Help repairing walls after a huge plumbing repair

Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

We had a small leak that led to a huge repair job, the former owner put in a bathroom on the second floor and he didn't know what he was doing.

Well, we now have holes in walls and ceilings in three rooms. Our house is from 1931 so we have lath and plaster walls, the ceilings are some type of fiber board with a thin layer of plaster on them. Dh and I would like to do the repair ourselves since we just spent our Christmas and birthday present money for many years on the plumbing work. We mostly do our own repair work if we can. We haven't worked with plaster before.

We have asked 3 people and gotten three answers. Two involved using plaster board (sheet rock) to repair them the third a method of plaster work where you tack the screen used for stucco on top of the lath left around the edges and plaster over that. The walls are 3/4" thick when you include the lath and plaster, the ceiling 1". Here is a photo.

P.S. If you want to vote on the new color the samples are on the wall.

Thumbnail by zenpotter
Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

I would probably vote for the sheetrock approach--if the holes were small then the stucco screen with plaster over it might work, but I think since the holes are so large, I don't think there will be enough support/substance to your walls if you do the plaster over screening. I could be wrong though, if someone who really knows what they're talking about comes along then I would trust them over me!

Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

Thank you, that was something I was wondering about. I have thought about the possibility of adding some lath, but not the amount that is normally there since there will be the screen as well.

West Pottsgrove, PA(Zone 6b)

I'm not surprised you get different answers, there's a bunch of different ways to do this. The trick here is to make the wall flat, obviously...I would use furring strips and sheetrock.

If that room with the plumbing stack is a dining room or living room, I'd consider two layers of sheet rock, and maybe some insulation. I can't tell from the picture if the plumbing is pvc or iron, or both, but pvc is noisy. You don't want to hear drain pipes in a dining room. You have to build up the thickness anyway, and sheetrock is not expensive. Just experiment with scraps to get the right thickness. There's usually scraps at the home deepo near the contractor's exit

Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

The room is a study/bedroom and there is mainly pvc pipes, but some of the old iron is still there. We have some sheet rock scraps already. I like the idea of trying it out ahead of time.

Are the furring strips to nail to or give strength or both?

West Pottsgrove, PA(Zone 6b)

Both, but mostly dimension. You could nail them to the studs to make it possible to use one thickness of sheetrock, or run them perpendicular to the studs, which gives more support between studs. Or both.

After looking at it more closely, I'd consider cutting that wall back to the corner. That way there's only one thickness difference to worry about. Also on the left side of the missing wall, you have to address where the lath stops. Either cut it to the middle of a stud, or double up that stud to have more wood to nail to (or screws).

Any of those colors would look nice; I have room that's pale grey with some blue in it, and it 'goes with' a lot of other colors easily

Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

Thank you for your information. What would your recommend to cut the plaster and lath with to get a clean cut?

West Pottsgrove, PA(Zone 6b)

A beat-up rotary saw that you don't care so much about, Goggles (facemask is better) long sleeves, gloves ...
set the blade pretty shallow for the first pass, maybe deepen the cut a quarter of an inch with succeeding cuts, and go slowly....Count on hitting some nails. At least the ones used for lath are small. You might have to re-secure any loose lath, though.
Or you could go over it repeatedly with new blades in a utilty knife - a lot safer, but very time consuming. It kind of depends on how much horse hair is in the plaster. Maybe you could score it with a knife, then use a wide chisel. As long as you don't crack up the plaster you want to keep.

One more possibility just furr out the studs to the same point as the wall, and sheetrock over the whole shebang.... use construction adhesive and screws of the right length(s). It's a lot easier to finish new joints than to try to match the old, and it would go a Lot quicker!

Madison, WI

We had our lower level remodeled this past year. We wanted to match the finish to the reset of the house, which is
lath with 1/2" plaster over it. Well, the plaster people used some mealdew resistant boards with thiner plaster layer both in the room and the bathroom. We did add a huge access panel with mirror over, which the previous owners did not put in.

Missouri City, TX

I know, I'm jumping in a little late, but circular saw will produce TONS of dust. If you have a recipricating saw (Sawzall), it will make a lot less dust.

I did the circular saw trick on a similar project - I think we were still finding dust 3 years later when we sold the house.

