Plastering Tips and Techniques For the DIY Plasterer

If you are a beginner to plastering then before starting any plastering job be sure to consider these tips and techniques for proper job preparation.

1. Choose Your Area: If you are a novice plasterer then you might prefer to start in a spare bedroom with an existing poor finish that can only be made better which will greatly reduce the stress on you. Remember, you can plaster skim the walls as many times as you like so you can always go over a not so perfect job later as you get better.

Plastering is largely a matter of confidence and you may prefer to start in a low-pressure environment first before hitting your own walls for the first time. However, don’t worry, providing you have a decent plastering course to follow then you will find that this is not a long learning curve and you will be amazed how good your first results come out.

Remember: 90% of plastering is having the confidence and sticking to what we at Mastering Plastering call the “Golden Formula” to the letter.

2. Ensure A Good Supply of Water: If cleanliness is next to Godliness then plastering is the holy trade! Ask any plasterer and you will be told the same thing, keep your equipment very clean and most importantly clean as you go.

As you will have no doubt noticed, mixed plaster sets very hard and sets quite fast. You might have visions of washing dried plaster off buckets and equipment after you have finished your job or leaving it until tomorrow but trust me, dried plaster sticks like stone and you need to clean thoroughly and continually as you go.

There are reasons for this:

* Plaster cleans off much more easily when wet.

* Plastering equipment will usually need replacing if plaster is not cleaned off with water before it dries and this can get expensive and is wasteful.

* Any flecks of dried plaster in your buckets or on your equipment from previous sessions will later break off to contaminate future batches of plaster. This can spell disaster as these little gremlins will cause streaks or “pulls” in your finish causing you endless frustration and poor results.

* Contamination in new batches of plaster can result in the drying time of plaster being adversely affected as you will learn and this will cause chaos to applying the “Golden Formula” as used by most plasterers.

* Contaminated plaster can’t be used and will need to be disposed of  costing time and money.

* A good tradesman is a tidy one and sloppy processes lead to sloppy work and unhappy customers.

To ensure a clean job you will need a good supply of clean fresh water. This can be a problem on some building sites where there is no running water. Also, because plaster and plasterers can get messy you should avoid using your own or your customer’s kitchen sink where possible. Fill plenty of buckets of water in advance for mixing and cleaning and remember that plaster can block drains so avoid flushing too much plaster slurry down the drains. Dispose of water dirty with plaster down a main outdoor drain not a sink drain (we haven’t yet written Mastering Plumbing!). In particular, always keep your buckets and trowel clean and ensure you only use perfectly clean water for mixing with plaster.  As a rule, if you wouldn’t drink it don’t use it for mixing plaster.

Only ever use clean and very fresh water for mixing plaster.  If you don’t then your plaster will “go off” (i.e. set) to quickly and will need to be discarded. So, as a rule…

* Never use plaster that is going off – plaster is cheap so throw it away and start again.

* Never use plaster that is contaminated with anything.

3. Allow yourself the time to get the job done:

Plastering actually progresses a lot quicker than many people imagine but it still takes time. A large part of your time will be setting up and cleaning away so plastering is not the kind of thing you can spend the odd hour on here and there. You really need at least a half day (3 to 4 hours) at it to make up for the time it takes to mix the plaster, cover and finish your wall or walls and then clean and tidy away. My advice is to allow at least 2 to 3 hours for the plastering (the time required for a typical wall as a beginner) and an hour either way for set up and clean up. So, to give you an idea, yes you can get home from work at night and make some progress on your walls right after your dinner but expect to be washing out your gear at midnight! But hey, its better than watching TV so don’t let me stop you. Better still allow yourself a full weekend to have a chance to get a whole room done as a total beginner.

4.  Make sure that  you have planned the job:

My advice is not to bite off more than you can chew for starters. Plastering is always a race against the clock as I explain in my course when talking about the stages of the Golden Formula and how it works. Therefore, trying to plaster a whole room at once as a beginner (i.e. trying to work on all 4 walls at once) will not be possible and quickly turn what should be a satisfying job into bad experience in which nothing gets done to a good level.

I’d suggest as a beginner starting with just 1 surface at a time and feel free to leave the larger walls until last. All plasterers know in advance exactly what they intend to achieve that day and plan accordingly. Always avoid biting off more than you can chew because if you do you will quickly choke!

Make sure that before you start you have gone through the equipment checklist and have enough plaster for the job as once you begin plastering and are working through the Golden Formula you will not have enough time to leave the job long enough to nip out for more materials.

And finally, one more word of warning:

Always turn off your mains power when plastering anywhere near any electrical socket, switch, light fitting or appliance. Mixed plaster is mainly water based and as I’m sure you know, mixing water and electricity is a potentially lethal combination. If in doubt always seek the advice of a qualified electrician and building surveyor before starting any plastering work.