Before we get into the advantages and disadvantages of plaster walls, let's first take a quick look at what plaster walls are.
The construction of plaster walls involves applying many layers of plaster over a lath or solid surface, such as brick or concrete. Plaster walls can also be made by hand. Lime, gypsum, sand, and water are the typical components that are combined to make plaster. This method has been around for centuries and is renowned for its longevity as well as its capacity to produce surfaces that can be either smooth or textured. For a good number of years, plaster walls have been a common option for homeowners looking to finish the interior of their homes.
They provide a classic elegance that never goes out of style and longevity that can boost the overall aesthetic appeal of a room.
Plaster walls, however, have their own set of benefits and drawbacks, just like any other type of building material. In this piece, we will discuss both the benefits and drawbacks of having plaster walls in your home, with the goal of assisting you in making an educated choice for your property.
Anatomy of Plaster Walls
An experienced plasterer used a hawk and trowel to apply wet plaster to the walls of the building.
Plaster walls might take up to a month (or even longer in colder locations) to cure completely enough to allow for painting, which slowed down the overall construction process. This was especially problematic in colder climes.
Plaster was put on top of typical wood lath that had been attached in a horizontal fashion to the studs, with small gaps measuring approximately 1/4 inch between each strip of wood.
Due to the presence of this space, the plaster would be able to press through and form a "key" that, once it had dried, would hold the plaster firmly to the wall.
Other types of lath, such as rock lath, which was a precursor to drywall, became popular in later years.
For example, metal lath, which is still used today as a substrate for stucco treatments, was a popular form of lath.
Plaster was put on top of rock lath, which was common during the transitional historical years of the 1940s and 1950s.
Rock lath consisted of sheets of early drywall measuring 2 by 8 inches that were nailed to the studs in the wall.
Plaster walls were typically done in three separate coats, starting from the bottom up.
The first coat was called the scratch coat, and it consisted of a rough mixture of lime, sand, and water.
This mixture was put to the lath at a thickness of between 1/4 and 3/8 inches, and it was scratched with hand tools to make a good bond for the brown coat, which was the second layer.
After the scratch coat had had enough time to dry, the brown coat was applied using a trowel to a thickness of between 1/4 and 3/8 inches, and it was then allowed to cure.
The third and final coat, which was occasionally skipped in lower-end projects and was dubbed the skim or finish coat, was applied to a thickness of just about 1/8 inches.
In contrast to the first two coats, this coat was only applied to a depth of about 1/8 inch.
In the beginning, the skim coat included just lime and water.
However, beginning in the early 20th century, it became the usual practice to utilize gypsum for the skim coat due to the fact that it would cure significantly faster than lime plasters.
The Pros of Plaster Walls
Plaster walls have greater benefits than most people anticipate, and you might be surprised to learn about them.
Due to the benefits described above, retaining plaster walls in your home, if they are in satisfactory condition, or repairing them rather than removing them and replacing them with drywall is almost always the better option.
Before drywall became widespread, plaster was the most common material used to finish the inside of walls.
Plaster is a common choice for wall covering in older homes.
This old device has various applications in today's world.
When remodeling or building a house, it is important to consider both the benefits of plaster and its drawbacks. An experienced plasterer would use a hawk and a trowel when applying wet plaster.
Plaster walls can take up to a month (or even longer in colder locations) to dry to the point where they are ready to be painted, which can hinder the building. Plaster was put on top of a wood lath that had been attached horizontally to the studs with a spacing of one-quarter of an inch.
The plaster would be able to push through this space and harden into an "essential" when it was completely dry.
Plaster is Stronger
When compared to drywall, a solid plaster wall has a significantly higher tensile strength than the latter material.
Compare the ease with which you can sand cured plaster or punch a hole in a plaster wall to that of working with drywall. Not gonna happen. This strength comes in helpful in order to avoid the dings, nicks, and dents that are associated with the use of drywall.
Plaster is Energy Efficient
Why is it preferable to have a wall that is thicker?
