How to Replace Plaster With Drywall
It can be messy, but worth it
By Stevie Donald
Since the old style lath and plaster wall construction gave way to drywall in the 1960s, the plaster walls and ceilings in your home are most likely quite old and may have reached the end of their useful life. Unless your home is of particular historical significance, refurbishing the original plaster may be too costly or impractical. The art of plastering is a lengthy process and it's hard to find someone who knows how to do it. Replacing plaster with drywall is a messy job, but the result is brand new walls, ready for fresh paint.
- What You Need to Know
- Dropcloths or builder's paper
- Hammer and an old 2x4, 4 to 6 feet long
- Chisel or putty knife
- Heavy-duty contractor trash bags or plastic containers
- Wood screws or nails, 1 1/2 inch
- Drywall, paper drywall tape or fiberglass mesh drywall tape
- Drywall screws (1 1/4 inch) and screw gun.
- Premixed or powdered joint compound. Ask the store how much tape and drywall mud you should buy: they can calculate it based on the amount of drywall you're getting.
Clear the work area by removing all the furniture and window coverings. Cover what you can't remove with plastic sheeting and lay dropcloths or builder's paper on the floor. If you really want to protect the floors, put down flattened cardboard boxes. (You don't want the workers grinding the plaster pieces into the floor with their feet.) Close or seal vents and air returns.
Take the baseboards off. If the baseboards are oak or other hardwood that is worth keeping, put it aside in a safe place. If the baseboard is too damaged to be repaired, toss it. If you're planning on replacing the other trim in the room, remove that as well.
There are two ways to approach the removal of the plaster: taking off the plaster and the lath or just removing the plaster and leaving the lath in place. (Lath are the thin strips of wood supporting the plaster.) If you do the former, you can punch a hole in the wall and put an old 2x4 behind the plaster and push out the plaster and lath. If you want to keep the lath, remove the plaster by chiseling it away from the lath using a hammer and putty knife or chisel. Break up and remove the hard plaster between the lath with the hammer. Put the old plaster in plastic bins or heavy-duty contractor trash bags. (The trash bags will not hold a lot of plaster, so you may need to go the plastic bin route.)
If you keep the lath, nail or screw down any loose pieces. Don't worry about replacing missing or broken pieces. If you're going to put the new drywall over the studs, make sure the surface is as level as possible so the drywall will lay flat.
Hang 3/8-inch, 1/2-inch or 5/8-inch drywall, starting with the ceiling, unless you've left that intact. (The thicker the drywall, the more soundproofing you'll get; of course, it costs more too.) Using drywall screws and a screw gun, attach the drywall to the studs. Do not attach the drywall to the lath because it won't hold the weight of the drywall.
Mud and tape the drywall. Use paper drywall tape, which comes in large rolls and is available pre-creased for easier corner taping. Fiberglass mesh drywall tape may be easier for a novice to use because one side is adhesive and it lays flatter, but it is more expensive and can be harder to cover and sand smoothly.
Plan on doing three coats of mud, allowing at least eight hours between each coat for the mud to dry. Each coat will have to be sanded.
About the Author
Stevie Donald is a regular contributor to DexKnows. She has been a painting contractor since 1979.
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