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Lath and Plaster – Tools Required

Now by no means am I an expert at lath and plaster – but I have experience (as the images show) some serious cracks and hence I have some valuable tips to share with you when your renovation adventure takes you down the path of lath and plaster repair.

repairing cracks in lath & plaster walls 

 Do the Right Thing – Don’t cheap out on tools or supplies:

 One thing I learned (besides WWMHD) is that the better the tools, the quicker your work will be, cheap tools make you save money on the front end – but cause frustration on the back end as you find yourself going again and again back to the Home Depot for supplies. I would suggest you get the following items for removing and replacing the cracked plaster.

  • A Hawk or Trowel – you get one of these as its kind of like a painters pallet where you will be holding your mortar / plaster on (I bought a large trowel, flipped it over and used it as a Hawk – quick tip to save money, use tools in multi-purpose fashions as much as possible.
  • Taping Knifes – Two or three different sized Taping Knifes, these look like spatulas from your kitchen but are used to place the mortar / plaster into your hole in the wall. I would suggest getting a; 2”, 4” and 6” set of stainless steel ones.

i.            Don’t get the plastic ones – especially if you have a textured wall – one nick and the plastic loses its smooth edge and you have a useless taping knife.

ii.            Don’t get ones that will rust – as you wash these things off, you will get rust spots on your blade that can mix in your mortar and stain your mortar as you apply it.

 iii.            Also bigger isn’t always better, remember the more plaster you put onto the crack, the more you have to sand and the bigger the chance for a hump on the wall that should have been a small feathered spot where your crack used to be.

  • All in One painter’s tool – This thing looks crazy, bunch of different tools in one, very handy for scraping the crack to remove any loose bits of plaster or mortar from the wall.
  • Drywall Joint Tape – I myself prefer the self adhesive type that is mesh, it has a slight sticky side that you can use to place on the crack to ad stability and strength to the crack repair.
  • Joint Compound – I used the powered stuff (Fast-Set) but there is ready-mixed stuff though I found the ready mix a little heavier to spread than the stuff I mixed from powder.
  • Power Mixer – This is a tool that attaches to your power drill and basically turns your power drill into a huge mix master – you use this to combine the Fast-Set with water to create your joint compound for filling.

** Tip** Don’t get suckered into buying a big honking blade as long as your arm and looks like something you would roast a pig on. You only need one that has small blades, don’t try to use a big huge one with your tiny power drill as you will burn out your motor.

  • A big plastic bucket – you will be mixing your joint compound in this, then transferring the mix (once properly mixed) onto your Hawk or Trowel (flipped over) to then apply to the crack using your taping knife.
  • A sharp knife – I found this (or scissors) to be handy to help cut the Joint Tape to size of the crack.
  • A wash basin or a sink that your wife will not kill you if you make it dirty, believe me this isn’t for a neat freak to attempt, this is dusty gritty stuff and if your significant other does not like a dirty sink – hire someone else to do this or you will be sleeping on the futon.
  • A sanding block with course sandpaper + and one lighter for finishing (because I have a textured wall I don’t need to go to a baby bum smooth texture, I used an 80 grit for initial sanding and went down to a 120 grit for final sanding.
  • If you have textured walls – you will need to have either spray on texture or the type you add to your paint to roll the texture on after completion.
  • Tarp or plastic for all your mess to fall onto (rather than your carpet or nice clean floor) remember this is about avoiding the futon stay.
  • Hammer and chisel – basically if you have cracks you need to open them up and get all the broken plaster out, sometimes there might be decades of paint over top of the crack and hence you need to tap open the area with the chisel and then use the painters tool to scrape out the loose debris.

OK, so you have some understanding of what Lath and Plaster is, you have gone off and purchased or found the tools required to help you get the job done. Now, its about doing it – remember its a learning experience and that Rome wasn’t built in a day. You will find out (like I did) that your first patch is certainly not as good as your third, and by the fifth patch – you will laugh at the quality of your first.


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