I wanted to start out saying that my recent trip to New York was very productive. I was able to stay in Bay Ridge in Brooklyn and commuted via the subway to the Javit Center on W. 34th St. in Manhattan, to the Buildings

New York show that was going on there. I was able to meet some new people and also saw some folks who had recently been to the National Hardware show, in Las Vegas. Several who were in attendance are subscribers to this magazine and it was very good to visit with you. At the show I was able to get the latest on two things that were of interest to me in particular, namely mold and lead abatement.

August marks a deadline for the city of New York to "get the lead out"-literally-from all wall and ceiling surfaces. From the mood at the show, it was causing quite a stir. Just before I left the Big Apple I was able to stop in and have lunch at 25 Columbia Heights with several plasterers that I had worked with in Brooklyn Heights back in the early '80s. Always nice to talk over old times.

This month, I wanted to respond to some letters.

Gigantic plaster

"I just went on a call to price a plaster repair job. This house is huge and the couple want to start with one room. This room has wood lath and plaster. The plaster is horsehair basecoat and smooth finish coat. On one wall, the plaster has been partially removed due to excessive cracking. It comes off the wood lath rather easily. The remainder of the room has a lot of check cracking all throughout. I recommended that he remove the plaster completely down to the wood lath, and I would price coming in and doing new plaster over the old wood lath. Now I am thinking it would be better to remove the wood lath, and install blue board and veneer coat plaster. What do you think?"

Mark C.

MEC Drywall & Plastering

Greenville, S.C.

Many older homes have problems with the plaster becoming loose over time. This can be caused by vibration from heavy construction in the area, trucks that rumble through the neighborhood, or by a plaster that was over sanded originally and has weakened over time. Whatever the cause, I agree that it might be best to remove the plaster. However, I wanted to give you a few more ideas that may work, as well.

The first idea is to use 1/4-inch gypsum board over the entire surface of the cracked plaster. If the plaster is sound and just has cracking, this may be the way to solve the problem. Using construction adhesive and screws to install the board over the plaster will help stabilize and secure the plaster in place. Another idea is to clean off the wood lath thoroughly and hang 1/2-inch board right over it. I like to leave as much of the structure in place as possible, to preserve the historicity of the building.

This is not always possible but it may work where the thickness of the wall or ceiling is not an issue. If it is, your idea of removing the wood lath and hanging blue board and using veneer plaster over it would be a good way to go.

"Just thought I'd drop you a line about some e-mails that have been going around about a past Walls & Ceilings article of yours. It's even got me wondering. The magazine is read by tradesmen-not do it yourselfers. This is how we make a living. Teaching drywallers, painters, etc., to plaster to enhance their business is one thing. Teaching homeowners to do it themselves belongs in This Old House magazine. Tradesmen think you should have been telling the homeowner to hire a plasterer. There ain't no pot of gold if there ain't no work."



"Robin, I have to say I agree with Al from Ohio that you should be recommending homeowners to find a competent subcontractor instead of trying the job themselves. As has happened many times to me, homeowners request a bid then he decides to do it himself, which I don't mind but 90 percent of the time he winds up calling me when he realizes he bit off more than he could chew and wants me to repair the mess.

"What really frustrates me is they complain the price is actually higher than the quote because the extra time needed to remove their mess and redo the job. I have actually had people watch me for an hour or two and tell me they think they can handle the job themselves."

Larry A.


L&L Stucco

I thank Al and Larry for their letters. I understand and appreciate their points that they make. In reply, I want to make a few observations.

To start, my overall goal has always been to promote the plastering trade. I have found a lot of interest from professionals, as well as DIYers and homeowners. In fact, I have been appearing for many years at home shows and have found a huge amount of interest from the audiences, mostly made up of homeowners. At one recent show in St. Louis, I learned a lot. Here are some of the things I found out:

Exhibit and promote

First, homeowners who are interested in learning how to do the work themselves are the type of people who are not going to hire a plasterer to do the work. At the show, I was showing a plaster repair kit that is designed for people to do small repairs themselves. This was perfect for these types of consumers. However, for every person who bought a kit from me, there were 100 others who felt they would not be able to do the work themselves. Now, here is what's interesting: Here's this huge show, with 85,000 people coming through-and not one plastering contractor set up exhibiting. And believe me, the interest in having jobs done was there-we counted at least 200 people who came up and asked if we could do repairs to their homes. It was kind of funny that two plasterers came through the show and said, "You're killing our business in St. Louis by selling these kits!" I think they should have been in a booth instead of walking the show.

So, here's my take on it: I feel I'm raising awareness about plaster. Most people don't even know that plastering is an option anymore. Most choose drywall finishing because they think plaster is "dead." That's reality. So I felt that being at the show actually promoted plastering overall. I will say that the Plasterers' Union of St. Louis had a great display at the show, which showed people the options of different types and styles of plastering. But where were the plastering contractors?

This was a golden opportunity to meet the customers who really were interested in getting plastering done. I don't appreciate hearing that there's "no work" out there. Sometimes, one just has to learn that marketing his company's skills effectively is the key to staying busy. This was definitely the type of show that smart plasterers try and exhibit at. Raising awareness on the plastering trade and what it has to offer would have been a great angle to pursue at this show for a local plasterer.

People who want to do the work themselves are going to do it themselves. But they are the minority. The majority of people are interested in having it done. Why, even when I did the stage shows at this event, most of the people who came to watch me demonstrate plaster repairs said at the end that they really felt that it would be best to have someone else do the work.

I thank you again for all the e-mails and letters that you've been sending in. Keep them coming! The winner for this month's W&C and Plaster Man T-shirt is Jerry Pozo. Just e-mail me your name and address and you're entered. Until next time, Plaster On!