Decorated plaster walls are a vulnerable part of completed structures. The painted decoration often extends to woodwork,
In rare circumstances when painted walls are not appropriate for display, we recommend using an archivally acceptable reversible procedure to cover them, one which will not damage the original painted surface. Overpainting or covering with wallpaper will permanently damage the historic paint and not leave them for later generations to enjoy and study.
Untempered ¼″ thick 4′x8′ Masonite is available or can be ordered from local contractor supply houses for $25/sheet. This untempered Masonite does not contain the oils and resins that tempered Masonite and wall board have which will react with the historic painted surface. Cut Masonite to fit snugly within the moldings of the room so it basically becomes a liner for the room, much the same as dry-walling the room.
· After cutting the pieces, lightly sand the edges to get rid of any furry roughness then prime BOTH sides with at least 1 coat of either Liquitex Gesso (available from an artist supply store) or a good quality 100% acrylic latex primer sealer paint (available from your local paint dealer). Let the painted surfaces cure (reach their optimum hardness) for a minimum of 24 hours to up to a week, depending on the humidity in the air. During this curing process the gas evaporates from the acrylic paint.
· Using a clear adhesive silicone caulk at the top and bottom edges of the wall, “hang” the Masonite. When the two pieces of Masonite are in place next to each other the vertical seams can be filled with elastic water based caulk (non-silicone or paintable). Immediately clean up the seam with a damp cloth. This elastic caulk will fill the seam of the two pieces of Masonite butted together. It doesn’t actually dry and will remain flexible so the seam will not crack. If you use drywall paste the seam will crack. It may be necessary to use a nail at the seam of long spans to prevent buckling. Try and strategically place the nail so it doesn’t interfere with decoration underneath.
· The butted Masonite seams should be immediately wiped down with a damp cloth. If you use paintable elastic caulk (readily available at the local paint store) be sure it does not have silicone in it. Taping the seam would leave a bulge because the edges of the Masonite are not tapered. Wall treatment can proceed from here.
· The use of 100% acrylic primer sealer on the Masonite wall allows a great bonding surface for either paint or wallpaper. It has been suggested that a tiny window could be cut in the Masonite to visibly document the decorated wall underneath. This obviously is up to the homeowner and contractor but certainly would provide visual verification to the curious.
This relatively inexpensive procedure retains the wall murals for the historical record and for the next owners to enjoy if they so choose. By doing this, the artist’s intent, the history of the home and the paintings’ historical value to the town will be left intact. The fact that the walls are documented in the library of the PWP will also allow future generations to enjoy them if desired. Removal of the walls, even if reinstalled into another house, removes them from their original context and will leave them in jeopardy if the next owner dislikes them. With an insecure future, the murals will be subject to loss.
and adjacent rooms. The walls were a palette placed in a static position that was affected by light, location and the environment in the structure.