There are many reasons, but energy efficiency is one of the most important.
Traditional plaster walls have a thickness of 7/8 inches, which is approximately twice as thick as the majority of drywall applications. Plaster walls that are thicker than drywall give better thermal breaks, which helps homeowners save money on their utility bills.
Better Sound Blocking
Plaster is superior to drywall in terms of sound attenuation due to its harder and thicker nature, in addition to the chemical composition of the material.
It should come as no surprise that a wall that is twice as thick should have at least twice as excellent of an ability to block out sound.
Excellent for one's privacy, but not so good for listening in on conversations.
Drywall is a quieter construction material than plaster and lath.
Lime plaster is denser than new gypsum board, which contributes to its ability to absorb sound. Additionally, the irregular forms that exist between the walls function as acoustical components. Lime plaster is also known for its fire resistance, which is due to the fact that carbonated lime that has been cured for several months spreads fire at a far slower rate than drywall does.
When a fire needs to burn through multiple layers of a wall or ceiling, the amount of oxygen that it can access is reduced.
Plaster Walls Are Solid & Thicker
Plastering a wall produces a strong and long-lasting surface, which can then be painted over to give the wall a more personalized and distinctive appearance. Plastering can also be used to add texture to the wall.
If you opt to paint over the plaster on your walls, you won't need to be concerned about the walls becoming harmed because plaster is resistant to the growth of moss.
If the wall is created with a sufficient amount of plaster and is of a sufficient thickness, it is even possible for the plaster to function as a soundproofing medium.
Plaster Is Easy to Clean
Due to the sturdy quality of the material, plaster is relatively simple to clean up, even in the most tough of areas.
Because the surface of plaster does not crack, you may confidently clean it up on a regular basis without worrying that you will scratch or otherwise harm the surface in the process.
Plaster has been used as a material for wall covering for a very long time, and despite its durability and the many other fantastic benefits it offers, it is still being used today.
This is because plaster is very easy to work with and provides a smooth surface.
A More Elegant Look
Plaster is an excellent material to work with if you want to give a look of sophistication to the interior of your home.
Plaster has been utilized for a very long time, and in modern times, homeowners and builders alike who are interested in creating the appearance of an older building will use it in their projects.
Plaster is a wonderful material to employ anytime the goal is to produce a wall that is attractive to the eye, and this goal can be accomplished through its use.
When properly mixed and placed, plaster may generate a wall surface that is more durable than drywall and more resistant to wear and tear over time.
When this is done, plaster can produce a wall surface that is more resistant to wear and tear.
When the water in the plaster mixture is evaporated, and the mixture is heated, a chain reaction begins within the mixture that results in the formation of strong bonds.
These bonds are produced as a result of the mixture being heated.
Plaster offers superior resistance to knocks and other types of damage in the vast majority of situations.
It is possible for the lath or support that is placed behind the plaster to have an effect on the strength of the plaster.
Thin strips of wood lath were utilized in the construction of traditional homes, but in more contemporary construction, more long-lasting materials such as metal lath or tough backing boards have taken their place.
The durability that plaster may provide is one of, if not the most significant benefits that can be derived from using this material.
When the plaster is applied, it gives out a chemical reaction when the water in it evaporates; as a result, the plaster becomes significantly more durable as a result of this reaction.
Walls constructed with plaster are hardy and long-lasting.
Plaster surfaces may tolerate impacts and scratches better than drywall, even when the plaster is applied to walls that are made of delicate timber lath.
The use of veneer plaster on the blue board speeds up the construction process and provides approximately the same level of durability as conventional building methods.
In today's modern times, you can add a steel lath or tough backing boards to your plastered wall, enabling you to provide a significantly more long-lasting and reliable solution.
Plaster that is applied over a resistant backing can cause it to stay longer than it has in historic homes.
This is because historical backing was created from thin wood lath, but modern backing is manufactured from resistant materials.
