Sign In to join the community | Help
Doors & Windows


Installing new wood trim on plaster walls?

So I bought a bit of fixer upper last year that was built in the late 1950's.  It has plaster walls that are in relatively good shape, I've been working my way through the house digging out mudding, taping, and smoothing all the cracks and nail holes with hot mud.  The plaster is not held on my wood lath but rather a combination of perforated and smooth gyp. bd.


I'm currently on my last room and once I finish it I will trim out the house.  This is where my question comes up.  A lot of the smaller cracks I've had to repair originated at nail holes from the original trim.  There is an 1 1/2" wood nailer strip at the bottom of all the walls, which is good news.  However, the trim I've selected is going to be about 4 1/4" AFF (above finished floor).  I have no qualms about shooting nails into the nailer at the bottom of the wall but I would like to be able to fasten the top of the trim as well to minimize any gaps.


The rooms are already painted so the option of filling the gaps with painters caulk then painting over is out of the question. 


These are the option I have rolling around in my head


-Nail into plaster and don't worry about cracks possibly forming

-Nail only into nailer and don't worry about any large gaps at the top edge of the trim and wall, shimming at the bottom might help mitigate this

-Use construction adhesive at the top (undesirable in my opinion)

-Make a design element out of it and use trim screws at and above the wood nailer (pretty sure my wife would hate this aesthetic.


Does anyone here have experience nailing trim into plaster?  How did it work out for you?  Anyone have an option I didn't think up yet?



Not what you were looking for ? Try posting a question
Posted 2010-12-16T23:39:24+0000  by carchitect carchitect

Hello carchitect and welcome to our community.

I think I can help you out with this one. I also have a house built in the 50’s.

In my house I used a nail gun with 2 ½” nails. I tried a few different ways (in the closets so it wouldn’t show) and decided that it works best if you hold it tight and crisscross 2 nails one towards the top and the other a little lower. I also nailed into the nailer strip at the bottom every so often. By crisscross I mean hold the nail gun at a slight angle and shoot and then hold it at the opposite angle and shoot the next nail. This will hold it tight and it won’t let the base board pull away from the wall. If you nail straight into the plaster the nail is likely to pull right out if it doesn’t hit a stud. By using a nail gun you are not going to be banging on the wall so you should not cause any additional cracks in the plaster.

Since you already have all of the rooms painted I would suggest that you paint all of the base board prior to installing it. I have done this for years and it makes it a lot easier. I hope this helps you out. Let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks again for your post.

Best Answer

Posted 2010-12-17T17:55:43+0000  by Christine_HD_OC

Thanks!   I was definately planning on using a nail gun, practicing in the the closets first, and staining all my trim beforehand.


I had searched all over the internet looking for a detailed method on how to approach this problem.  This is exactly what I was looking for.

Posted 2010-12-17T21:21:54+0000  by carchitect

You're wrlcome carchitect.

I'm glad that the Community could help. Have a great Holiday!!

Posted 2010-12-17T23:47:33+0000  by Christine_HD_OC
Not what you were looking for ? Try posting a question