Archive for April, 2008

Another episode in the How to – Sharing what we’ve learned section:

When we bought our house, all ceilings were covered up with acustical ceiling tile. The tile looked like it was sagging and it made the rooms seem short. There were even two different sizes of tile: larger ones in dining and living room and smaller ones in bedrooms and hallway. We were hopeful before we ripped down the tile, that the ceilings could be in OK shape and that we might not have to do that much restoration. We got lucky in the two bedrooms, as the ceiling joists only span 10 feet. There were some minor cracks and some loose edges around the outside of the house where moisture from icedams probably wore at the lath and nails more. The dining and living room, however, were not in such great shape. Here the joists span 12 to 13 feet which makes a big difference. The previous homeowners had also tried to patch cracks with dry wall tape before they gave up and covered it all up.

To make our ceilings pretty again, we used plaster washers and screwed the loose plaster back up, trying to hit joists in the ceiling. Otherwise, the screw doesn’t have much to hold on to. After that and a thorough scraping, we applied a coat of Plaster Weld and then a self sticking mesh. It’s just like the mesh dry wall tape but it comes in three feet wide. Then two coats of setting type joint compound where we opted for a 240 minute work time. We waited at least a day between coats and knocked down any rough pertruding edges. Last coat was a sanded veneer plaster. The veneer plaster has a pretty short work time so we did small batches and tried to hurry in the application. A. and I would both apply at first and after about half way through the batch, I would switch to smoothing out the plaster with a wet sponge. This worked pretty good but our ceilings look very handworked. If you look closely you can often tell where a new batch started because slightly set plaster met new plaster. Since our walls are very irregular from previous attempts at patching cracks, it works for us. And as my neighbor says “Old houses have wrinkles, just like old people”

I don’t seem to have any pictures of the plaster application. But here is a list of what one would need:


  • Plaster washers
  • Dry wall screws
  • Plaster Weld
  • 3′ wide mesh
  • Setting type joint compound
  • Veneer Plaster


  • Hawk and trowel
  • Other small trowels and taping knife
  • Buckets for mixing, cleaning
  • High powered drill and mixing paddle
  • Tile sponge and smaller sponge
  • Ladder
  • Safety googles (plaster in your eye hurts, cause it has lime in it)

A note about cleaning: When working with setting type joint compound and plaster you will need to clean your tools well in between batches. That includes mixing paddle and trowel and hawk. Plaster will still set up, even if it is submerged in water. Do not use a sink to wash your tools. Instead use a bucket for all your cleaning, when you are done, let the heavy particles settle in the bucket and then poor off the water on top. You can let the bucket sit for a few days or weeks until the sludge becomes dry enough to dump in the garbage.

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