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Community and Q&A

Plaster wall replacement on a 1890’s brick home

Cpros55 | Posted in GBA Pro Help on

Thank you for creating such a great site, it has been such a help for me as a first time home owner. 

I recently purchased an old brick 2 flat in chicago. The interior walls are all plaster over lath and in good condition, with the exception of one room. A previous owner put up wood paneling in the 1960’s in one of the bedrooms. The paneling is backed with some sort of felt paper that I assume is used as a vapor/moisture barrier and this was put right over the old plaster. Well the other day I discovered a small exterior window that I hadn’t noticed previously. The window was in very bad shape and needed to be replaced.  It turns out that they paneled over the window. I took the paneling off the walls and the plaster behind it just crumbled and fell to the ground. I’m assuming the paneling and felt didn’t allow the walls to breathe which caused the deterioration. My initial idea was to put in some rigid foam insulation, possibly with a small air gap between the bricks and then add drywall. I’ve been seeing in some of the questions on here that that may not be a great idea. The second Idea I had was to put some cement board directly over the lath as some sort of plaster substitute, I figure it is moisture resistant and may have a similar breathability to plaster. I have never actually heard of this being done so I’m hesitant to go down that road. I’ve seen on the website that the best solution would be to insulate the exterior of the wall and put up some siding or something. This however is not possible because the house was built directly on the property line so anything I add to the brick would be encroaching on my neighbors property. Any ideas for solutions? Again it is just one room, and the wall needing replacement is about 16 feet wide by 9 feet tall. 


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  1. Expert Member
    Akos | | #1

    I've fixed a couple of older cracked plaster walls by covering it with 1/4" drywall. If you have larger baseboards, you can drop the drywall right on to the top edge without removing them. This is in an uninsulated double brick house. No issues even in a bathroom.

    If you want more insulation, assuming existing 3/4" strapping on the brick, you can cross strap the wall with 2x3 on flat and spray foam. The 2" of spray foam gives a decent R value boost and usually not too much to cause trouble with the bricks.

    I would stay away from non SPF solutions.

  2. GBA Editor
    Peter Yost | | #2

    Can you include any photos?

    I am assuming that your building has a structural brick wall assembly rather than brick veneer?

    Hard to give good guidance or suggestions without more info on the configuration of your exterior wall, from outside to inside face.


    1. Cpros55 | | #3

      Here are some pics. This is not a brick veneer, it’s at least 2 bricks deep with about a 2” furring strip holding up the lath and plaster

  3. GBA Editor
    Brian Pontolilo | | #4

    Hey, it would be great to get your name...

    The photos are difficult to read. It looks like you have a double brick wall and the wood lath is fastened to the brick with nothing in between. Is that correct?

    1. Cpros55 | | #5

      It’s Chris,

      Yes it’s double brick with some furring strips and lath.

  4. Cpros55 | | #6

    Basically I’m just looking for the best way to cover these walls that won’t ultimately damage the brick

    1. Expert Member
      Akos | | #7


      This is a classic case of chicken or the egg. Did the plaster go bad because of the paneling or the paneling was put on because the plaster was in bad shape. I would bet it is the 2nd case.

      There is not much that will damage brick except for water and freeze/thaw. The only way to get there is by adding in too much insulation and not controlling moisture well.

      If you leave the wall uninsulated, there is little chance of brick damage. Like I said earlier, you can patch it with 1/4" drywall. The wall in the picture is plaster that was in bad shape, the whole wall was covered with 1/4" drywall, drywall was mostly glued on. Been there for 6 years now without issues.

      If you have larger missing section of plaster, it is best to fill it in with some drywall+one coat of durabond otherwise the wall will be "soft" in those areas.

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