West Pottsgrove, PA(Zone 6b)

For sure... but if you need to cut back to the middle of a stud the sawzall won't help much. And some times the blade will catch, and rattle the wall so hard that the plaster and lath comes loose where you don't want it to. The right blade and the right saw speed are important for this cut with a sawzall.

If you have a shop vac (kind of a must for this sort of thing) have a helper hold the hose in a strategic place while you're cutting, it makes a big difference.

This message was edited Dec 8, 2006 11:32 AM

Missouri City, TX

You are right - if trying to center the cut on a stud, it is going to be a messy dusty job. If it were sheetrock, a utility knife would be the quickest way and a lot less mess.

I have a couple of Roto-Zip saws that might work, but it would be slow going and still create some dust - it just wouldn't scatter it as far.

West Pottsgrove, PA(Zone 6b)

This is not pleasant work, no matter how you do it ! And sometimes the smell of that old horse hair burning is really nasty!

Fremont, CA(Zone 9a)

Cut to the edge of the stud and put another stud next to it, nailing into the existing one. You can even use pieces of 2 X 4 to avoid cutting around electrical and plumbing. This give you a solid surface to attach then sheetrock or other material to.

Beachwood, OH

HI Zen - interesting reading here. I wonder if you've gotten started. I have zero experience on the actual work but thought I'd butt in anyway. Claypa made some really good suggestions - I was struck by the one about double thickness of drywall. Wish we had that for the pipe that runs down our kitchen wall on its way to the septic tank - you can hear water gurgling if the house is quiet - yuck. If you haven't gotten into the dust-making part yet, be sure to turn off the furnace while you are working, and until you clean up. We had some work done in our basement and because of the unusual amount of dust showing up around the house I had the ductwork cleaned and the guy said that either they did drywall work with the furnace on when the house was built or our work caused it but there were piles of drywall dust laying in the ductwork - being re-distributed every time the furnace came on. Next - I second the idea of taking your seam to the corner. Even really good drywallers and mudders can leave a visible seam if the light hits it right. The darker your paint, the more shadow it will throw and the more imperfections will stand out.

I thought I'd do a pleasant little one day project and peel the old wallpaper off my laundry room walls and paint it. 3 days later, picking paper off 1 inch at a time using a rented steamer I found that they had rolled primer a few places on the wall and pasted the wallpaper directly onto the drywall. Even though the guy who came and re-mudded the entire room for us and sanded it did a fantastic job, there were still slight imperfections. I ended up painting a color and then sponging a glaze over it to give a bit of texture. By the way, if you want to check it out and have Angies List in your town to get some referrals from, I thought the re-mudding was very reasonable. I think I paid the guy $180 to do the whole room - about 6 x 8. He remudded all of the walls floor to ceiling, came back and sanded the next day and cleaned up all his mess.

Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

I think I am going to get DH to sit down and write what it is he is doing he will be able to explain it better than I can. Here he is.

I, DH here. Thanks to all who have offered ideas and suggestions. Since I'm a newbie in all of this I've started in the easiest area, one you didn't have photos of. This is the half-bath upstairs (the cause of the the problem-thanks to the former owner and supreme DYIier.) I'm learning where it is drywall to drywall. I enlisted the help of my daughter's boyfriend who has had some experience with this sort of thing, and a good chance to get to know him better. Anyway, I'm close to finishing off this area and have synthesized all of your great input into a plan...probably to be modified when reality impinges on my dream world.

I going to do drywall in the study, the big opening with the pipes. While the double layer might be a good idea, it goes through a study and it is unlikely that the master suite bathroom will be used frequently when someone is in the study. Since we live close to a major airport, we've gotten used to some noise in the house and I hope a draining pipe or two will not be a problem.

In the main floor bathroom, where we have four "smallish" holes in the walls, I'm going to try the metal lath and plaster approach. This area will be the last area attempted.

I picked up a Rotozip as that made sense to me, and I can think of several other projects that I need to do that it will be the correct tool for. I hope to do some test demolition this weekend to see how the cutting of plaster and lathe goes. I especially like PopEmUp's suggestion of adding studs next to the existing stud and trimming the plaster just to the edge of the stud. This will also allow me to get the right depth for the replacement drywall sheets, I hope. The plaster/lathe is an 1/8" greater than the sheet rock so I think this will work well. In addition, I'm not having to saw through nails. Also, I'm going to the corner, as suggested.

