A guide to plastering a period home

Before you considering painting a wall in a period home, it’s important to look to see if the wall requires some repair work. If the plaster has been steadily deteriorating over the years, but the overall building structure is fine, then some or all of the plaster will need to be replaced.

Here is a basic guide to plastering a period home.

What Is Plastering?
Modern cement-based plaster is made primarily using gypsum and sand. It isn’t breathable, which is bad news for older properties. Lime plaster is usually found in older pre-1950s properties. You can tell what type of plaster you have by the colour: gypsum plaster is pink whereas lime plaster is white.

Usually, plastering refers to adding plaster to a bare brick wall, but in older houses, internal walls may be constructed from timber.

Alternatively, an earth binder might have been used with the plaster instead. This will be indicated by an earthy appearance that doesn’t match either of those described above.

Skimming is another term in the building trade. Essentially, it means adding an extra layer of plaster over an existing one. This is usually performed because the old plaster is cracked in places or crumbling and needs reinforcement through a new layer.

Note: The phrase “plastering” is often used interchangeably to refer either to applying plaster to a bare wall or adding a new layer of plaster over a pre-existing one.

Is It a Good Idea to Match Plaster Types?
It can be beneficial to attempt to match existing plaster with something broadly similar whenever possible. This is because the walls of period homes are designed to breathe to ward off trapped moisture and damp development. Matching the plaster types, rather than using a modern mixture, avoids trapping moisture in older structures.

Materials Are Coarser Than Presently Used Too
Older buildings were built using supplies that were available locally, rather than relying on the transport of building materials over a great distance. As a result, much of the older plaster comprised of coarser, chunkier material compared to the ground down mixtures used in modern plaster. This must be reflected properly in the plaster used for any wall repairs on older structures too.

Don’t Forget the Decorative Finishes
Once the plastering is completed, don’t skip the decorative touches.

Adding corner cornices makes all the difference and works well to retain the period look on the interior too. These decorative mouldings add an important element that feels missing otherwise.

Even without the inclusion of expensive paintings or other adornments on the walls, the walls won’t necessarily look bare. An attractive shade on the walls, and mouldings applied to the four corners, completes the look. Speak to experts in plastering to help ensure the work done perfectly suits your periodic home. If you want to get a feel for what can be done, take a look at the services offered by these cornice suppliers in Edinburgh who provide a bespoke service option which includes restoring ornate mouldings to their former appearance.

When getting a period home plastered, matching the plaster type is critical. Otherwise, the outcome might not be as intended, which could have long-term consequences.