Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Worley Way

When I bought The Petch House I knew I wanted to restore the plaster, but I had no idea how to do it. I went to a few on-line forums dealing with old houses and I started asking questions. Eventually, I found a guy named Dave at The Old House Journal forum and he gave me some information about plastering. Dave had a house he called The Worley Place. The Worley Place is a beautiful 1890s Victorian and Dave was doing some amazing restoration work on it.

Dave had been taught how to plaster by an old-time plasterer. At first I only got real basic information but I continued to pester him for details. Eventually Dave made up a PDF file with step-by-step instructions on how to plaster. He emailed it to me, or maybe posted it on his web site, I don’t recall, but he did say I could pass the information along to anyone that needed it.

Dave sort of stopped hanging out on the forum, and eventually even his web site disappeared for a while. I posted the link to the PDF file several times for people over at The Old House Web forum. The editors of The Old House Web saw it and asked if I wanted to write an on-line article about plaster repair. I explained that the PDF wasn’t mine, and I didn’t feel right about taking credit for it. At the time, I tried to get a hold of Dave, but his site was not up anymore, so the whole thing fizzled out.

Now that I’m plastering again, I thought I’d make the PDF available to anyone who wants it. Oddly enough, I made another attempt to find The Worley Place web site and it’s up and running again. I didn’t bother to try and contact Dave. It was many years ago that he made the PDF file and I’m not sure he’d remember who I was. I think I’ll send him a link to this post, though.

Anyway, below is the PDF file. This is for gypsum plaster repair, as opposed to the old lime and sand based "Horse Hair" plaster. I have used this method for repairing horse hair plaster, and talked to others who have, and the method works fine. Bearfort of The Carley Brook Farm has rediscovered the lost art of lime and sand horse hair plaster, so maybe if I keep pestering him, he will divulge the secrets on how to do that. After I plaster the bathroom with gypsum plaster I want to learn Horse Hair plaster and use that method in the rest of the house.

The Worley Place Plaster Repair PDF


StuccoHouse said...

The OHJ forum used to drive me crazy on this topic. People in the newer house category used to ask how to to repair their plaster and the responses would launch into the lime based plaster repairs (finding the materials alone can be a bit daunting)...even though it was pretty clear that the original poster had gypsum based plaster.

I suspect many a fine gypsum plaster wall was torn down because the newbie owner was freaked out by the responses they were given. Maybe Dave got tired of being the sole source of wisdom on the topic ;-)

Greg said...

Yes, it is confusing to someone who is new to the whole thing. In fact, when I first started using the gypsum plaster I thought I was doing horse hair plaster. It wasn’t until I mixed up a batch a played with it that I realized I had different stuff than was on my walls. More investigation lead me to lime & sand plaster. Trying to get detailed information for making that is really hard.

mindy said...

Thanks for sharing this, it's a great resource! We've yet to tackle the real-deal plaster repair anywhere - most of our walls had been gypsum-ized or were too badly damaged to bother repairing. A few of our downstairs walls do have nice plaster left, though, and I love the feel of it. I'm sure we'll have a use for the PDF someday.

Kristin said...

Wish I had some plaster to repair! The POs replaced it all with drywall, some many years ago, some right before we bought it to get the house ready to sell. Darn them!
Then again, I'm kinda relieved not to have to make any decisions about whether to repair or demo.

By the way, I noticed at our friends house that she has what I think you call Eastlake doors in her dining room. They're pocket doors with Eastlake hardware. Very cool. Pictures are here:

Greg said...

Hey! How did they get my doors? Tell them I'll be done to get them this summer.

angela said...

this is really helpful! who knew that I had to mix the 2 plasters?!?!? I was under the impression that the structo-lite was the 2 bases and the diamond was the skim layer. Knowing is half the battle!