Practice Makes Perfect!

So this is a big one. How to plaster a wall. It is a big job for the novice, but it all comes down to practice, the correct materials, and some good advice, however it is well within the ability level of most homeowners to tackle some of the easier DIY repairs that you may encounter.

Often times you will have a traditional lath and plaster wall to cover, or it may be a newer plaster board surface. Full details are more than we can cover here in this article, but I intend to give an overview of the process and point you to some excellent sources for more detailed instructions.

In a 3 coat process, the first or scratch coat is usually applied to about a 3/8 inch thickness, and this is then scored to give a good surface for the second coat to adhere to.

hawk and trowell









The second coat, which is often called the brown coat, is then applied to the first coat, but this time left smooth. It is more of a sandy texture, and it is this that provides the ideal surface for the adhesion of the top or skim coat.

The finish or skim coat is then applied at about a 1/8 inch thickness, and this is smoothed to give the final finish.

Very often you will only be needing to repair cracks or holes in walls, and the information above is all that you will need, and this type of work is easily achievable for even the most uninformed novice.

Your local building supply company will be happy to provide you with the materials available locally for any plastering job. Always follow the mixing guidelines on the bag or container for a perfect finish.

As well as the plaster materials themselves, you will need a mixing bucket, a mixing spiral would be a great investment as you can then use your power drill to speed up the mixing process and take away the hard work. You also need a hawk, trowell and paintbrush, and of course access to water and probably some steps to reach the higher points of the room.

If you are repairing holes you may well need some type of gauze or metal to cover the hole first to which you then apply your plaster coat.

There is a wealth of information and videos available on the internet to help you learn the skills necessary for this task. You can also check out some of the websites of your local plastering businesses for ideas and view their pictures to get an insight into what they are doing locally.



Some useful tips:

It’s all in the timing

Be aware that plastering in the hot weather can cause the plaster to set too quickly, and humidity  can cause the plaster to drag during application. On the other hand, cold weather will slow the drying process. Always try to open windows and doors whenever possible to allow air flow in the room which will remove the evaporating moisture.

Good technique

Always wet your tools. Plaster sticks to everything, so keeping it wet means that you can work it easier. Use the hawk as you would a paint palette, scoop the plaster onto the hawk using a trowel, then apply to the wall.

Quicker is Better

You only have around 30 minutes of working time with the wet plaster before it starts to harden. So the quicker you can apply it to the wall, the more time that you will have to get that smooth finish.

A Smooth Finish

It is much easier if you can get a smooth finish at this stage rather than trying to fill any holes and cracks afterwards by applying filler and sanding. Don’t worry if you don’t achieve the perfect finish, this is a skill that requires patience and practice, but you will get there.

Plastering is not an easy project, but it is something that you can achieve with practice. It is also something that can save you a good deal of money, and will bring you a great sense of achievement.

It is worth mentioning that plastering an exterior wall is called rendering, and this involves a slightly different set of skills and will be covered at a later date.

Check out this website for detailed instructions and all the information you need

Here is a short video to help you on your way. There are many more on the internet so get learning.