Deciding between plaster and drywall is a decision owners of old homes often have to make. The Internet has proven to be a valuable source of information on the subject (1, 2, etc).
The three main contenders are to:
1. save the plaster: neater/tider than gutting, more challenging when things behind the walls need modifications (e.g., electric, plumbing, insulating)
2. remove the plaster + replace with drywall: dirty and hard to live through, makes replacing mechanicals/insulation easier
3. cover plaster with drywall: cleaner than 2, allows holes for mechanical work to be covered up, makes for thicker walls
Before moving into our house we had noble intentions spurred on by way too many nights watching HGTV. We were going to gut it all and replace it all with drywall. Upon moving in we realized that the logistics of living in a house while gutting all of the living space would not quite work with one of us working from home and the other trying to do grad school. We also realized that the plaster did have some nice side effects (noise deadening!).
Saving all the plaster wasn't really a possibility though. The living room had some pretty dodgy DIY patch jobs and we need to replace the electrical which makes saving the plaster more challenging. Our current plan is to drywall over the plaster in the living/dining rooms (we'll post pictures of the electrical holes eventually), gut the kitchen and bath (eventually) and save the plaster in the bedrooms (ie. attempt to repair the plaster holes from electric ourselves).
One thing we realized when cutting the holes for the electrical that we didn't realize when looking at the whole plaster vs. drywall debate is the sheer amount of waste generated by removing plaster and lathe. Given the costs of removing waste in Toronto we realize now, how expensive our original "gut everything" approach would have been. We also realize that in our case removing the plaster isn't required to "do it right". We can put in new electrical by cutting holes and blow in insulation using a blown in insulation product. In the rooms where moisture is an issue we will be removing the plaster and in some cased replacing it with cement board/green board, but for dryer rooms (e.g., living/dining) this just doesn't make sense for us.
Well... this is the plan for now that seems to work for us. We'll see how it unfolds as things progress.
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