All The Tips On How To Plaster A Wall Step-By-Step

Plaster is all around us! This groundbreaking mixture of gypsum, cement, sand and water is massively used for construction, building, art, even medicine! Plastering is one of the final steps in many home improvement projects when it comes to finishing an exterior or interior wall. Do you have an old or new wall you need to plaster? 

close up to man wearing working uniform plastering a wall

While most people prefer to leave this home project to experts or smooth walls without plastering, any homeowner can do it themselves when they follow a few key guidelines. Plastering is a task that takes patience and skill, but don’t worry! We offer you a detailed step-by-step guide to help you give your walls a professional finish as the first step of achieving a stylish home décor. Then you can paint your newly plastered walls for a fantastic result. Are you ready?

The pros of plaster walls

Plastering is not only a speedy and easy method. There are many reasons to consider plastering your walls. Find below the main benefits of plastered walls. We are confident you’ll want yours, and you won’t consider replacing it with drywall again.

  1. Plastering creates a robust and durable finish to any existing drywall. The chemical reaction occurring when water escapes from the cement mixture strengthens the bond and makes the plastered walls stronger. 
  2. It creates a smooth surface for the application of paints. That way, you can add a refreshing look to the walls of your house. Their uniform finish also makes it easier for the builder to create an array of textures and designs.
  3. Plastering produces less dust on a wall’s surface and is pollution-free.
  4. It’s less likely to cause cracking on surfaces. But even when that happens, you can always paint plasterboard when it’s old.

What do I need to plaster a wall?

When plastering a wall, it is essential to choose, besides a multi finish plaster, good quality tools that feel comfortable in your hand. You’ll find all the products and tools you’ll need while reading our guide below, but here is a list of the 6 basic tools you’ll need:

  1. Plastering trowel: choose a stainless steel trowel with an evenly weighted, comfortable handle.
  2. Plasterer’s hawk board: You can either choose a plastic board that is lighter or a wooden one that will last much longer.
  3. Bucket trowel: you need this tool to easily scoop plaster from the bucket to your board.
  4. Power mixer: you can always mix the plaster by hand, but using a power mixer is much quicker and easier. 
  5. Good quality paintbrush: this tool is essential for applying water to your plaster and keeping your edges clean.
  6. Metal angle beads: to ensure a crisp finish around external corners.

Builder using plastering tool for finishing wall and floor

Preparing your work area 

Having a clear work area is vital since plastering can be pretty messy. You should remove any furniture from the room, and you may also need to take out curtain rails, dado rails, skirting boards and even radiators, depending on the work you’ll do. Tape up any sockets as well to prevent the plaster from getting in them. Then follow the instructions below.

  1. Put heavy-duty protective dust sheets on your floor to avoid excess plaster falling off the wall. You’ll need 2 sets of sheets if you’re removing old plaster. You’ll need the first one to remove the old plaster and the other for the new plaster’s application.
  2. Scrub and clean your wall thoroughly, remove any wallpaper, loose plaster, dust and grease.
  3. When working with new plasterboard, apply plaster tape to cover all the joints between the plasterboard sheets. Once you have the tape in place, trim the tape to a neat working with a knife.

Preparing the wall for plastering

Before you start plastering your wall, there are some steps you need to follow to prepare your wall. These will help the result to be more solid and smooth. Keep in mind that if you want to apply plaster to wood and weathered brick walls, you should first cover them with wire lath for a more secure, longer-lasting hold. Here’s what to do.

Step 1: Clean the wall

You should begin by cleaning your work surface, whether you’re resurfacing your old wall or plastering over brand new lath. Scrub your wall from top to bottom with a dry stiff-bristled brush. When you’re done, wipe it with a damp cloth to pick up what you loosened with your brush.

  • Prime over any stained areas to ensure your plaster will adhere properly.
  • Repair cracks in the wall using sandpaper or a sander.
  • Make sure the wall is plumb and flush before you start plastering
  • Run your finger over the wall surface to test whether it is ready to accept new plaster. If it comes away filled with dust, it still needs some work. Spray the wall with water to help the new plaster adhere to the old wall.

Hand smoothing out wall with sandpaper

Step 2: Apply PVA glue 

  • Combine 1 part PVA glue with 4 parts water in a paint tray and mix thoroughly. 
  • Brush or roll the PVA over the entire wall
  • For having the best results, you should apply the plaster while the PVA coat is tacky but not fully dry.

Step 3: Mix your plaster in a 19-26L bucket

  1. Fill the clean bucket to the halfway mark with cool, clean water
  2. Shake a bag of plaster mix into the bucket until it forms a mound above the water’s surface. 
  3. Use a stirring rod or plunger to begin incorporating the dry plaster particles.
  4. If you are working with gypsum plaster, you should move quickly to avoid spots of weakness in the plaster.

