How to: Plaster a Wall

Learning to plaster a wall for the first time can be tricky business, especially if you’re completely new to DIY. While plastering a wall may seem complicated, it’s really just messy; and anyone who follows a how-to guide properly will manage a good job.

Before the Project:

Before you even begin plastering make sure to do your research on different types of plaster and which your project will require. There are two types: one for plasterboard, which is followed by finishing plaster; and also undercoat plaster which is designed to be used on brickwork.

Preparing the Project Site:

Decorating Equipment In Empty Room - learning to plaster a wall

The very first thing to do when you want to plaster a wall is to lay your dust sheet down on the floor. This is an essential to stop any debris from penetrating your floors. Next, check for joins or any irregularities on the surface that you are plastering; you’ll need to cover them up with tape before starting.

Before the actual plastering can begin, professionals like to apply a layer of PVA glue to the wall to ensure a good finish to the final plaster. The best way to do this is to mix up your PVA with water, one part PVA to two parts water. Brush or roll the mixture onto the wall like paint, ensuring the whole surface is covered.

Once you have some on your roller give it a shake so that it doesn’t drip everywhere. If there are any difficult spaces to get at, use a paint brush but otherwise a roller is easiest.

How-to: Plaster a Wall:

Preparing the Mixture:

mixture plaster - learning to plaster a wall

Before you start, make sure you’re wearing a dust mask; now you can mix your plaster.

Start with half a bucket of water and keep adding plaster until the mixture resembles a custard texture. Remember it is always the plaster that should be added to the water and never the other way round. The plaster should be smooth and lump-free before it is applied.

Power mixing tools can make this part a little less work but are not essential.

Make sure that none of the plaster is stuck to the inside of the bucket by scraping around the bucket’s inside with a trowel. You’ll know the plaster is ready when it starts to stick to your trowel.

Plastering your Wall:

Wall plastering - learning to plaster a wall

You should start at the bottom left corner of the wall and work up.

Take the Hawk board (the flat metal edge with a handle) and your trowel.

Make sure the board is completely clean, put the trowel into the plaster and get a lump about the size of a fist onto the board. Now, holding your float close to the wall, push the plaster gently onto the walls while slowly moving the board upwards. Once you get to the top come back down and do the adjacent section.

After the first pass, you will no doubt have a few lines left in the plaster from your work; take your trowel and run it across the wall smoothly from side to side in big sweeps to get a smooth finish. If at this point your trowel gets any type of grit or debris in it’s essential that you clean it with water before carrying on doing any more smoothing.

Stage 2:

When you’ve finished the first coat wait 20 minutes before smoothing the plaster with your trowel. Pay attention to corners and the tops and bottoms of the wall. A wet brush can be used to smooth out any difficult edges. At this stage, you can tilt the trowel away from the wall a bit more.

There are special tools to help you plaster the corners known as corner beads. They are a corner shaped mesh guide which you can cut to the correct length for your wall. Put them in place and then cover generously with your plaster making sure that the whole thing is completely covered. Once covered you can run your trowel smoothly up and down the corners taking off and excess plaster and creating a sharp corner in the process.

Make sure to do this for both sides, putting any excess plaster back on your board. You will probably have to go up and down the whole thing a few times to make it perfect.

At this stage, a decision can be made as to whether a second coat is required or not. If it is, the first coat is normally left to dry and then the surface roughed up. The professional tool that does this is called a ‘devilling’ float, (but it is fundamentally a piece of wood with nails sticking out of it), some people use the humble fork. Your second coat should only be around 2mm thick, you can dilute the plaster slightly with water to make it thinner in consistency.

Concrete surface with striped relief and rich texture - learning to plaster a wall

Tip: if you’re choosing to skip the roughing step, make sure to apply the next coat while the first is still wet.


You can now carry out the final touches.

Spraying water on the dry plaster and smooth the surface over with your trowel or similar tool. Complete your project by going over the finished product with some sandpaper.

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