Removing plaster from wood paneling
August 27, 2012 9:44 AM   Subscribe

What is the quickest/easiest way to remove, what seems to be, a very thin layer of plaster that was applied over wood paneling.

In the midst of removing wallpaper from what is to be the guest/craft room in my house, I discovered that the wallpaper was attached to a very thin layer of plaster or joint compound. I further discovered that this was done over wood paneling (I assume to give the wallpaper a smooth surface to which to adhere).

I happen to adore the look of painted wood paneling, so instead of painting the thin layer of plaster (which I doubt would actually work as it tends to flake off as I remove the wallpaper adhesive) I'd like to remove this layer and get to the wood paneling. What is the easiest and/or quickest way to accomplish this? Plain water and a putty knife? Some sort of specialized removal agent and a putty knife? Something else (and a putty knife)?
posted by eunoia to Home & Garden (4 answers total)
If you really like wood paneling, then it would be easier to just remove the old paneling and replace it.
posted by amro at 9:46 AM on August 27, 2012

Woah! Stop.

Either drywall over that mess, or put up new paneling.

If you have nothing but time and love a big mess. then scrape away.

Plaster and wallpaper over paneling is a whole, separate thing and I don't think there's a special removal agent for this kind of project.

I remember that in the early '90's the prescription for dealing with paneling was to put a bead of caulk in the troughs in the paneling. So...who knows what that stuff actual is anyway?

Another thing you might want to do is to put up an anaglyptic/pattered wallpaper, THEN paint over it.

Don't ever do more work than you have to.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:54 AM on August 27, 2012

Best answer: My experience with this is that there is a difference between work and mess.

If the plaster is actually gypsum-based joint compound, then it will wash off with a spray bottle and a good scrub brush. You wouldn't need to scrape. You can test this on an inconspicuous area in a corner somewhere. If it was put up anytime in the past 25 years, my money is that you have joint compound on the paneling.

That will be a big mess, but in my mind will be FAR less actual work than tearing it out or paneling over it all. On the one hand, you will have watery gypsum slime everywhere that has to be wiped and mopped up and a sore elbow or two. On the other, you will have the dust and labor of getting the sheets to the room, cutting them to size, and finishing off the whole thing with the subsequent mashed fingers, splinters, and muscle aches of a job like that.

I would test it. Make sure you don't saturate the wall - paneling will start to buckle and split if it is too wet. Just take a good spray bottle with hot water in it, spray a 1 foot section, let it sit for a few minutes, and then spray it again. Now take a scrub brush to it and see what happens. Scrub, then wipe with a rag. Be sure to keep a bucket of hot cleaning water at hand. If you decide to go at it, make sure you mask the floors to keep the gypsum goo off them.

I seriously doubt that it is lime plaster. Most people don't know how to skim coat with a real plaster anymore, and anyone who does wouldn't put it over a paneled wall. It is too much work and expense for such an unstable substrate.

Once you have most of it gone, let the walls dry out for a day or two and then prime the wall with a latex primer and paint away!
posted by Tchad at 10:21 AM on August 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

I dealt with a wall where someone had put joint compound over wallpaper. A spray bottle full of water, a scrubby brush and lots of rags did the job. It was very messy. I was using a wallpaper scorer at the same time, and that did seem to help in the areas where it was really built up.
posted by Ostara at 10:25 AM on August 27, 2012

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