The right plaster for Victorian house

Discussion in 'Getting Started FAQ' started by Meganstephania, Nov 17, 2021.

  1. Meganstephania

    Meganstephania New Member

    Hey guys, new here :) (Megan, 28, first home and DIY newbie so need your help!)

    I'm in the process of buying a Victorian end of terrace (circa 1900-1920's) here is a link from Rightmove:

    Okay so, my survey came back and mostly fine, but high moisture readings were found at the rear of the building by the chimney (dining room), but no visible signs of damp anywhere. They also noted that a DPC has been conducted on the exterior wall (what a load of bull right?).

    There is no insulation and the walls are solid brick. So I wanted some advice on how to do this, I am no expert so please pick apart my plan and provide your amazing knowledge:

    I was going to remove any Gypsum plaster I can find from the interior of the external wall. Get down to lime, if this is in good condition I was going to use this method to insulate and plaster: (woodfibre board and onecoat lime plaster)

    Questions about this:

    Can I apply this to the walls beside the chimneys only? I was playing around with the idea of taking the chimneys back to brick and repairing with lime putty but not insulating these. I was going to apply this method on both ground and upper floor rooms.

    Do I need to remove the gypsum plaster from the front and back facing walls also and apply this insulating method? Or can these remain gypsum or simply be lime plastered over with no insulation?

    Can I use gypsum plaster on my interior walls (e.g. the wall between the living room and dining room?)

    Can I use gypsum on my ceilings, these are mostly artex and so am worried about asbestos and so was thinking I should simply plaster over these?

    Do you think the plastic cladding in the kitchen is going to be a problem? Should I rip this out and plaster?


    Once I've sorted the plaster I am going to use breathbale paints and let this old stallion of a house breeeeathheee as intended, again I am a noob at this and I've only made the above plan by reading a heck of a lot. I need you guys!

    I was also going to install more air bricks at the bottom of the house and in the gable wall in the attic, I was also thinking of installing lap vents in the roof and insulating the ceilings and roof with wool. I've got gas fires so will make sure the chimneys are clear and have a capped pot / cowl. Does this sound right and is there anything else I need to be aware of?

    Thank you in advance!
  2. HarryCrumb

    HarryCrumb Member

    I can't give you any expert advice as I'm in a similar position to you (first home/probably know less than you by the sounds of it) but I can share any info and wish you good luck. My house is also a lot older, mid/late 1800's. I have just done a bit of lime plaster repair and I'm glad I did because the house obviously moves a bit. Lime might be slower to work with, but it's more breathable and flexible. The parts of the house where the previous owner has plastered with gypsum all have cracks in them. For now I'm happy to paint over them but it's incredibly tempting to tear everything down and start fresh. It's a lot of work though and it's perfectly dry house right now, so I've decided to live in it a while and devise a long term plan.

    My internal walls don't have any insulation so they do get cold in the winter. This is what I will look at for a future job. I got my lime from EdenHotLime, up in Cumbria, and they have a lime insulation method, though I don't know if it would be right for your house. I will be investigating the wood fibre board that you've mentioned. Also, I'm planning on Using Keim paint as it seems to be very breathable and excellent on lime. I've just realised that they also do render and the video I watched was done by a scouser if that helps... : )

    Peter Ward has an interesting channel all about damp issues, and seems to have a great dislike of the damp industry in general. People seem to get told that they have damp issues when really it's just a case of getting the house back to it's original design and letting it breathe properly, as you say. Checking your sub-floor vents around the outside of the house seems like a good first step, to see if they are blocked, or if the ground level has been raised above them.

    For interesting talks on lime, Nigel Copsey appears to be a good source of info. Remember to wear safety glasses when working with it, and I was told to have vinegar in the house in case I did get any lime in my eye, because it's the best thing to wash it out with.
  3. Meganstephania

    Meganstephania New Member

    Congrats on buying your house! That in itself is such an achievement.

    God how therapeutic is that rendering video?! I don't think I blinked once, so informative and very similar to what I'm planning so maybe... maybe I can do this myself.

    And that damp video is brilliant, I swear if I didn't do my own research I would have fallen prey to the dreaded Damp Proof Course also, what a con that is. I'm definitely going to check all my air bricks as soon as I get now and even follow down some piping and see if they are in suspect areas.

    With you plaster repair you mentioned, was this over the old lime plaster walls and what sort of condition were they in? Did you use lime putty for this or did you do a skim?

    My house is covered in god awful wallpaper, scared to take it down and see the horror (or bliss, fingers crossed) beneath, so hoping I have some decent plaster I can just repair.
  4. HarryCrumb

    HarryCrumb Member

    The one you're looking at/buying looks pretty good in the photos, though I know it's different once you're up close.

    Yeah, the repair I did with lime was upstairs. It's lime plaster on red brick, probably a 20th century addition to my house, and it had lifted away. I probably could have left it but I couldn't resist picking at it. About 1 square metre. About 20mm deep (max). The mortar was dry and powdery so I scraped and brushed it out. I bought a bucket of ready-to-go lime mortar from Eden Hotlime and used that to re-point the bricks, do a scratch coat (10mm) and a float coat (10mm). And he gave a much finer mix for the skim coat, which might have been putty. I had to knock it back a bit with some water before using it. Went on like fondant on a cake : ) two skims, 2mm each.

    I did soak the bricks and surrounding lime plaster for two days before I started. The water gets sucked out of lime quickly and it can shrink and crack. I misted it for a few days after each coat as well so it doesn't dry too quickly. I've still got some mortar left and it will be fine in that bucket for years, but I've been using it to repair bits and pieces around the house.

