Maintaining or refurbishing a period property, whether this be for a complete restoration project or isolated repairs, may well entail the repair of the original plaster mouldings. Whatever the reason for the work; building movement or water damage, subsidence caused by Cross Rail tunnelling or just neighbouring building works, full care to use sympathetic methods and materials must be taken. How and why the works are to be done notwithstanding, the most exciting part of this process is always the rediscovery of the hidden patterns and shapes of the original designs of cornice and ceiling roses.
In order to achieve the highest standard results for such a refurbishment in the most effective manner, the removal of historic paint and decoration is highly recommended. The reasons for this removal being threefold; first, the thickness accrued by multi layers of paint will have vastly diminished the depth and detail of the original enrichment and ornamentation; second, such depth of paint will mask sections of damage to the plaster as well as previously completed historic repairs; third, the best standard of finish to junctions between old and new work is achieved between plaster and plaster and not between plaster and paint.
Paint removal is completed by hand, through an initial application of a paint removal poultice. The exact type of poultice used would depend upon the requirement of each particular project. Sample areas of removal are completed, not only to ascertain which would be the most effective poultice to use, but also to show the number of layers of paint to be removed, the nature of this paint, as well as to expose the original design and enrichment of the mouldings.
Upon the removal of the poultice the process is then completed via hand held tools to ensure the maximum effectiveness of the paint removal whilst reducing the risk of any increased damage to the original plasterwork.
Only once the paint removal is completed can the nature and extent of repairs be assessed. Many small scale repairs can be completed in situ by hand either by filling and hand carving or the use of localised clay impressions. More extensive sections and quantity of repair may well require mould manufacture from which new casts can be taken to replace or renew damaged and missing items.