What are 1950s Walls Made of? Discover the Surprising Materials

During the 1950s, plaster walls were the norm in new home construction. These walls were made by mixing wet plaster with horse hair, which was a common reinforcement method to prevent cracking. Aside from plaster walls, there were other types of walls that were popular during this time period. Here are some examples:
  • Drywall: Although not as common as plaster walls, drywall was slowly gaining popularity during the 1950s, especially towards the end of the decade.
  • Wood paneling: Wooden walls were a popular choice for home interiors during the 1950s. Many homes had wood paneling installed in living rooms, dens, and bedrooms.
  • Stone walls: Stone walls were another option for home exteriors during the 1950s, as they were durable and could withstand harsh weather conditions.
  • Overall, the construction of homes in the 1950s prioritized durability and longevity. Plaster walls mixed with horse hair were a common material choice for their strength and resistance to cracking.

    The 1950s Home Construction Industry

    In the late 1950s, the construction of new homes had taken off in the United States. This was partially due to the post-World War II boom, increasing numbers of young families, and the spread of suburban communities. As a result, the home construction industry in the 1950s was booming. One of the frequent features of these newly constructed homes was the use of plaster walls.

    Overview of Plaster Walls in the 1950s

    Plaster walls were the standard in the construction of new homes in the United States in the late 1950s. Plaster was a common material used in wall finishes that was made up of either gypsum or cement. Plaster walls were durable, fire-resistant, and soundproof. They could be painted or wallpapered, and at the time, plaster walls were synonymous with high-quality construction.
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    Types of Plaster Used in 1950s Walls

    Two types of plaster were commonly used in 1950s walls. The first was gypsum plaster, which was composed primarily of gypsum powder, water, and additives that made it harden when exposed to air. The second was cement plaster, which was made up of Portland cement, sand, water, and additives. Cement plaster was heavier and more durable than gypsum plaster and was suitable for use in outdoor applications as well as indoor. • Gypsum plaster: • Composed mainly of gypsum powder and water • Less durable than cement plaster • Used primarily indoors • Sets and hardens when exposed to air • Cement plaster: • Composed of Portland cement, sand, water, and additives • More durable than gypsum plaster • Can be used both indoors and outdoors • Heavier than gypsum plaster

    Reinforcing Agents Used in 1950s Plaster

    In order to make 1950s plaster walls even stronger and more resilient, reinforcing agents were typically mixed in with the plaster. Horsehair was the most common reinforcing agent used in the 1950s, giving these walls the nickname horsehair plaster. The horsehair would be mixed in with the wet plaster. It added tensile strength to the wall and acted as an adhesive, preventing cracks from minor flexing. • Reinforcing agents: • Horsehair – most commonly used • Fiberglass • Wood fibers, such as sawdust or wood chips

    Advantages and Disadvantages of Horsehair Plaster

    The addition of horsehair to the plaster mixture gave 1950s walls several advantages and disadvantages.
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    Advantages: • Added tensile strength • Helped prevent cracks from minor flexing Disadvantages: • Horsehair could become brittle over time and lose its adhesive properties • Harder to repair than more modern drywall

    Maintenance of 1950s Plaster Walls

    Maintaining plaster walls from the 1950s requires a few particular steps to ensure their longevity. The addition of reinforcement agents in the plaster made them more durable, but they do require occasional upkeep. Maintenance tips: • Keep walls clean and free of debris. • Avoid hanging heavy items directly on the walls to prevent cracking. • Use a good quality paint to protect the wall surface. In conclusion, horsehair plaster walls were the standard in the 1950s home construction industry. Their durability and strength, thanks to the addition of reinforcement agents, made them a reliable choice for homeowners. While originally considered a high-quality construction feature, plaster walls are now considered to be a vintage home element and require specific maintenance techniques to keep them looking their best.

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