Step 4: Stir the mixed plaster to thicken it

  • Keep mixing the plaster until it’s perfectly smooth and free of lumps. 
  • Scrape the sides of the bucket every now and then to loosen any clinging dry pockets. 
  • If this is your first time plastering and you need to determine whether the plaster is thick enough, stick a wooden paint stirrer straight down into your bucket. Your plater will be just right if it stands up on its own.

Hand of builder spacks wall with putty plaster

Step-by-step guide: How to plaster a wall

You are now ready to start with your DIY plastering project. Follow the instructions we offer below for a fantastic result!

Step 1: Heap fresh plaster onto your hawk board

  1. Use your trowel’s edge to scoop the plaster out of the bucket.
  2. If you’ve transferred your plaster to a separate surface, like a mixing table or a tarp, you may simply drag it straight onto the hawk. Then, pile it on so you won’t need to interrupt your flow to add more.
  3. After you mix it properly, it shouldn’t stick to the hawk. However, you can help it release by wetting the hawk slightly.

Step 2: Use your trowel to ready a small amount of plaster

  1. Slide the trowel’s flat edge under one end of the plaster and pick up enough to layer on a strip from your floor to ceiling
  2. Ensure that the plaster is sitting directly in the trowel’s centre to have accuracy and efficiency.
  3. You should first start with a conservative plaster amount and then add more as needed. 

Step 3: Smear the plaster onto the wall, starting with its bottom corner 

  1. Push the plaster up your wall in a gentle arc, standing as you go to get to the higher parts. 
  2. At your stroke’s top, slide the trowel over 5-8cm, and then reverse the motion and bring it down again. 
  3. Use this same technique to smooth on the plaster a little at a time.
  4. If the plaster slides down a little on the wall, allow it to sit for 5 minutes to harden a little. Then hit it with your trowel again, and it will not slip.
  5. For your first layer of plaster, aim for a thickness of roughly 1cm.

man plastering a wall

Step 4: Plaster the wall in sections

  1. Continue working your way along your wall, spreading the plaster from its bottom to the top
  2. Pause when needed to scoop more plaster onto your hawk board and repeat this pattern until you spread plaster evenly over the entire surface.

Step 5: Smooth the first coat of plaster 

  1. Now that the plaster is in place clear the trowel and run it over the wall in all directions.
  2. Apply a consistent pressure amount, focusing on the spots where the plaster is thicker, or the higher edges have created seam. 
  3. Use a spray bottle, if necessary, to re-wet the first sections of plaster.  

Step 6: Scrape the plaster to add texture before adding your second coat of plaster (optional) 

After you are done with the undercoat, you should consider scoring the wet plaster to create a better base for your second coat. Use a deviling float or notched trowel to rake the plaster vertically from one end to the other. If you don’t have any of these tools, you may also use an ordinary fork.

Step 7: Spread on the second and final topcoat of plaster 

Apply a second coat of plaster exactly as you did the first, making sure there are no apparent seams or gaps. Then, smooth the skim coat with the trowel or trade it out for a float to take care of the finishing touches.

man plastering outdoor wall

Step 8: Use a float to get an even finish

Glide the float lightly over the wet plaster’s surface in all directions to work out any lines, lumps, holes, and inconsistencies in thickness. After you’re done, the wall should have a uniform, smooth finish.

Step 9: Allow the plaster to set

Plaster can take anywhere from 2-5 days to fully harden. It’s important to avoid handling your fresh plaster as it dries. If it picks up any imperfections during this time, they will be visible in the finished wall. Your wall should be arid before you add wallpaper, paint, or any other decorations.

Tips for maintaining a plaster wall

Caring for your home’s plaster walls is wise if you want to avoid extensive plaster repairs in the future. You should patch holes, fix cracks, replace crumbled plaster, paint, and keep the surface clean to stay beautiful for many years to come.

The best way to clean plaster surfaces

You don’t want to get plaster too damp since it is a porous material. To clean it without damaging it, you should:

  1. Soak a soft cloth in warm water and thoroughly squeeze it out.
  2. Put on your cloth a small bead of mild soap and work it up into a few small patches of suds.
  3. Use circular motions and work from top to bottom, rubbing the plaster wall with the soapy cloth.
  4. Rinse the cloth thoroughly in warm water and ring dry again.
  5. Wipe the soapy residue off the plaster, as you did before.
  6. Use one or more dry soft cloths to dry the wall entirely.

Young woman cleaning coloured wall
There you go! As with all challenging DIY projects, the sense of satisfaction upon completion is immense! But you can now follow our detailed guide, and you’ll be plastering your walls like a pro in no time. We are sure you’re going to achieve a beautiful and professional finish for your walls. Good luck!

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