Advice on smoothing plaster wall

Hi,
I'm completely redecorating a room in my hundred year-old flat. The walls are old horse-hair plaster and were originally covered in wallpaper. I want to get the wall as smooth as possible for painting.
After removing the wallpaper with a steamer, and clearing up the leftover paste, I filled and sanded repairs on about 20% of the wall. I thought this was adequate, as the wall appeared pretty level.
However, after priming and putting on two coats of white emulsion, the wall surface looks pretty bad in daylight. Most of the repairs are individually not too bad, but the overall effect makes the wall look shoddy. Under artificial light (which I painted under), it's not bad at all. It also seems as though when the room was last decorated, the intention was to wallpaper and the walls weren't skimmed, as the unblemished areas aren't too great either.
What are my options to get the smooth finish that plaster deserves? I'm thinking of taking an orbital sander to it, but after hand-sanding on a sample area, it looks like that'll be messy and a lot of work. I've also tried a diy skim with caulk where required to smooth bits out, which was not bad, but a lot of work and won't be suitable for all parts of it. Another option would be to go with painting over backing paper, which looks relatively easy & cheap.
I could alternatively reskim the walls, but I don't want to spend a large amount of money on it. The room is approximately 3x4 meters, height 3 meters, does anyone know an approximate cost of getting it skimmed? Would the new paint need stripped off first? Skipping the door-wall might be an option, as I'm fitting wardrobes that'll use the wall as their back, so the finish isn't essential here.
Any advice would be welcome! I passed the "wish I hadn't started" stage some time ago... ;-)
Thanks in advance,
Fraser
PS thanks for the previous discussions, google groops has been great in getting me this far. I'm a total beginner at this stuff!
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line, or even double-line the walls with a heavy weight lining paper (if double lining go horizontally then vertically)
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I've never understood why it is that you're supposed to line horizontally, which has always struck me as a damned awkward thing to do. Provided you make sure the seams of the lining and top layer don't coincide - which is easy enough to do - why can't you line vertically (I always have done so myself).
David
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interesting point David, I don't really know why, but I know that it is done and i have done it myself and it wasn't as hard as first thought. i assume that the cross laying is done for a little extra strength and insurance against possible cracks reappearing, though i am not sure how effective it really is as the paper doesn't really have a directional grain structure. perhaps it's because it's easier to hide the underlying seam by laying across rather than with, because gravity and natural shrinking of the paper along it's length stretches the top layer out and the capillary action is less likely to pull it in to the underlying seam. perhaps it's both of the above ;-)
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I never hang lining paper horizontally
I have used lining paper extensively since the 1980's up to and including 2003 and never had a single problem
If they didn't expect you to use it vertically, it would be the same width as wallpaper (it's wider, so, if two seams accidentally get close this doesn't repeat)
If you have S&M tendencies (well, M really), carry on hanging it horizontally (but no-one will ever know as you can't see the difference)
If you have better things to do than wrestle with sticky paper against gravity, get the stuff on the wall as quickly and neatly as possible and get on with life!
All IMHO, of course :-)
--
Bob Mannix
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Thanks for all the responces, more than I expected!
If I were to go with backing paper, is there any good way to avoid visable seams? I read in another post someone suggesting leaving a small gap between each, and filling with caulk or plaster. Or can someone with average papering ability get a decent effect by just papering normally, and having them meet flushly?
Also, is heavy-weight neccessary? I've read in other posts that it may shrink more than normal paper, making the gaps noticable.
Cheers,
Fraser.
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Whether the heavyweight is necessary really depends on your walls and as I can't see them, I can't comment. but the heavyweight is better at hiding uneven walls, as is double lining. As to laying technique, the paper is going to shrink a little and you are stuck with that fact. There are 2 methods that I have seen used. 1 is to overlap slightly, let it dry out and shrink and then sand the seams even. The other is to butt them, or leave a slight gap, let it dry out and shrink, then fill the gaps. The best stuff for filling the gaps, that I know of, is something called Red Devil One-Time, it's a light weight non shrinking filler and with a bit of work with a wet knife, you can make the seams invisible.
hope that helps
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Thanks for the help everyone!!
Fraser.
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I guess 1-1.5 day's work for a plasterer. Depending where in the country, I would expect you'll pay 100-200/day plus materials (which cost very little).

No, providing it's not in danger of pulling off.

At a day's work, you may find you are below the minimum a plasterer will be interested in taking on. If you are likely to need anywhere else doing too, lumping it in to the one job might improve your chances of finding someone willing to turn up.
--
Andrew Gabriel

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Andrew Gabriel wrote:

London.
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Ouch, quite expensive. Sounds like the backing paper might be a better option for me. A friend did mention to me that it can be hard to get someone out for a small job. Given the hastle involved, I think I'll go with the paper. I can get it over-and-done-with this weekend that way.
Mind you, given the cost, I'm considering talking a skimming class at a local college or something. Would likely be much cheaper, and a useful skill to have. Will check that one out tonight.
Thanks for the help!
Fraser.
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there is a polycell plaster repair filler which is pretty good at covering problems...
I always paint the walls with a cheap white paint, this shows up the problems, fill all the bits, then paint it again with the cheap stuff just to make sure its ok, then paint it for real...
I would suggest just filling the really bad ones, sanding the wall by hand (i found it quicker than an orbital sander? and you get a flater finish because your not just sanding little areas at a time) just to remove any lumps, then use lining paper.... then paint..
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flatter surface when it dries. The paper doesn't hug the wall quite so much.
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Cool. At the moment, I think I'm pretty much at the lining paper stage already from your description. I've already done quite a few fills, though there are some ones that were missed or need a little more work.
None of the transitions between fix and original plaster are greater than 1mm though. Would backing-paper cover that without much preparation? Would the extra coats of PVA suggested by Stuart make this even less noticable?
Cheers,
Fraser.
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You might want to think about the walls a bit before applying all this PVA and multiple test coats of cheap paint.
I think you said the building was 100 years old and the walls were coated with lime plaster. I imagine there is also no cavity. This means that your walls are likely to benefit from being allowed to breathe. Layers of vinyl will not assist porosity.
Mind you, one advantage of cheap emulsion is that it may not be a vinyl paint. Trade paints are apparently available for applying to fresh plaster, and these are not vinyl based for just that reason. I would not think that lining paper would present a problem in this respect.
--
Charles Lamont

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Fortunately, there is a cavity; the plaster walls are attached to the brick with a cavity of about one inch. This seems well ventilated; you can feel draughts at the back boxes when it's windy outside.

Will look into this; currently getting a couple of skim quotes for the work, to see how that compares to other options.
Also, I didn't go for the cheapest emulsion, got the "middle" priced one. ;-)
Cheers for your suggestions,
Fraser.
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