Signs of Plaster Weakness in Your Fireplace Surround

Blog |December 3rd, 2018

Plaster is meant to be a low-maintenance material that is expected to last more than a lifetime. However, it is not impervious to damage, nor is it always as ‘low maintenance’ as it is cut out to be. Sometimes plasterwork is not applied properly, and this can result in areas which can become easily prone to damage.

In the case of plaster fireplace surrounds there will be tell-tale signs that something is wrong with your plasterwork. However, these can be quite subtle and often start out as nothing more than a barely-perceivable minor imperfections that you might shrug off as being part of the ‘perfectly imperfect appeal’ of plaster.

Left on their own, however, these minor flaws can become highly problematic and may result in costly repairs or restoration, which could otherwise be avoided if one only caught the signs early on.

Here are some of the tell-tale signs that something is amiss with your plaster fireplace surround:

Cracking – cracks are not a normal thing when dealing with plaster, especially if it’s new plaster. Old plaster fireplace surrounds will invariably suffer cracking – whether it is hairline cracks or more of a delaminating issue. Because fireplace surrounds are always exposed to vagaries of temperature, especially consistent heating and uneven cooling cycles, cracks are something that’s bound to happen sooner or later.

Very minor hairline cracks shouldn’t cause any concern, but sizeable ones that appear more like rifts should be filled. Delaminating cracks, on the other hand, can be caused by the plaster slowly peeling away from the lathing underneath and will necessitate reattachment.

Discolouration – discoloured plaster can be caused by water damage or by direct exposure to prolonged heat. You may notice that the topmost part of your surround will appear a shade darker than the rest; this is because the heat of a fire is often strongest and more focused on that specific area. Some heat-resistant sealant should avoid these minor issues, although such steps can be foregone if one likes a little ‘patina’ of age and use on one’s plaster.

Bubbling – some plasterwork can show bubbling on its surface. In the case of fireplace surrounds, this can be caused by uneven drying or improperly mixed plaster that contains pockets of moisture, which is pushed outward as steam by the heat of the fire. This will necessitate professional repairs to correct.

If you are looking for an excellent resource for anything and everything plaster-related, or you are in need of expert repair and maintenance for old and new plasterwork, then visit us here at Hopkins Plaster Studio.

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