For whatever reason, homeowners looking to improve their old house can become obsessed with replacing all their interior plaster walls with drywall, even when plaster walls can be repaired. Based on years of mistakes with old house rehabilitation projects, I’d like to offer a dozen reasons to avoid unnecessary replacement of wall plaster with drywall.
1. Installing drywall throughout your house can be just as expensive as repairing all your damaged plaster.
2. Removing plaster creates a lot of dust. It can take months of dusting and vacuuming to remove all this dust from your home.
3. Buckets of broken up plaster are super heavy to carry for disposal. You can injure your back carrying it all out of your house! Sheets of drywall are super heavy. You can injure your back carrying it all into your house!
4. Have you ever had to “fur out” all the window and doorway woodwork and extend electrical outlets to allow drywall installation over existing plaster?
5. When you remove wall plaster, you are removing historic building fabric. In historic preservation, authenticity is everything. Once it’s gone you can’t get that back.
6. Have you ever tried to hang drywall from ceiling joists without a drywall jack? How about attaching drywall to an interior brick wall?
7. Drywall is perfectly flat, but have you known any old house to have perfectly flat walls or perfectly aligned rows of wall studs?
8. Sheets of drywall stacked leaning against a wall can be hazardous for children to play around. With each sheet weighing about 50 pounds, just a few sheets tipping over can smother a small child.
9. Construction waste cannot be disposed of in City dumpsters or in landfills licensed for household waste. Besides having to pay fees for construction waste dumpsters, hauling, and landfill tipping, who wants to create that much waste for landfills?
10. Have you ever tried to carry sheets of drywall through the front door and up the front stairs – only to get stuck at the stair landing to climb the second flight? Most likely the drywall sheets are too large to make the turn.
11. The vintage woodwork removed to hang drywall will never fit correctly when you re-install it over the new drywall. And then only if you miraculously didn’t lose a few pieces of woodwork during construction, and if you’ve meticulously documented where each piece of woodwork must be re-installed. Woodwork never seems to go back correctly. It never fits right the second time.
12. Mold is rarely a problem with plaster walls because plaster is inorganic and doesn’t feed mold. On the other hand, damp drywall is a perfect medium on which to grow mold because gypsum drywall sheets are faced with paper (cellulose) and bound with cornstarch, two organic materials which can easily serve as food sources for mold growth.