Repairing plaster in your home can be a time consuming hair pulling process if you allow it to be. It can also be an incredibly expensive proposition if you are not careful. For this reason alone many people elect to skip the process of repairing plaster that is likely to face additional problems in the future in favor of installing dry wall or some other type of building material for their walls.
The good news is that there is a way you can restore the appearance of old plaster without actually needing to go to the hassle that is involved with actually using plaster. For me, the idea of not having to go through the entire process of installing plaster is an option well worth considering as plaster is a time consuming proposition in and of itself.
Repairing Plaster without Plaster
For those who have no experience with plaster, this is probably the best way to go. Plaster is after all a rather specialized material that is best left to the experts in my humble opinion (I imagine you can smell the fear and you are correct, I have been avoiding replacing our lighting for fear of replacing all the plaster that will be dislodged in the process but I digress).
For long cracks in your plaster, you can begin by applying two strips of paper drywall tape. You can find this in any home improvement store quite easily and cheaply as a matter of fact. Once you have covered the cracks with tape, sand them down so that they blend in with the texture of the wall.
You can also elect to use joint compound, also found widely and inexpensively at local hardware stores. Unless you have a huge amount of small holes that need filling in your walls and plan to do them all in one feel swoop (or at least within a reasonable time frame), I recommend getting a small amount of joint compound. This substance dries out quickly, which prevents it from being effective for very long.
You can fill small holes with joint compound and perhaps a small piece of drywall to use up space depending on how large the small hole is. It may take a couple of passes with the joint compound in order to fill the hole completely and once that is finished you will need to sand the compound to match the surface of the wall.
Once you have finished quickly repairing your plaster, it is a good idea to paint so that the walls have a uniform appearance. Be sure to thoroughly clean the walls and prime them well before painting. Older homes are traditionally the only homes you will find a great deal of plaster in so there may be years or a century or two, worth of dirt and grime to remove before painting. The cleaner the walls, the better the paint will bond to the surface.
I admit it: repairing plaster is much easier when you cheat just a little bit. It is also much more affordable and just as aesthetically pleasing as using actual plaster to repair the damage would have been. Often times when it comes to improving your home, a little bit of work and effort can bring as much value as doing things the more difficult way.