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Old 08-08-2010, 01:36 PM   #1
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Patching plaster around light switches


I've got a 130 year old house - most of which is original plaster walls. They guys who rehabbed it put in a number of electrical outlets and light switches where there apparently weren't any previously.

Problem is I think the guy who cut the holes in the plaster must have been partially blind! Almost every hole cut was uneven and wider than it should have been. After putting in the socket/switch, they filled in the extra with caulk - I found this out when I went to paint the walls and when I took off the covers the caulk came with. So now I have gaps between the edge of the cover and the wall - most are about 1/2 - 3/4 inch.

What would be the best way to fix this? Paintable caulk? Spackling?

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Old 08-08-2010, 01:48 PM   #2
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Patching plaster around light switches


Definitely spackle, but I would use the powder form typically called a setting compound, you can get it in a bag from Home Depot or Lowes. It dries quicker and it's a bit stronger. Also pick up a little bucket of typical joint compound.

Mix up the setting compound and then go around your house smearing it between the box and the wall, just be careful with the metal blade around the electrical boxes.

After it's dry you can use the pre-mixed joint compound to give it a second coat, maybe even a third to make it pretty.

Or you can just go and buy a bunch of "goof plates" from the electrical aisle, they make oversized plates for this exact reason.

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Old 08-08-2010, 03:51 PM   #3
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Patching plaster around light switches


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they filled in the extra with caulk
Hate when that happens...might have just as well done nothing. Proby is right but I would also recomend using mesh tape as well.
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Old 08-08-2010, 04:02 PM   #4
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Patching plaster around light switches


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Hate when that happens...might have just as well done nothing. Proby is right but I would also recomend using mesh tape as well.
If he uses tape, he will have to build that area up quite a bit then feather it out. This might make it a big project, especially if he isn't well experienced at taping. If he doesn't feather it perfectly and go around the entire box, you will see the uneven wall behind the flat cover plate.

Setting compound is nice and strong, I believe he should be fine if he applies it liberally between the box and the wall, this will allow him to make a flat patch which is easier to do.
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Old 08-08-2010, 05:43 PM   #5
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Patching plaster around light switches


True, but it may crack in time..mesh at least is flat
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Old 08-08-2010, 05:55 PM   #6
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True, but it may crack in time..
It may, but it's unlikely. I do a lot of work in older houses with plaster and lath which sometimes just breaks right out, so I do this process pretty often. I've never had a call back for it.
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mesh at least is flat
Mesh is still applied to the surface which will require everything around it to be built up. When you put a flat cover plate over it you'll see where a mound is, so you'll have to go around the entire box and then feather it in.
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Old 08-09-2010, 08:58 AM   #7
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Patching plaster around light switches


The caulk residue may cause problems with the mud regardless what kind you use. You may need to trim out the dw a little and use some kind of backer then apply your mud. I agree, the feathering can be tricky at wall plates. Go all the way around the fixture even where there is no gap in order to make the plate fit fush all the way around.

I think I would kill the power. Wet mud and eletrical does not make a safe combination.

Finish coat the mud with regular or lightweight finishing mud. Prime and paint with same kind of primer and paint as you used up to this point and the same nap roller.

Sometimes it is hard to figure these things out without seeing it for ourselves.

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Old 08-14-2010, 09:59 PM   #8
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Patching plaster around light switches


Merely packing compound (even setting type) around the box is asking for cracks down the road. Any repairs should be taped. Mesh will require the use of setting compound for at least the first coat. It does lie flatter since there's no mud under it as there would be with paper tape.
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Old 08-14-2010, 11:19 PM   #9
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Patching plaster around light switches


I definitely agree with using either paper and mud or mesh with a setting compount. I assumed one or the other was being used.

I still say to finish coat with reg or lightweight mud.
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Old 08-15-2010, 11:59 AM   #10
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Patching plaster around light switches


I always use regular ready-mix for a final skim (sorry, I'm not a fan of the lightweight muds). It gives a better finish.
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Old 08-20-2010, 12:32 PM   #11
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Patching plaster around light switches


I haven't read all the replies and don't know if you've finished doing this, but on my house, built in 1915, I've added outlets, etc and the best way I've found to solve this is with Plaster of Paris mixed with a little drywall mud. The plaster won't crack, dries rock hard and should provide a stable patch without messing with tape, etc. You might want the tape, but I didn't use it everywhere and I have no signs of cracking on any I did. The drywall mud helps the plaster flow a little better, making it easier to work. If any of the outlets are loose or on exterior walls, you might try some spray foam around the box. Not only will it seal out drafts, but that box will be solid in there. Then dig the foam out enough to get the plaster mix back in there.

Just keep in mind Plaster dries quickly and is tough to sand once it hardens, so work quickly and don't mix more than you can use in a few minutes and leave just enough depression to put a skim coat of drywall mud over the plaster so that you can sand/feather it smooth to match.

Good luck!
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Old 08-20-2010, 03:12 PM   #12
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Patching plaster around light switches


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Originally Posted by Master Brian View Post
I haven't read all the replies and don't know if you've finished doing this, but on my house, built in 1915, I've added outlets, etc and the best way I've found to solve this is with Plaster of Paris mixed with a little drywall mud. The plaster won't crack, dries rock hard and should provide a stable patch without messing with tape, etc. You might want the tape, but I didn't use it everywhere and I have no signs of cracking on any I did. The drywall mud helps the plaster flow a little better, making it easier to work. If any of the outlets are loose or on exterior walls, you might try some spray foam around the box. Not only will it seal out drafts, but that box will be solid in there. Then dig the foam out enough to get the plaster mix back in there.

Just keep in mind Plaster dries quickly and is tough to sand once it hardens, so work quickly and don't mix more than you can use in a few minutes and leave just enough depression to put a skim coat of drywall mud over the plaster so that you can sand/feather it smooth to match.

Good luck!
I agree with you on this. Personally, I use Sheetrock Brand Easy Sand Setting Compound because it dries hard and strong similar to Plaster of Paris, but it is still sandable. I have used this on hundreds of patches and never had an issue.

When the tapers get the Easy Sand into electrical boxes, you can tell that it's not normal joint compound because it's actually hard to break out. I can't see having an issue with it wedged in around the outside of a box, it will be solid.
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Old 08-20-2010, 03:24 PM   #13
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Patching plaster around light switches


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I agree with you on this. Personally, I use Sheetrock Brand Easy Sand Setting Compound because it dries hard and strong similar to Plaster of Paris, but it is still sandable. I have used this on hundreds of patches and never had an issue.

When the tapers get the Easy Sand into electrical boxes, you can tell that it's not normal joint compound because it's actually hard to break out. I can't see having an issue with it wedged in around the outside of a box, it will be solid.
I'll have to keep this stuff in mind next time I go to do a patch on my house. Thanks! Problem is I still have a good size bag of plaster laying around!!
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Old 08-20-2010, 03:33 PM   #14
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Patching plaster around light switches


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I'll have to keep this stuff in mind next time I go to do a patch on my house. Thanks! Problem is I still have a good size bag of plaster laying around!!
They make it in 20, 45, and 90 minute setting time. I usually use the 20 minute, I can make a patch then finish up other tasks and clean up. By the time everything is cleaned up and all the tools are loaded back in my truck, it's setup enough to give a light sand and call it a day.

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