The Cross House

Can I Get An Award For The Most-Ever Cracked Plaster Walls?

When one is working on on old house, one expects cracked plaster.

No big deal. You repair the damage and go on.

This weekend I scraped the wallpaper off the walls in the living room. This had been done throughout the whole house in the 1950s, so I was dealing with post-WWII paper. Which had been painted. Hence, the scraping (you cannot wet painted-over paper). The scraping was actually not that bad and I did it in one day. A sharp scraper makes all the difference, baby.

When I was almost done I stood back and was sorta shocked:

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ABOVE: Geez. That is a LOT of cracks! A LOT! Too many! WHAT is going on??????????

I think the cracks on the left were caused by the sinking bay window (out of the image to the left). We fixed that, so the cracks should not reopen after repair. Hopefully.

The cracks over to the right? They were, I assume, caused by the brick structural wall directly below being REMOVED in 1950 so that a second staircase could be inserted to the basement. I know: EEK!!!!!!! This was done when the house was converted into a motel, and six motel rooms were created in the basement. Subterranean rooms do not seem particularly appealing although I imagine that in an age before ubiquitous central air the rooms would have been highly popular in the summer.

I removed the 1950 stair, and infilled the opening-which-should-never-have-been with concrete block. A steel beam is over the opening:

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A part of me yearns to rip off all the plaster and begin Fresh & New with sheetrock.

But another parts refuses to even consider such heresy.

I love plaster walls. A house with plaster walls is acoustically superior than one with sheetrock. Plaster is also a better insulator.

Plaster is also cool. I love the idea that every inch of my walls and ceilings (those which remain) were hand done. Every inch. And likely by immigrants from Italy or Ireland or Germany or Poland.

Ahhhh, if these walls could talk…

…what language would they speak?

8 Responses to Can I Get An Award For The Most-Ever Cracked Plaster Walls?

  1. OMG – they removed part of the structural wall in the 1950’s for motel rooms in the basement? OMG. Good grief. This crazy stuff never ceases to amaze me. I wonder if you know or could find out how busy this motel ever was, back in the day?

    As for your occasional yearning to use sheetrock – no no no – plaster is wonderful and the best and you obviously know that – don’t go to the Dark Side. 🙂 I love plaster, I love radiators (called rads for short in Canada), I love radiator heat – it is the BEST, I love beautiful wood work (your is so so gorgeous – I would caress it, too), I love high ceilings and tall baseboards and big windows…and as I’ve already stated, I COVET having a library. I also really love the texture & look of the brick and plaster in your basement pic – love it.

  2. Hi Ross! Not sure if you’ll see this comment on an older post, but I hope so! Could you please tell me what kind of scraping tool did you use? You said a sharp scraper makes all the difference. I also have plaster walls covered by wallpaper, and then paint, and then drywall spackle texture (ugh) and then more paint. I am having a really hard time getting it off. Thanks!

  3. Ross,
    There’s something very special about real plaster walls! I can walk into a remodeled Victorian and tell at a glance if they ripped all the plaster out and put up drywall! I would only do drywall if I couldn’t afford to re-plaster, but if I couldn’t afford to re-plaster, I probably wouldn’t buy the house. Also, I’ve seen the walls done in drywall and then plain new wood trim added to the doors and windows and I want to scream….WHY? WHY? ARGH! I love what you have done so far!
    Kathy W.

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