plaster falls off, you're kinda in trouble. Basically, check for loose plaster before you drill. You want to be on the outskirts of loose-land, rather than in the middle. If you drill into the middle, the whole patch will pop off.

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