What Are the Best Tips for DIY Plastering?

Dan Cavallari

Plaster is a material often used to finish walls; it is a non-load-bearing material that can be easily manipulated, even after it has set into a solid. DIY plastering can be a messy job, so it is best to invest in some dropcloths to protect furniture, floors, or other furnishings that can be damaged by the plastering process. It is also best to assemble the proper plastering tools before beginning the DIY plastering project to ensure the smoothest and most attractive finish. Some commonly used tools include trowels, wire or hard brushes, mixing buckets, plastering tape, and various cutting tools.

Powdered gypsum is typically used to make plaster.
Powdered gypsum is typically used to make plaster.

One of the common mistakes people make when doing DIY plastering is rushing through the process and spending too much time trying to smooth out the plaster. The best finish often comes with patience and good timing rather than a meticulous eye. Many people install one coat of the plaster and then try to smooth it out, but the best method often involves laying more than one coat of plaster, troweling it properly, and then finishing the surface with polishing. All the tools used during each process must be kept clean to ensure a proper finish during the DIY plastering project.

Plastering can be messy.
Plastering can be messy.

Mixing the plaster properly is also important to a good plaster finish. The plaster powder should be added to the water, not the other way around. It is best to add plaster a little bit at a time; once some plaster is added, the person doing the DIY plastering project should mix it thoroughly to ensure all clumps are broken up and the consistency is smooth. Then more plaster can be added slowly until the proper consistency is reached. The mixture should be thick enough that it will not slide off of the trowel when placed on the flat blade of the tool. It should not be so thick, however, that it is difficult to spread.

Preparation of the surface to be plastered is exceptionally important, especially if the wall or ceiling panels are not new. The surface should be cleaned of any grit or grime, and the surface should be dry and free from any debris. A wire brush or a hard-bristled nylon brush can work well to prepare a surface for DIY plastering. Sanding may also be necessary, especially on older walls or ceilings, or around holes that need to be repaired. Taping should be done carefully as well to ensure the plaster tape is flush against the wall; air bubbles and gaps can lead to an uneven finish.

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