What is Horsehair Plaster?

Horsehair plaster is not much different from other types of plasters used for coating the buildings. Horsehair plaster specifically is prepared by mixing a few elements which are lime, aggregate, water and animal hair. These materials are mixed together a little before applying it to the lath.

Why is it called as Horsehair Plaster?

Much obvious from its name, the Horsehair plaster contains Animal hair in it due to which it is known as the Horsehair plaster. Hair from the mane and tail of the horse are used in these plasters. The horsehair in the plaster provides a greater binding force and acts as a bridging agent. It controls the shrinkage of the plaster and holds the nibs of the plaster together. 

Horsehair is not only used in the plasters for coating the buildings, but it is also used in other materials. It is used in the upholstery, in the brushes used for different purposes and even the bows of musical instruments.


In the post war era, lath and plaster were the two most common plasters used for the buildings, in both the residential and commercial areas. During those times, using the Animal hair in the plasters was not uncommon. But the thing with the Horsehair was that the long hair of the horse tails was perfect for the plaster mixtures.

Throughout the United States, the Horsehair had a long tradition. You’ll see the Horsehair plaster used in almost every old and historic building. To preserve the walls of buildings, horsehair plaster was the best choice so far. It was applied to both the walls and ceilings of buildings and homes.

Also, the horsehair plaster did not take long time to be cured as the other mixtures do. Although its application was time consuming but surely the most versatile mixture.

Is the Horsehair Plaster Still Being Utilized Today?

The horsehair plaster was most commonly used before the 1920s. When the Plasterboard came into use in the 1930s, lath and plaster unfortunately fell out of favor. Plasterboard was more convenient to use for so many different reasons so people started to prefer it more.

Specifically, in Canada and US, the Horsehair plaster was being used until 1950s. But later in 1950s, the Drywall began to replace the plaster.

Advantages of Horsehair Plaster

Even today, when it is a whole era of Drywall, some people still prefer using the Horsehair Plaster for the renovation of their homes. The saying “Old is Gold” fits well here. Sometimes, the old ways are the best ways so far. 

For the renovation of old homes, people use the Horsehair plaster because it is better to repair the plaster walls rather than to replace them with the drywall. Here are a few advantages of Horsehair Plaster:

  • The walls and ceilings coated with plaster have amazing insulation properties. They would keep your home warmer in winters and cooler in summers. And this would definitely reduce your energy bills.
  • If mixed properly with accurate amounts needed, Lath and Plaster provide a stronger application to the walls and also give a more durable finish to the walls as compared to that in case of Drywall.
  •  Older homes where the walls have been coated with the Plaster are often quieter than the homes where the walls have been coated with the Drywall.
  • Plaster walls are very much resistant to the fire. This means that under specific conditions of standard heat intensity, these walls will not allow the transit of heat more than the specified temperature.
  • Repairing your Plaster walls is not much messy. It is easier to renovate them without having to worry about so much mess that is created in case you want to replace the walls with drywall.so the repairing or installation of plaster walls is easier.
  • Older homes have a great value and, in some cases, even more than the newly built homes. Repairing the lath and plaster walls will keep your home correct for a longer period of time which would be an essential selling point for the owners of historical or old homes.
  • Plaster walls are much smooth and flat. But the plaster walls may contain the trowel marks which isn’t a bad sight though. These little imperfections are of great value for the owners of older homes and give an old world feel yet an alluring look to your home.

Disadvantages of Horsehair Plaster

Along with so many advantages of using Horsehair plaster for your home walls and ceilings, it has some disadvantages as well. let’s take a look how the Plaster and Lath are not so advantageous.

  • In case you plan to update your house wiring, it would be a difficult task to do. Whether it is about adding the outlets or wiring, you would have to cut the wall and then repair it as well. so, in case of Plaster walls, it is very much difficult to snake in the new wiring in the walls.
  • After a period of time, every home starts to settle down, which is natural. In case of Plaster walls in home, the Plaster often cracks. As it is hard and brittle, it may start falling down when cracked. 
  • If the plaster has been damaged, it would have to be fixed and you would want to do it without damaging the rest of the wall. But if the damage is huge, the repair would be necessary for the wire-mesh backing as well.
  • If the moisture leaks from the pipes, it would increase the chance of mold as well.
  • Although the Plaster wall requires less time for its application and also produces less mess in case of repairing the walls but it is very difficult to install and repair the plaster walls.
  • Installation of Plaster walls is much more expensive than that of the Drywall because only a skilled craftsman and professional can help you achieve the best results.
  • Requires less time for installation
  • Excellent insulation properties
  • More durable
  • Stronger application to the walls
  • Resistant to fire
  • Much smooth and flat walls
  • Protects the walls for a long period of time
  • Have great value for the owners of old homes and historic buildings
  • Difficult to install and repair
  • Difficult to update house wiring with Plaster walls
  • It often cracks
  • Expensive installation and repairing


Even in 2021, people still prefer to have Plaster walls in their homes. This is because of a lot of advantages they have. The installation may be a difficult task, but once they are installed, they remain great for a long period of time. 

Almost all the older homes in US have the Plaster walls and this is one major reason that they have a huge value. Because of the alluring look that they offer and their durability, they have a great value for the owners of older homes.

Hence, the “Old is Gold” saying actually fits in good when it comes to the Plaster walls in older homes. Just make sure that if the Horsehair Plaster needs some fixation or repairing, look for a professional who is well experienced in the historic plaster repairs. Because you should not be tasking risks regarding the repair of your Plaster walls.


Is Horsehair plaster toxic?
Yes, Horsehair plaster contains anthrax spores or asbestos which may be dangerous. Brushing or sweeping the horsehair plaster also releases dangerous particles into the air. For the safe removal of Horsehair plaster, it is very important to take safety precautions.
Are Plaster walls safe and durable?
They definitely are. Plaster walls are very safe and durable and also require less time for their application. Many of the older homes, specially in the US, still have the Plaster walls due to the alluring look they offer to your home.
How to know if a wall is Plaster or Drywall?
You can know this by pushing a pin or thumbtack in an unnoticeable spot in the wall. If the wall cracks, it is Plaster because Plaster is hard and it may crack. If it does not crack, then it is Drywall because Drywall is softer.
How to know if our Plaster walls contain asbestos?
You will be able to sense it due to the damaged walls. The asbestos in Plaster walls is not very risky to health for as long as it is in good condition. But if the wall starts to damage, for example if the wall crumbles or cracks or if the Plaster gets scraped, it means that it might be releasing asbestos.
Is wet Plaster dangerous?
Wet plaster is less dangerous and more damaging to the walls. The water damages the plaster walls by softening them but this is not only about the plaster itself.Wet plaster destroys the walls from inside as well. The lath behind the plaster absorbs the water and begins to expand gradually. This expansion will push the plaster outwards and causes the walls to become week or even crack.

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