The Cons of Plaster Walls
Plaster walls are not perfect, just like anything else in the world.
The advantages I discussed before are not devoid of any potential disadvantages; therefore, it is only right to present both sides of the argument.
Poor WIFI Signals
Wi-Fi and cellular signals are unable to penetrate these thick plaster walls and hence cannot be used.
Even a modest home with plaster walls is likely to need help maintaining a stable internet connection with a simple wireless router.
In order to have sufficient service in a plaster-walled home, you will need to update to a mesh system such as Google WiFi, which is what I've used successfully in my home built in the 1920s and what you will need to do as well.
Plaster always continues to cure into a tougher and harder material as it ages, which causes it to become more brittle than drywall does.
Walls and ceilings, particularly those in high-traffic areas or locations with shaky foundations, can develop cracks, which can be devastating when combined with the effects of age and gravity.
The effects of gravity on a plaster ceiling can cause greater problems than they do on walls since the keys don't act as effectively as they do on walls.
Additionally, foot traffic from upstairs can help to damage the plaster ceiling further.
Harder to Hang Things
The fact that plaster is stronger than other materials brings with it the disadvantage that it is more difficult to nail or drill into, which makes it more difficult to decorate with. You can find some tips that will assist you in hanging objects on a plaster wall in the post that came before this one.
Be aware that if the walls in your home are made of plaster, even trying to hammer a nail into the surface may be unsuccessful.
Painting on Plaster Can Be Hard
In spite of the fact that it is an excellent medium for the project as a whole, painting on plaster can be a difficult attempt due to the surface's porous nature. Plaster's porous texture makes it difficult to achieve a clean finish when painting on it, despite the idea being brilliant.
Plaster is a sturdy material that works well as a painting surface, but in some cases, additional layers may be required to achieve the desired look. Plaster might be a good idea, but if you want to paint it, you'll need to have a little more patience with the process. Plaster is long-lasting and makes an excellent painting medium, but it's probable that you'll need more than two coats to get the aesthetic you want to accomplish with it.
The application of plaster can be an amazing idea; however, if you want to paint it, it may require a little bit more persistence on your part.
Creating dust when cutting and sanding drywall is a messy process. Drywall must be smoothed over the course of multiple days since the joint compound must first dry before each additional coat is placed.
Dust is produced for the first time when water is introduced to the powdered plaster. Sanding is not required, and many coats can be applied before the first coating has even had a chance to dry.
Plaster walls are easier to install and generate less trash than other types of walls, but doing so takes ability, experience, and a substrate of either wood lath or steel mesh.
Difficult to Repair
Plaster repair may be more expensive than it would otherwise be due to the difficulty of finding a professional plaster business. In order to complete many repairs, it is necessary to remove a significant amount of plaster from the wall.
When a wall fractures or crumbles as a result of shifting structures or a hard blow, the plaster must be cut and scraped off without causing damage to the portion of the wall that is still intact.
The lath or backing that has been damaged must also be replaced.
If you don't paint the entire wall after making repairs, new patches will stand out since the color of the plaster changes as it ages.
Even if installing and completing drywall involves additional manpower, plastering is often more expensive than utilizing it. This is the case despite the fact that it is easier to apply.
Workers who have obtained training in the art of putting plaster will often charge more for their time because of their specialist skills and the fact that they have gotten instruction in the art.
Because veneer plaster only requires a single finishing layer of plaster to be laid on top of a backing board, it results in a lower overall cost than conventional surfaces requiring two or three coats of paint.
Despite having a lower resilience to damage, veneer surfaces often have a cost that is closer to that of drywall. This is despite the fact that veneer is more expensive.
Things Nobody Tells You About Plaster
It Can Contain Marble Dust or Soap Made From Olives
Plaster is a substance that may be made from gypsum, lime, sand, and water, and it sets into a solid as it dries.
Cement can also be used.
However, modern plasterers have access to a wide range of materials to choose from, such as slaked lime, Venetian (which contains color and marble dust), gypsum, clay, and a Moroccan plaster known as tadelakt, which is formed of lime plaster and black soap derived from olives.
