Back in the day, most pre-war homes were constructed using wood lath and three coats of plaster. The construction was very labor intensive and took an extraordinary amount of time. It was necessary to hire a skilled plasterer to make sure the plaster was properly applied and the maintenance was a bit overwhelming for homeowners.
When World War II was over, there was a huge surge in America for more affordable housing. The U.S. Gypsum Company (USG) had invented gypsum board (sheet rock) way back in 1916. Unfortunately, American builders did not begin using it for another 25 years because the material was first created in smaller tiles. Soon after builders saw its versatility and began ordering it, it was produced with a larger, single layer of compressed gypsum sandwiched between two sheets of heavy paper.
Gypsum board became a durable surface that could be screwed or nailed to studs of any structure at half the cost of plaster and at twice the speed. Since it was not wet like plaster, it could be painted right away and thus got the nickname “drywall.”
Originally, plaster walls were a great choice because they were extremely thick and that provided excellent insulation for the home. The plaster was usually applied onto horizontal strips of wood, called lathe, and as it oozed through the spaces on the backside, it dried. The excess plaster hardened into the firm foundation that holds up the remaining layers.
Whenever plaster is present, there are typically three coats of plaster around 7/8″ thick, and then there’s the 1/4″ wood lathe that supports the plaster. Just for comparison, today’s most common gypsum board measures at only a 1/2″ thick. Today, it’s costly to have a full 3-coat plaster wall installed, but if your home already has old plaster walls that have not been maintained well, there’s an easy fix to cover up unsightly cracks and holes.
These days, when renovations occur, older homes usually gutted to the studs so that new drywall can be installed to replace the existing plaster, but the demolition work is expensive and takes an extraordinary amount of time. It’s faster, cheaper and easier to just cover over the plaster with an adequate amount of drywall and paint. It’s best to hire a professional who can handle both painting gypsum board and plaster to do the job.
Most professional contractors have great expertise, but finding one that has experience with covering plaster and managing older home renovations may be a challenge. Be sure to hire someone who has had experience with aging plaster walls, as well as more modern construction. Painters that specialize in painting gypsum board should be equipped with the proper tools to create a smooth finish on the walls of your home. Whether your plaster walls need repairing, or maybe just a fresh coat of paint, please contact us today for an estimate – we’ll be happy to help make your home look amazingly beautiful, either way!