Plastering Tips and Advice

Plastering

Plaster can be a difficult material to work with - it hardens quickly, is difficult to work with once it is hard and it has to be mixed up only in the quantity needed at the time. It can also be difficult to drive a screw or nail cleanly through plaster. However, a properly applied plaster wall is as hard as cement, has a smooth finish, is fairly soundproof and is difficult to damage or scratch.

Today, plaster is not as widely used as drywall, although it can often be found in some older houses. Many people find that their experience with plaster is limited to repairing cracks and holes in existing plaster, rather than applying new plaster. Plaster in many older structures was applied before building codes were in effect and may not have been applied perfectly.

Repairing cracks and holes on a plaster surface is fairly straightforward - although if you have a lot of holes, it can be time consuming. Firstly, make sure you are using the correct materials for the job - you will achieve better results with patching plaster or plaster of Paris, rather than drywall compounds. You will also need the right tools - some drywall finishing knives of different sizes.

Before you start, make sure the plaster surface is clean and free of any grease or dirt. Any loose plaster should be carefully removed and the area to be patched should be dampened with water. Any small cracks should be enlarged so that the crack is at least a quarter inch wide - if you can make the bottom of the crack wider than the top, it will help to keep the patching compound in place once hardened.

Once you have the surface cleaned and prepared, the next step is to apply the plaster compound carefully to the crack - much as you would spread icing on a cake. Try to get the finish as smooth as possible, while leaving little excess on the wall - any excess will later have to be scraped off or smoothed down. As the plastering compound hardens, you can smooth it down with a damp cloth or sponge.

Plaster ceilings can be particularly difficult to repair - they can be damaged by water damage, subsidence or structural failure. However the most common cause of damage is generally expansion and contraction of the wood framing members and the lath boards to which the plaster is attached. In extreme cases, an entire plaster ceiling can fall down. To repair small cracks in a plaster ceiling, follow the same procedures as outlined above - just be sure to wear safety goggles to protect against any small pieces of plaster that may fall.

If you are applying a new plaster wall, you will need skill and patience - most newer homes today have the easier to install drywall. The procedure is to make a wood frame, known as a lath, on which the plaster is then carefully applied and smoothed out. An easier way to achieve the same effect is to install drywall and then apply a thin layer of plaster over the drywall.

You may not consider yourself an expert - but with the correct tools and technique, anyone can do an adequate plastering job.

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