Other alternatives include gypsum and clay.
It Was Replaced by Drywall
Prior to the development of commercial drywall that was simple to install, plaster was the material of choice for wall construction.
Plaster is often more beautiful and has a longer lifespan than regular drywall, as discussed in the article Modern Plaster Walls, Six Ways.
Plaster can be fire-resistant and is excellent at suppressing noise, to name a couple of its other potential benefits.
On the other side, it is significantly more difficult to install than drywall; if it is damaged, it can be difficult and expensive to repair.
It Can Be Found in the Pyramids
The application of plaster is an age-old craft, and the techniques that were utilized back then are not significantly dissimilar to those that are utilized now. Since the beginning of time, people have protected their homes from the elements by fortifying them with sludges made of water, clay, or lime.
In addition, according to the article on the topic that can be found in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the ancient Egyptians were masters at working with plaster; the Pyramids include plaster that is 4,000 years old but is still in fine condition.
And It’s Not Just for Walls
Plaster may be used to produce textural and sculptural effects on a variety of surfaces, including staircases and fireplace surround, so don't limit your thinking to walls. Check out a few of the suggestions in the article "7 Ways to Use Lime Plaster (Hint: It's Not Just for Walls)" for more information.
It Can Be Waterproof
The traditional Moroccan plaster is called tadelakt and is composed of lime plaster and a dark soap that is manufactured from olives.
Combining the two components triggers a chemical reaction, resulting in the production of a finish impervious to water, mold, and mildew, making it an excellent option for use in the bathroom or kitchen.
Tadelakt is the Rolls-Royce of lime plaster finishes; nonetheless, its use should be limited because of this.
Tadelakt plaster is often significantly more expensive than other forms of plaster, thus, you should only use it in areas that are prone to moisture and choose another type for other areas.
It Requires Layering
The installation of most types of plaster requires a significant amount of manual labor. At least three coats of finish are needed for Modern Plaster Walls, Six Ways.
Troweling is especially difficult in corners, and certain plasters, such as gypsum plaster, need the worker to move swiftly in order to avoid "cold joints," which are regions in the plaster that are weaker than the rest.
Plaster can be expensive to install because of the complexity of the process: According to an estimate provided by Fixr.com, the typical cost of installation is $500 per 100 square feet.
This price does not take into account projects that require a significant amount of preparation work, locations that are difficult to access, or plasters of a better grade.
They point out that the cost of laying new plaster, as opposed to repairing and resurfacing previously applied plaster is much lower.
Plaster walls are constructed by applying multiple layers of plaster over a lath or solid surface, typically lime, gypsum, sand, and water. They offer timeless elegance and durability but have their own set of pros and cons.
Plaster is a popular wall finish in older homes, with many benefits and drawbacks. It is stronger, energy efficient, and better at sound blocking, making it a good choice when renovating or building a house. Plaster and lath are noisier than drywall due to their acoustical components and fire resistance.
Plaster walls are solid, thick, easy to clean, and aesthetically pleasing. It is also resistant to wear and tear. Plaster walls are rugged and durable but have drawbacks such as poor WIFI signals and cracks in high-traffic areas. They need to be upgraded to a mesh system to get adequate service. Gravity and foot traffic can weaken plaster ceilings, making it difficult to hang things, paint on plaster, and install it.
Repairing plaster requires skill, practice, and a wood lath or steel mesh substrate. Plastering is more expensive than drywall, but veneer surfaces have lower resistance to damage. It can contain marble dust or soap made from olives. Plaster is an ancient technique used to fortify huts and keep out weather and wind, and it can be used to create texture and sculptural effects. Tadelakt is expensive and labor-intensive to install but is cheaper than repairing and resurfacing existing plaster.
- The Pros & Cons of Plaster Walls Before diving into the pros and cons, let's briefly understand what plaster walls are.
