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How to repair and restore plaster on walls

Builders plaster walls to give them a smooth surface on which to paint and to hide the brick and cement underneath. However, as a building ages, the plastered walls tend to develop cracks and chips as the walls expand and contract with the daily fluctuation of temperatures. Plaster is also susceptible to water damage and crumbling when exposed to rain and direct sunlight for many years. 

If your home is showing signs of wear and tear on its plastered surfaces, then you need to know how to repair and restore the plaster. Not only will this keep your house looking great, but it will also retain the value of the building if you need to sell it. There are a few basic steps to repairing plaster on walls, all of which are outlined below.

Steps to restoring plaster on walls

1. Identify the problem – Before any repair work can begin, you will need to know what caused the damage. By establishing the problem, you will be able to fix the plaster and prevent it from happening again any time soon. The table below describes the common problems with plaster and possible causes:

Common problemsPossible causes
CracksMoisture evaporation; wall expansion/contraction;
plaster pulling away from underlying surface;
building settlement
Damage and
chips
Hard knocks to the wall, such as bumping it
with furniture or a door slamming
BlisteringImproper mixing of lime particles in the
plaster; too much water in the mixture
Flaking or
crumbling
Poor bond with underlying surface; exposure
to direct sunlight
DiscolourationWater seepage; moisture damage

2. Preparing for the repair – Once the problem has been identified, you may now start the preparation. Set up scaffolding or a ladder. Cover doors, floors, windows and furniture with plastic sheeting to protect them from any splashing of plaster and paint.

3. Remove damaged plaster – Start the restoration by removing the old and damaged plaster. The entire area around the crack, chip or discoloured surface needs to be scraped away and removed completely. Any crumbly plaster or remaining crack that is left on the surface will cause another issue soon, so ensure that the whole area is removed and the remaining plaster is in perfect condition.

4. Prepare the underlying surface – Whether the wall is made from brick and mortar or concrete, the surface beneath the plaster needs to be prepared properly. Brush the surface to remove any fine particles of cement dust and dirt. Wash the surface thoroughly with water and keep it damp until you are ready to start replastering. Use a wire brush or a small chisel to scrape the underlying surface – this will create grooves to which the new plaster can adhere.

5. Apply the plaster – Follow the instructions of the bag of plaster or cement for mixing instructions. Mix the plaster with water and fine sand. Apply the mix to the wall with a trowel and smooth the surface at the same depth as the surrounding plaster. A metal float will allow you to level the plaster nicely.

6. Leave the plaster to cure – Curing is a vital step to ensure that the plaster bonds to the underlying wall and hardens properly. Leave the plaster to cure for at least three days; remember to keep the surface slightly damp during the entire curing process. If the plaster is not sprayed with water, it will dry out too quickly and crack.

7. Paint the plaster – Once the plaster has cured and you are happy with its quality, you may now add a couple of coats of paint to the surface. Try to buy the same brand and colour of paint as was used for the surrounding wall – otherwise, you may have to repaint the entire surface.

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Written by Joshua Oates

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