horsehair plaster?

Daughter just bought a 100 yr old home. The bedroom walls, I'm told, are horsehair plaster. I got a quick look at one of the walls today while they were Opening a wall up to connect two bedrooms. Looks like a 3x3 stud with horizontal lath.<sp?> About 3/8" of plaster over the lath.
All the bedrooms were painted over wallpaper. The paint peels right off of the paper in full sheets. 15 minutes to peel all the paint off the paper.
Now how to deal with the paper??? We've been told removing the paper can damage the plaster... Son in law asked to borrow my sander to sand it smooth....
Anything special about horsehair plaster I should know ???
I've never seen paint peel off like this did...
What would be the best way to finish/repair these walls???
TIA
Steve
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It should be easier to strip the wallpaper off plaster than it would off drywall. The plaster is much harder, but the bad part is that plaster tends to develop cracks, and the paper could be holding it together. Google "plaster washers" to understand what you need to do to repair the cracks.
I don't know what he wants with the sander?
JK
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My understanding is that plaster washers are not used for run-of-the-mill plaster cracks, but rather they are only required when the plaster key has broken and the plaster has pulled away from the lath.
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Once the plaster keys have broken off and the plaster has moved away from the lath more than about 1/2", it is too late for anything. Plaster washers work well for cracks bigger than hairline cracks. Very tiny cracks can often be caulked with good results.
Steve is right, though, and tearing the plaster off gives you an opportunity to upgrade insulation and electrical.
JK
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Many old plaster walls were papered, sometimes with real cloth if there were problems.
The paint peeling off is disturbing. If it was a vinyl wallpaper and latex paint this would sound right. If it was vinyl paper, you might be able to steam it off after rolling a Zinser paper tiger all over. Some the chemical strippers are very good. If it is old paper wallpaper and it had a grease film on it, the paint would peel.
For minor repairs, drywall compound should stick quite well. Learning to patch real plaster and developing the original texture is a bit of learning curve. Wash the walls with real TSP and skim them out with drywall compound. Create whatever texture you desire. Plaster exterior walls on masonry may prefer oil based paints to be able to breathe.
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Steve wrote:

If your walls were done right, the horsehair plaster is a rough coat, and there is a very smooth coat of finishing plaster on top of it. Small cracks can be handled with spackling compound or finishing plaster. Larger cracks will need to be opened in an inverted V shape, so there is a lip of solid plaster remaining, then a rough coat applied, followed by a finishing coat or two. It is true that matching any pattern in the surface is a skill beyond any homeowner, but it is fairly easy to match a very smooth surface.
You have to determine whether the wallpaper is paper or vinyl. Both are held on with paste, and hot water or steam will soften the paste, allowing easy removal of the paper. The vinyl papers will have to be scored to allow the water or steam to get through them to the paste. I don't think a sander would be at all useful in removing paper.
Once the paper is off, wash the walls to remove the old paste, fix any defects in the plaster (hand sanding is best for smoothing your repairs, or even a drywall screen) and either paint or repaper.
Plaster is a premium wall; if you want something cheaper, and cheaper looking, you could hang sheetrock.

If having a century house is important to her, plaster is the only way to go.

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wrote:

Carefully remove all the plaster and soak it in water for a few weeks. Stir daily. Strain all the liquid off and dump it. Now rinse what was saved before the strainer, and you should have pure horse hair. Now take your carpentry tools and build a rocking horse. Then strand by strand glue the hair on the horse, and you can give your child a realistic looking horse made out of REAL (antique) horse hair. When your kid is too old for a pony, sell this horse for $500,000 on Ebay. (plus $1,000,000 shipping) Remember, it's a valuable VINTAGE horse. After you sell the horse you can just tear the old house down and build a new one.
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Buy the young couple a copy of Litchfield's book, Remodeling. It's a good overview with a lot of information that will help them as they work their way through the house.
There should be no need to use a power sander to remove the old wallpaper/cloth unless they used an unusual adhesive. Generally it's a water-soluble paste and the standard way of removing wallpaper applies. Score the surface, spray on the water and enzyme mixture, wait a bit, and start scraping with a wide bladed scraper. A few small gouges is nothing to get bothered about as you'll have to do patching anyway.
The real question is why they papered in the first place. If it was purely cosmetic, you're lucky, but more likely it was to cover up the cracks that kept appearing. If the plaster is still securely bonded to the lath (rap it with your knuckles all over the walls and ceiling and listen for changes in sound), then you might end up just reapplying new cloth to cover up the cracks anyway.
If the cracks aren't too numerous, and the plaster is still securely bonded to the lath, you could use a product I've had a lot of luck with - Krack Kote - to cover the cracks. It's a stupid name, but the stuff works. http://www.tkocoatings.com/krack-kote.html
If the plaster isn't well bonded and there are a lot of cracks, then you should certainly look into removing it all, insulating, re-wiring, etc. as others have mentioned.
R
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