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How to Repair Cracks in Plaster Walls

By: Danny Lipford

Plaster walls in older homes are often plagued by cracks and other defects such as pitting and uneven texture. If cracks are simply filled with spackling or joint compound, they have a tendency to telegraph back through. To solve this problem, apply self-adhesive fiberglass mesh drywall tape over the crack for reinforcement.

Cover the tape with several coats of joint compound to make the crack disappear. Mesh tape also helps prevent a ridge or “crown” from forming over the crack, as is often the case when traditional paper drywall tape is used.

If the walls have an uneven texture or are badly pitted, apply a thin skim coat of joint compound to the entire surface then sand the walls smooth.

To further enhance the look of the walls, an “orange peel” finish can be applied before painting. This is done by thinning the joint compound down and spraying it on the walls to even out any imperfections and give a textured look.


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8 Comments on “How to Repair Cracks in Plaster Walls”

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  • Jay Says:
    April 19th, 2018 at 10:42 am

    Why is that worker spraying without a mask?

    Do I need plaster buttons on vertical walls?

  • carl rubenstein Says:
    March 19th, 2016 at 9:44 pm

    I have walls composed of gypsum lath covered by a base and finish coat of plaster but the finish coat is textured (rough segregate exposed). I have cracks in walls and ceilings. They way I would like to fix this is to remove the finish coat, which is about a 1/4″ thick, tape over the crack and then apply a rough coat of plaster which I can wash out the plaster on the finish to expose the aggregate in an attempt to match the adjacent plaster. What is the recipe for the plaster? Or should I just add sand to taping compound?

  • Karen Burdick Says:
    October 25th, 2011 at 10:49 am

    My bose has me on the hunt for a new product he read about. It is applied to the plaster walls like a wallpaper in long sheets. You can then textured and painted. Any ideas what it is?

  • Tim Gratton Says:
    October 21st, 2011 at 11:00 am

    I just read your entire article on “how to repair plaster” and it was great. I bookmarked the article and made a copy for my files. I didn’t realize that gluing plaster was possible so I never tried it. I used drywall screws without the washers but never liked the results. Lots of info and very user friendly, I used “plaster of paris” as a kid, under 20 but not in 35 years have I ever touched it, I will now though. Thank you very much

  • Tim Gratton Says:
    October 21st, 2011 at 10:17 am

    Hey, my name is Tim and I recently (about 2 months ago) repaired several cracks in plaster walls and ceilings. I cut out all the cracks using a utility knife creating a v notch, I scraped away all of the loose plaster then used a product called “Plaster Weld” (pink color very sticky, while wet/damp I applied “Durabond 5” to the crack and let this dry. I then sanded smooth and applied mesh tape, I then applied two coats of joint compound, waited a day, sanded and primed then painted. Two months later most of the cracks are fine but gradually 3 of the more than 40 cracks I had repaired came back. My success rate is great and overall I’m pleased. but is there something I could do better. Should I use something other than “Durabond 5” or joint compound. All three cracks have re-appeared in the same places on the ceilings? Thanks Tim

  • Jim Says:
    October 14th, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    I don’t think This Old House recommended the system, they just featured it on the TV show. The product is Big Wally’s Plaster Magic. It does work, but it’s also kinda pricey.

    We have been using a similar system for more than a dozen years that requires just the tools and materials you can buy at the lumber yard or hardware store. To see the step by step explanation of how we do it, see How to Fix Loose Plaster.

    Plaster Magic is costly for us because we do a lot of plaster repair, but if you are a newby, then just the instruction are probably worth the price, at least for your first job.

    Anyway, what you don’t do is (1) replace the plaster with drywall (a hanging offense in this part of the U.S.), and you do not drywall over old plaster.

  • Jim Danials Says:
    July 23rd, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    What do you know about the new adhesive system for fixing plaster they showed on This Old House? They also put an article about it in this months magazine.

  • Bernard Gleason Says:
    January 12th, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    You had an article on repairing walls which have been painted, but now after years, have ugly cracks on the walls. However, what do we do about the ceiling cracks? Also, if you use the mesh that you mentioned, I assume you cover that with a layer of plaster and then smooth it all. Do you do the same thing with the ceiling cracks?

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How to Repair Cracks in Plaster Walls