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Large hole in plaster shower wall? Sorry, a little long.

I apologize in advance for the length of this post.


My husband and I bought a 75 year old house.  The walls are plaster over metal mesh, including those in the bathroom and shower surround. 


Unbeknownst to us, the soap dish in the shower was loose. So, set a bottle of shampoo on it and boom! It fell and broke into a thousand pieces, leaving a large hole in the plaster wall where it was recessed into the wall. After a little searching, I realized they don't actually make soap dishes this size anymore. I can either a) pay $120 for an old soap dish of the same dimensions to replace it; b) buy a new, smaller soap dish and have gaps to deal with around it; or c) fill in the hole entirely. I want to go with option c, because the soap dish is located right where the shower sprays it the entire time so the soap just washes away anyway. 


 The guy we bought the house from decided to "upgrade" (his term, not mine) the bathroom by spraying every plaster wall and the ceiling with texturizer then painting over it with something or other. The something or other is now cracking off in the shower area, revealing the plaster underneath, while we have the giant hole in the wall covered with plastic and duct tape. It's a mess, and I'm getting worried about mold growing in the little pockets where water gets in between the plaster and the texturizer/something or other. Currently, there is a tile edging around the edge of the bathtub and bottom of the wall like a baseboard. This tile is old and thicker than modern tile I've seen, and is also about half recessed into the wall. Eventually I'd like to tile in the shower walls completely and a few feet up the remaining walls.


How do I fill in the hole so it is flush with the surrounding wall? Then what do I finish it with that can safely be sprayed with water? Is there a way to deal with the semi-recessed tile and go ahead and put up the tile? If so, how do we handle the existing semi-recessed tiles? I'd really like to be able to do this without ripping out the plaster - I like it, and it would require a ton of work because it's almost rock solid.


I'm not timid when it comes to trying things - I've already taken the tub fixtures apart to fix a leak, filled in cracks in the plaster walls in other places, and patched the holes the electrician had to knock into the wall to rewire, but with a hole this large in the shower wall I don't even know where to start. 


Thanks in advance!

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Posted 2011-08-24T02:49:01+0000  by newoldhouse newoldhouse

Hi there newoldhouse, I’m Blake from The Home Depot out here in California. Welcome to our community! You are certainly in an interesting situation, as plaster is not an ideal material where moisture is present because it is so porous.  Because plaster will suck up any moisture, you are going to have real problems with mold behind the walls if the plaster was not applied with an appropriate vapor barrier behind, and mixed so that it is resistant to breaking down under excessive wetness. Due to the quality of the other “upgrades” that the previous owner did, and the weak bond of the soap holder, I would say that the construction is suspect, to say the least.


So where to go from here? You have a few options, the simplest solution would be to get a fiberglass or acrylic shower wall kit and put it up with an appropriate construction adhesive. This can be done in almost no time and would keep the water off of the plaster. Some shower wall kits even have built in soap dishes!


If you didn’t want the look of a wall kit you could also do a tiled wall enclosure. To do a tiled shower enclosure you would probably want to take the plaster out and work from the studs up. I would highly recommend this approach, so that you can inspect the structure of the walls for water damage. I made a video for another customer explaining the layers of a correctly constructed shower wall. You can view the thread by following THIS LINK. This structure will allow you strong, lasting beauty with NO water penetration into the structure of the wall.

Tile shower.JPG




When It comes to the peeling texture on walls that aren’t in the shower, I must admit that I am not the wall texture expert, (let’s just say that my patches look more like accidents), so I will leave the paint/texture to one of our paint experts.


I hope this helps newoldhouse, please let us know if there is anything else we can do to help.



Posted 2011-08-26T00:20:38+0000  by BlakeTheDiyGuy

Hi Newolhouse!


Blake covered all the best solutions for solving this one long term.  If you are looking for a short term solution to give you some more time before major remodeling happens, then a patch is the way to go.


Without seeing the "texture" on the walls it will be difficult to walk you through the exact replication of the finished look.  I will try and give you some pointers on matching the pattern - It would be a great help if you can post some pictures of the wall texture so that I can be more specific.


First you will want to patch that hole:  use a self sticking metal mesh wall patch to place over the hole.



If your texture is rough and the walls feel like a sort of stucco sandy material then use an exterior vinyl compound.  Only put enough to get a"first coat" over the mesh (not too thick).




After the patch has dried - apply another coat and try to duplicate the surrounding texture.  You may have to get creative at this point and use unconventional tools to get the right look.  A wire brush, a broom or even your finger will work.  Possibly sand a little bit as well.


pattern 2.jpg


After that top coat is completed  you will want to prime the finished surface with an oil based moisture resistant primer.




Now, lastly you will have to paint the patch (or the whole wall) with our BEHR ULTRA pint in either satin or semi-gloss to protect from any moisture.  Try and not to use the shower (if possible) for 48hrs until the paint cures hard enough to withstand moisture.


berh ultra semigloss.jpg

I hope this helps you out.



Posted 2011-08-28T17:47:19+0000  by Kevin_HD_ATL
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