    Definitely worth having a nice pointing trowel thats narrow enough to push in to the brick work if you get to that point.

    Hopefully you won't have too much to do. I also got a bag of easyfil mix for doing smaller repairs and dings, especially on the internal walls. Try and put it on smooth and flush but it's easy to sand down. First time I tried to do anything like that, I put it on with one stroke, and pulled it all out again with the second stroke. You do get the hang of it though
    Meganstephania likes this.
  5. Oscarthecat92

    Oscarthecat92 New Member

    If it’s 1900s to 1920s it’s likely to be Edwardian rather than Victorian.

    I have a similar house which has gypsum skim on external walls with no issues, which I always found odd. I had always assumed it was solid walls however discovered on core drilling a hole for a new extractor fan it was actually an early type of cavity wall. So wouldn’t necessarily assume it’s a solid wall.

    Other than that your plan sounds good but I’d probably only re plaster where there are issues.
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  6. Sean Stringfellow

    Sean Stringfellow New Member

    Hi, I've got a house pretty identical to this (down the road) when you say damp by the chimney, is this the back room chimney, between the chimney and where the rear window is? If so I had the same as did a neighbour. If you go into the yard and check the boundary wall to next door, where it keys into the wall you'll probably find there'll be holes in the mortar and water could be dribbling down. My neighbour had a builder recommend a DPC but I had a look and found he had the same issue. Just a case of sand and cement the corner of the outside wall. Then letting it dry if it's not too sodden.
    I also took chimneys to bare brick but you'll find theyll be a mess. I basically rebuilt my front one to make it look good exposed which it does. But it's a lot of graft.
    Currently trying to insulate my exterior walls probably with insulated plasterboard if possible and if I can match the coving. Knock on the lime plaster, if it's hollow sounding its done for. It may not even be lime if somebody has replaced it previously with a cement render.
  7. Meganstephania

    Meganstephania New Member

    Thanks so much for your reply, I did wonder if it possibly had a cavity, I then found this link on brickwork:

    So then looked at my brickwork and saw I have short and long bricks so I'm assuming it's solid.... but I will double double check once I get in there, promise. :)
  8. Meganstephania

    Meganstephania New Member

    Hiya, thanks for your reply :) And I believe so, I am asking the surveyor now exactly where he found it, but will definitely be checking the boundary wall now for that problem, thanks for the tip! If it does have holes, is it better to seal them with lime mortar? So it doesn't lock any further moisture in? I've read to avoid cement like the plague!

    Shame about your fireplaces, they must look lovely now though? I've never done brickwork before so maybe I'll avoid pulling them back to the bare wall for now...unless I add that to my ever growing skills to learn haha. With your brickwork, did you simply add this on top of the brick underneath, like an extra layer? Did you do this with lime mortar? (sorry if these are dumb questions, I know nothing of brick ha).
  9. Sean Stringfellow

    Sean Stringfellow New Member

    No sand and cement is fine... You're not repointing the hole house. The big argument with lime is about repointing because it's permeable and softer. Where this problem probably is will be literally water dribbling in and down, so it doesn't matter what you put on it water wont be able to go back up anyway. I don't think you need to worry about lime mortar judging by that houses brickwork as it's all in good nick. Your surveyor will probably say something about damp courses about that patch!
    For the chimneys I put lintels in... Didn't add extra brick I just took brick out and replaced it with stuff from a wall I took out which was the same stuff. Some bricks that were cracked I just turned them round. Didn't use lime, its a single skin and doesn't need to breathe anyway. The trouble with lime mortar besides the faff is it ends up looking pink and a bit lame because of the sharp sand colour. I did consider using it for aesthetics to repoint the whole thing with but in the end I used like a mersey grit and cement to give it a nicer appearance. When I did that back chimney I used an acrow proper because that was really a mess... Unstable. Half actually fell down then... Good job I'd propped it... I can send you pictures if you want
  10. Meganstephania

    Meganstephania New Member

    Yep, you're totally right he did suggest a damp course *rolls eyes* judging by the whole report I don't think my surveyor understands old buildings at all. I don't really but after some research in the past two weeks even I disagree with some of his statements.

    And yes please! I would love to see the progress, don't suppose you have an instagram or a blog that's documenting your reno that I can follow?
  11. Sean Stringfellow

    Sean Stringfellow New Member

    What else did he say? Honestly some of these damp issues are so obvious and they always say breached damp course or needs one. There'll literally just be holes in the wall outside or an overflowing gutter.
    I haven't actually got Instagram although I was going to make one just couldn't be bothered! There's an inbox on this but I don't know how to send messages
  12. Meganstephania

    Meganstephania New Member

    Well he recommended fibre glass insulation in the roof which i'm pretty sure is a no-no, and also didn't conduct examinations on things like the air bricks... just feel like it treated it like a new build almost. Ah, that's a shame, well... if you do start an instagram let me know and I'll follow your progress. Not sure how to inbox on this thing either, tried to follow you even on here and no idea how! This forum design is ancient!
  13. Sean Stringfellow

    Sean Stringfellow New Member

    I can't see any issue with loft insulation though, I'd say it'd be daft not to have any. You also have to take with a pinch of salt some of the things you'll read online. People have their own ideas. If you have air bricks just poke a stick through them. Mine didn't have any but it's survived over a hundred years without.. I've spent plenty of time beneath the floor as well and the wood is good. But I did install 2 more. I've attached a few photos of the state of the chimneys before and after... As you can see they're usually poorly built and take a lot of effort to make presentable. Only the front one I'll be having exposed... And the inside of the rear chimney... I just opened that one up. It's not symmetrical as it previously had the hot water tank. Yours might well be the same

    Attached Files:

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