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Making Lath and Plaster Walls Look Nice

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Save my sanity! I bought an old house built in the 1930's, The walls are originally lath & plaster. The kitchen, living room and family room all have cheap, old, tacky paneling. What can I do to make my walls look nice? One room has the paneling painted and it also looks tacky. Putting up new walls sounds expensive as I am told most of the lath & plaster will fall out and simply have to be removed.

Debbie from Ontario, Canada

Recent Answers

Here are the recent answer to this question.

By Martin the Handyman (Guest Post)07/08/2008

Don't be lazy; remove the old lath and plaster walls 100% down to the studs, then put up new, 5/8" drywall, preferably with insulation (for noise control). It's not as hard as you may think, and it's worth the effort in the end. Covering the existing walls with new drywall will reduce the available space in your room as well.

By Jake (Guest Post)01/24/2008

BAD Advice! Any job worth doing is worth doing right. Get rid of the paneling. Get rid of the furring strips. Either patch the drywall using drywall mud (commonly known as joint compound), or attach drywall directly over the plaster wall. I would recommend the latter if the plaster wall is too far beyond repair, i.e. big holes and missing lath. You may also want to go to Finehomebuilding.com and post on their website under the coffee break area. That way you can get alternate advice from builders other than me. Good Luck!

By mary. (Guest Post)01/21/2008

Please let me know about lath and plaster. Can I put vapor barrier over the lath and plaster then dry wall it. Will this cause moisture to gather - I do not want that, or should I just drywall over it. My baseboard to about 3/4 ", so I would have some baseboard left if I put drywall up?

By Krystal02/05/2006

You can always use drywall mud to fill in the grooves in the paneling and paint over the walls (make sure you primer them good before painting), or, do what I did in my mobile home and use drywall mud and cover the whole wall, not completely smooth, but not really textured, then sanded lightly to take off any 'peaks', then primered and painted it a warm yellow with a burnt umber glaze hand rubbed over it. The walls look great and you'd never know it's paneling underneath! Everyone tells me I should do it for a living now!

RE: Making Lath and Plaster Walls Look Nice

By Dean (Guest Post)01/17/2006

Hi,Maybe you could attach sheet rock directly on the old paneling with sheet rock screws,then tape and use joint compound to fill screw holes and where the seams of the sheet rock butt against one another.Sheet rock comes in 4 foot widths and 8,12 and 16 foot lenght.Much easier job and less expensive than ripping out the old wall.

By Pattie Hartley [1]01/16/2006

I live in a mobile home that is mostly paneling. I painted my sons bedroom a light blue and didn't like the looks of it that much. I took a dark blue color paint and a feather duster and lightly touched the darker paint on the walls. I now love it and so do they. I think what we don't like about painted paneling is at first glance you can tell that is exactly what it is. If you do some kind of faux finish to it is gives depth that distracts from the paneling. My sister also rag rolled her paneling and it turned out great. Maybe try to do something on a part of the wall that is already painted. This way you won't be out a lot of money for paint. If you like it you could continue on. If you look at your local paint store they probably have reduced "oops" paint that was tinted the wrong color for someone. A lot of times you can get this paint for a couple of dollars.

By Paula [14]01/16/2006

I lived in an old farmhouse that had the same thing on the walls, when we tore down the ugly paneling we found a huge mess behind it. Junks of plaster missing, crumbly plaster falling out, it was a disaster. My only suggestion would be to do one room at a time, take off the paneling and expect the worst, you may have to remove all the plaster and drywall the walls. OR, get used to the painted paneling look, I did paint all the remaining paneling and it did look "better" and I got used to it. I also spackled the grooves and wallpapered over the paneling in the dining room and that looked okay. Might I suggest that you take a look at Sandra's faux rock wall that is pictured on the home page on the right hand side, that may be a good solution for your plaster walls with cracks or crumbly spots.

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