AdvicePainting and decorating

Plaster Repair Before Decorating

Home decoration can cover a multitude of sins, as anyone who has ever bought a wallpapered home will have discovered. Stripping back the wallpaper with a steamer can be a satisfying task, but it can also make you wish you had never started, especially when it appears that the wallpaper was actually holding the fabric of the wall together. Cracks and crumbling plaster are a common discovery when we strip back the wall coverings, but is it best to fill quickly and get the wallpaper back up again, or should you see it as a sign that some major work is needed, in the shape of plaster repair?

The main thing to remember is that your house will always move over time. So cracks, lumps and bumps can appear on the walls without anything being terribly wrong.

plaster repair

Image source: Padurariu Alexandru

Smaller cracks in the plaster are very normal and can simply be skimmed over or filled if the rest of the plaster is sound. This is a plaster repair job you can do yourself, although you are unlikely to get as smooth a finish as an experienced plasterer. Covering the walls once again, with lining paper or wallpaper, will cover most of your work in any case.

Even larger cracks can just be a sign of the plaster on a stud wall coming away from the wood in the wall. You may need a professional to come in and reattach the plaster to the wooden lath, but this should not be a major job to complete and tidy up. The same is true if you have plasterboard that is damaged or has a hole knocked in it.


That said, there is always a chance that the lath behind the plaster is damaged in some way, perhaps by damp or by the movement of your home. This can especially happen in places where additions to the building have been made. If this is the case then this may need replacing or more extensive plaster repair work undertaking.

mending wall

Image source: Breather

Most modern homes’ internal walls will be non-load bearing stud walls made from wood and plasterboard. But many homes will also have several brick or block walls to bear weight and to divide the property up. A simple knock on the wall should tell you which kind of wall you have, with a solid wall not having the hollow resonance of a stud wall. These walls will usually be sound and any plaster on them will only need a light touch up before you re-paint or hang new wallpaper.

If you find your internal brick or block walls are damp, crumbling or breaking up then you should call a builder in to look at them. The damage may be cosmetic, but it could be a sign of another problem, such as structural issues, water damage or damp. It’s always best to get this checked over before continuing with any decoration work.

In nearly all cases it will be sufficient for you, or your tradesman, to simply fill up cracks and skim a new coat of plaster on to match the old surface before any decorating takes place. This can even be avoided if your walls are in fairly good condition anyway, as the filler will prevent further damage and will be hidden by whatever wallpaper you use.

However, if you simply want to paint onto plain walls then you should consider getting a good job done by a professional plasterer. If there has been lots of filling over the years then you might find out that you will need to strip away the old plaster and have a completely new surface applied in order to get back to something approaching a smooth, true surface. This can be costly, but it will improve the appearance of your walls immeasurably, as well as giving you a new start to work from.

patching plaster

Image source: seier+seier via Flickr

Of course, if you want to simply have exposed brickwork in your home then you will need to tidy that up as well. But you will often find that a slightly under-cleaned brick gives the best vintage look in any case.

Need some professional help with plaster repair? Find a qualified and trusted Plasterer or Renderer on Rated People. You’ll be able to view their individual profiles, complete with previous customer recommendations, to help you decide who to hire.

Iain Aitch

Iain is a London-based writer who works as a journalist for a number of newspapers and magazines. He has also written two books, one of which is a hilarious lexicon about Britishness – Iain is a Brit through and through!

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One Comment

  1. Had a leak in the roof several years ago which was fixed but then had a large wardrobe against the wall for at least 15 years and the plastdrwork has “blown” is this a sign that the damp is still in the wall.
    Thank you

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