I do have a question for you. Daughter's boyfriend said we'd want to take out the plaster and molding all the way to the floor and replace it. I'm not keen about this as we have decent 1930's molding and I can't imagine us getting it out without destroying it. My thinking is I'm most likely going to have slightly vertical visible seams where I mud over the tape, why not have a horizontal one a bit above the molding? For us, it will be behind filing cabinet and desk anyway.

I will keep you posted on how the work progresses, and thanks again for all of the great suggestions.

West Pottsgrove, PA(Zone 6b)

Trim can be removed, carefully, by running a knife along its joint with the wall to separate it from the layers of paint, then use a nail set to drive the nails through the trim so it comes off without breaking. But, it might be trapped in the corners with mitered or coped joints anyway. Any chance there's matching trim available? One advantage to taking out the trim and the wall to the floor is you don't have to finish a joint close to the floor. It's a lot of stooping over.
You mentioned that the plaster is an eighth inch thicker than the rock; you might get thicker sheetrock to make it easier. But I don't know how thick you have. It comes in 3/8", 1/2", and 5/8" most places

Missouri City, TX

I would certainly try to remove the molding. Work slowly and it should come off. Stanley Tools "wonder bar" is a great tool - I have 2 different models - one has several bends in it that allows lifting a sheet of drywall off the floor for nailing. They are thin, but strong.
Driving the nails through is a great idea - if you can find them - depends on how well they patched the holes and how much paint has hidden them.
Glad you have some help.
I think you will enjoy the Roto-zip. Buy LOTS of blades - you will break a few and use the wrong ones a few times before getting the hang of it. Also, if you do not use a straight edge guide - expect a wavy cut. If you are cutting curves - allow NO distractions - the saw will "design" its own pattern - probably one you did not have in mind. Voice of experience - I've burned up 2 and have 2 more now - been using them for 6-7 years, and always buy blades in the multipack. Cut angle iron and bolts with the cut-off attachment. Used on vent holes in a sheet metal roof, etc,

Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

Claypa, Bubba,,

Thanks for the encouragement to take the trim off. I did so last night, successfully. I couldn't find the nails, but all came off fine anyway. Also stripped the plaster and lath off of the whole wall. The Roto-zip worked very well and the dust was reduced by using the shop vac close to the cutting area. The Roto-zip does have a mind of its own and finds its own path, but wasn't a serious problem in demolition.

We are starting to think the industrial flavor of the studs and back of the bathroom lath/plaster has a nice look. Lots of places to set shelves for books and knicknacks. Conduit and medicine cabinet backside at a special touch, along with all of the pvc piping.

I hauled all of the demolition debris to the city solid waste center this afternoon so it is gone, gone, gone. I'll keep you posted...

zenpotter's DH (John)

West Pottsgrove, PA(Zone 6b)

There ya go! You never know 'til you try, sometimes the trim is barely nailed on, sometimes you wonder if they got paid by the nail to install it.

Missouri City, TX

Way to go John!

It seems like a monumetal task sometimes, but once you get "into it" it can be a lot of fun, amazing yourself with talents you did not realize you had.

Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

I'm sorry I can across this thread so late. Have you put new sheetrock on yet ? If not, put some fiberglass insulation, not the kind with paper, around the pipes. Fill in the whole cavity that has pipes. It will deaden the sound. If you want I will give you tips on taping to get the seams completely hide. D-mail me.
Good Luck,

Beachwood, OH

Hey Zen
Why not whip out some big pottery beads to stack up among the studs?

Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

Alyrics, This is Dh's job, I am not making beads for it. I need to make the rest for my sculpture.
Bernie, DH hasn't done the sheet rock in the room in question, he started with the easy room. This one is next. I will have him read this when he gets home this evening.


Missouri City, TX

Any more progress?

Just waiting to see the finished project.


Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

Well we have hired a cabinet maker to custom build some cabinets for the room that the sheet rock is in. The largest project is ready for the sheet rock. It is now wait until DD and boyfriend are back from St. Thomas to help or find another helper. Mainly what is needed now it someone to help hold up the sheet rock for the ceiling then Dh can do the rest.


p,s, Dh is asleep in front of the T.V.

Missouri City, TX

Thank you.

I've helped my BIL - we made some t-braces to wedge the sheetrock in place so we could screw it to the rafters.

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