How to Repair a Lath and Plaster Ceiling

Written by james cooper
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How to Repair a Lath and Plaster Ceiling
Damaged plaster can be easily repaired. (Plaster texture with peeling paint image by rider from

If your plaster and lath ceiling has holes in it or if it's sagging, you'll need to make some repairs. If pieces of the plaster are missing, you can often see the wooden lath behind the plaster. In this case, your backing is still in place, so you should be able to do the plaster repair on your own without the help of a professional. There are different procedures you can use to fix small holes, large holes and sagging. If the lath is damaged, you should call in a professional to repair the lath underneath the plaster.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Plaster of Paris
  • Water
  • Bucket
  • Trowel
  • Putty knife
  • Paint stick
  • Chemically-set joint compound
  • Hacksaw or power saw
  • Power drill
  • Drywall screws
  • Drywall tape
  • Shop vacuum
  • Spray bottle
  • Latex or acrylic glue with caulking gun
  • Sponge
  • Plywood boards (1/4 in. thick)
  • Polythene plastic
  • Safety goggles
  • Dust mask

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  1. 1

    Replace small holes that are less than three inches in size by applying two or three layers of plaster of Paris. Mix the plaster in a bucket with water according to the directions on the package. Stir well with the paint stick so you get a consistency of peanut butter. Apply the plaster to the hole with a trowel; apply two more coats letting each coat dry between applications.

  2. 2

    Repair medium-sized holes by applying already-mixed, chemically-set joint compound. Apply with the trowel. Once the first layer is dry, apply two more layers, waiting between applications for the compound to dry. It should dry in one to two hours.

  3. 3

    Repair large holes where the lath is showing through by cutting a ¼ inch-thick piece of sheet rock the size and shape of the hole with a hacksaw or power saw. Apply joint compound to the back of the sheet rock with the trowel. Position the sheet rock in place and use the power drill to insert drywall screws through the sheet rock into the lath. Apply joint compound around the edges of the sheet rock and apply drywall paper tape over it. Once it's dry, apply two more coats of the joint compound with the trowel, letting the coats dry between applications.

  1. 1

    Drill a number of ¼ inch-holes every four inches in the plaster ceiling with the power drill. Be sure to do this in the general location of the lath, but don't drill into the lath. Vacuum out any dust from the holes with a shop vacuum.

  2. 2

    Spray water into the holes with a squirt bottle to soften the old plaster. Squeeze latex or acrylic glue with a caulking gun into each hole until you feel it filling the plaster from behind; clean off excess glue with a damp sponge.

  3. 3

    Prop ¼ inch-thick plywood boards covered with polythene plastic under the repaired area as a brace. They should be long enough to reach the floor so they put pressure on the ceiling and push the glued plaster against the lath. Let the glue dry for 24 hours before taking off the plywood supports.

  4. 4

    Seal the holes with joint compound and a putty knife.

Tips and warnings

  • Wear safety goggles and a dust mask when cutting sheet rock.

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