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The past few days have been spent patching & mudding the plaster walls.

It’s not so bad. And the ‘put on a coat and let dry for 24 hours’ technique works quite well with our ‘spend two hours after work every day’ schedule.

If anyone had told me the day we first saw the house that one day I would be replicating the wall texture, I would have laughed at them ‘no, we’re getting rid of that’. But there it is. Also, unlike the office, the front room texture (though identically random-globby looking, and made of identical not-exactly plaster compound) is apparently applied directly to the brown coat, as opposed to over a nice smooth plaster top coat.

In any case, they’re both cracked. The steps to repairing cracks in textured plaster are basically as follows:

Day one

  • Take something sharp (favored instruments have thus included a pry bar, a chisel, and my personal weapon of choice, a spade bit for a drill) and widen out the cracks to expose the brown coat underneath. The idea here is to make it so the mud goes into the crack and sticks it together, as opposed to just sitting on top of it, where it will just crack again.
  • Get the area to be patched wet with a sponge or mister.
  • Slap on a thin layer of mud along the widened crack with a putty knife. Don’t worry if it’s pretty, it just needs to be enough for the tape to stick to.
  • Cover with a length of fiberglass mesh tape. Fold back a corner of the tape when you’re done so you can find the end again. It’s also a good idea to have different people mudding and taping, since you have to put the tape on when the mud is wet, so you can’t do two passes, and cutting tape with muddy fingers is a pain.
  • Cover the tape with more mud, and smooth with the putty knife. Of course, since you’re doing this over a textured wall, you won’t really be able to ‘smooth’ the way you would on a flat wall, but don’t worry about that. Really, it’s easier to fix it later. Just make sure it’s relatively even and thin. You’ll probably still be able to see the tape grid through it. Make sure all the corners and edges are stuck down though, since those are somewhat more annoying to fix.

This day will take some time, and is a good job to split among a bunch of friends – crack scratcher, mudder, taper, etc. (we thought crack scratcher is a particularly good job title)

Day two!

(The rest of the days take much less time, and are pretty easy for one person.)

  • Go around again and put a second coat of mud on all the cracks. Try to cover all the grid pattern, but if a little bit shows through, it should be ok. Not much though. Again, don’t worry about getting the edges smooth.

Day three

  • Take a mister (or a sponge, but the mister gets more water on the wall and less on the floor) and one by one wet the patches. Rub the edges and rough places with a rag until they smooth out. You can also rub with a sponge or your fingers, but I found a sponge to soft to be very effective, and my fingers got sore.

Day four

Replicate your texture. In our case of ‘random globs’ we did this by adding ‘some’ water to our mud. ‘Some’ in our case was enough that when you stirred your fingers around in it it was soft and liquid, and didn’t leave ridges. Then we took a rag and rubbed and dabbed until it looked right. Highly unscientific. Hopefully, it will be effective once we paint it all the same color. I have high hopes, since the previous patch work (which essentially stopped at step two) wasn’t *too* glaring.

In the case the case that you have fairly large cracks (the brown coat crumbles down to the lath, or more than 1/2 inch or so wide) you want to build up the inside of the crack in layers over a few days before you start on the taping in step one. Otherwise the first coat of mud will be too thick and will crack as it dries.

If you have really big cracks where the plaster is coming off the lathe (it moves when you push it) you need to screw it to the lathe with plaster washers before you start any of this. We only have a few cracks at this level, however, we haven’t started on them yet because:

The thing they don’t tell you about plaster washers in all those diy guides is that they aren’t actually sold anywhere. We’ve been calling hardware and building supply stores for days (four exactly) and just now found a place that stocks them. We were fully prepared to break down and order them on the internet.

So, that’s how our past few days have been going. We can’t say how well this technique holds up, since we just did it, but I’ll try to keep updates if anything fails in the future.

It was much easier than we were expecting. This is an unspeakable relief to me, as I adore the mantle, but it does not fit in that room as we’re planning to use it. I was really upset about the idea of either ruining the mantle, or covering it up with a giant desk and making it look all out of place instead of on display. But once we got up the guts to actually just yank on it, everything was better than fine. While there were lots of nail heads in the front, there were only a few going through, and they were just tacked into the (smooth & finished!) plaster wall underneath, as opposed to being structurally tied to the oak studs. All is wonderful and perfect.