- In this article, we will explore the advantages and disadvantages of plaster walls, helping you make an informed decision for your home.
- Plaster is Stronger The tensile strength of a solid plaster wall compared to drywall is significant.
- When properly mixed and applied, Resilience Plaster can produce a wall surface that is more durable than drywall and more resistant to wear and tear over time.
- The strength of the plaster can also be affected by the lath or support that is placed behind it.
- Plaster walls are rugged and durable.
- The Cons of Plaster Walls Nothing's perfect, and neither are plaster walls.
- Poor WIFI Signals Those thick plaster walls are the places where WIFI and cellular signals go to die.
- A basic wireless router will likely not cut the mustard in even a small bungalow with plaster walls.
- The effects of gravity on a plaster ceiling can cause more issues because the keys don't work as effectively as they do on walls, and foot traffic from upstairs can also serve to weaken the plaster ceiling.
- Harder to Hang Things The previous benefit of plaster being stronger also means it's harder to nail or drill into, which makes decorating more difficult.
- There are some tricks that will help you hang things on a plaster wall in this previous post.
- Just know that putting a simple nail in the wall may be a fruitless pursuit if you have plaster walls.
- Many repairs require removing a large portion of plaster from the wall.
- Cost Plastering is typically more expensive than using drywall, despite the fact that installing and finishing drywall requires additional labor.
- Less money is spent on veneer plaster than on conventional two- or three-coat surfaces because it only requires a single finishing layer of plaster to be applied on top of a backing board.
- However, veneer surfaces typically have a cost closer to drywall despite their lower resistance to damage.
- Drywall Plaster replaced it was the wall material of choice until the advent of easy-to-install commercial drywall.
- Modern Plaster Walls, Six Ways plaster is also typically longer lasting and more beautiful than standard drywall.
- On the other hand, it's much trickier to install than drywall and difficult and costly to repair if it's damaged.
- It Can Be Found in the Pyramids Plaster is an ancient technique, and even the earliest methods used are similar to those used today.
- See just a few ideas in 7 Ways to Use Lime Plaster (Hint: It's Not Just for Walls).
- It Can Be Waterproof Tadelakt, the Moroccan plaster, is made of lime plaster and a black soap made from olives.
- But use it sparingly: Tadelakt is the Rolls-Royce of lime plaster finishes.
- It's generally much more expensive than other types of plaster, so use tadelakt in wet areas and another type everywhere else.
- It Requires Layering Most plasters are fairly labor-intensive to install.
- It's Pricey Because it's tricky to install, plaster can be pricey: Fixr.com estimates the average installation cost at $500 per 100 square feet, not taking into account projects that require lots of prep work or hard-to-reach areas or use higher pl.
- They note that installing new plaster is significantly cheaper than repairing and resurfacing existing plaster.
Frequently Asked Questions About Plaster Walls
Plastering creates a durable and robust finish to existing drywall.
A chemical reaction occurs when water escapes from the cement mixture.
This reaction strengthens the bond, which is responsible for making the plastered walls stronger. Plastering creates an even surface for the application of paints.
Old lath and plaster walls are prone to cracking.
Over time the plaster separates from the lath, creating structural cracks.
Plaster is also prone to thinner spider-web cracks, which occur when the topcoat of the plaster degrades.
It's common to have both kinds of cracking, which can be repaired.
While this architectural trend may seem outdated, it's returning to modern design and construction.
According to Walls & Ceilings, the earliest use of plaster can be traced back to 7,500 B.C.
During this time, a plaster-like substance coated mud-brick walls and floors.
Plaster should not be removed and replaced by drywall, nor covered up by drywall.
Covering makes spaces smaller and ruins the look of adjacent details such as moldings and door and window casings.
There are many alternatives to plaster, such as drywall, wood, and metal.
Baldicana explains that 'while each of these materials has its own benefits and drawbacks, the decision ultimately comes down to your needs.
For example, drywall is often cheaper than plaster but does not provide insulation.