Most homes prior to the Second World War were built with lath and plaster walls, as opposed to the drywall method more commonly used in today's construction. Thin pieces of cedar (called lath) were nailed onto the 2x4 framing, then wet plaster was applied onto the lath in one to three applications.
Depending on the quality of the original installation and the maintenance of the home, such lath and plaster walls, may be in good condition. With adequate maintenance, they may be fully serviceable and usable. In some cases, layers of wallpaper were applied on top of the plaster for decorating purposes. Since that wallpaper contributes to the stability of the plaster in some instances, its removal could contribute to the demise of the wall covering.
While most of us would agree that drywall has numerous advantages over lath and plaster walls. However, certain wall details, such as coved ceilings, are not easily duplicated with drywall. A few lath and plaster contractors do exist, and are available to restore old plaster walls, repair damage, or create the special acoustical effects associated with plaster surfaces. Such plaster work is relatively expensive. However, with continual maintenance it is not usually necessary.
In rooms where most of the plaster is securely attached and damage is restricted to some blemishes and cracks, the following steps will result in a successful job: