Friday, January 12, 2007

Cracking Good Plaster, Eh?

Something I failed to detail previously about painting the ceiling was the way we chose to resolve the cracks in the plaster. I once mentioned that the foundation has "issues", including a foolish resolution of it's failures by butressing. This does little to help anything, and merely "looks" beefy. The sloping of the house is evident from the dining room through to the back of the kitchen. In the dining room, it seems to drop ~2-3" out of level. I will soon provide a picture that captures this. Now, how we decide to fix this is still on the table, whether we lift the house and pour a new foundation or merely level the house on the foundation as it is now.

Either way, that type of deflection had given birth to a number of cracks throughout the plaster, and lifting/leveling the house will only do moreso. So to fix these micro-fissures, I took to them with a small hammer & chistle, aggressively knocking loose the areas about. I wanted to make sure that if it was going to stay, it had to want to stay. Well, sadly, a significant ammount of plaster near the cracks was too blasé to stay.

So I had to fill these chasms with something that would be forgiving to future movement & jiggle. Rather than common spackle that would crack and chip, we opted for an elastomeric compound. There are a number of products out there that qualify, and this is not a review. We chose one (knife-quality) and it worked, but it was not so easy to apply but adhered admirably afterwards. Still, it shrank significantly and needed several coats to level out(~3-4 applications), but took 12-24 hours to dry before it could be re-applied. Sanding high spots down was kinda like arguing with a pre-teen; it yeilded, but begrudgingly. So because of this, it was best to get the desired finish without sanding. Tool marks/scrapes in the compound usually soften out when it drys, to your advantage. Just think of this stuff like the medium between regular spackle and silicone caulk. I'll include pictures next time, both prior and post painting. Starting tomorrow, we resume our flooring of the living/dining room and foyer.

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At January 15, 2007 4:45 PM, Blogger said...

This compound you used may work to your advantage if you are doing a rough textured finish on your walls. For ours, we chipped out the areas around the cracks and did the usual plaster, plus paper tape and more plaster and lots of sanding. It came out nice actually. I was impressed with the job I did. I see a couple of flaws, but I think only I will notice. The next room is much worse than the one I just finished.

Is this compound you used just a temporary fix for a few years?
Once you fix your foundation, you probably wont have too many worries anymore.

One of my neighbors ripped out all his walls instead of repairing them and installed new plaster board. He got to insulate everything, but his house definitely doesnt feel 100 years old inside anymore like mine does.

At January 15, 2007 5:24 PM, Blogger Oblio70 said...

My opinion on this issue is a bit mixed. While I find that intact plaster is indeed "charming", I would not hesitate to replace it with sheetrock should any repairs go beyond cracks & holes. It's too temperamental and prone to further cracking...especialy when you plan on lifting/leveling a house.

So is it temperary or permanant? It's permanant until I need to replace it. And as for losing that "plaster" feel, you can fairly easily texture on a thin coat of plaster (with a spackle knife) to vary the surface. I've done this before in a room and it works well. Good shoulder workout, too.


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