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How to Plaster a Wall

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Before the arrival of drywall, interior walls were generally made of solid plaster. While some consider plaster to be obsolete, it still has some advantages over drywall. This guide will outline the differences between the two, and provide instructions for plastering walls.

Plaster Vs. Drywall

Nowadays, most interior walls are made of drywall. Drywall is the most commonly used because it is much easier to install than plaster. Drywall comes in large sheets, which can then be screwed into the studs. With a little Spackle™ and paint, your walls are complete.

Plaster, on the other hand, takes a great deal more time and skill to install. Plaster comes as a thick paste, which is spread onto a lath (a wood backing for plaster) and then smoothed out. While plaster takes more work and skill, it provides superior soundproofing and is harder and stronger than drywall.

Plastering a Wall

The first step in plastering a wall is to put up a lath (sometimes called wallboard). Alternately, you can plaster over already-installed drywall (the benefit of which would be adding strength and soundproofing).
  • Putting up wallboard is similar to installing drywall--the sheets will need to be cut to fit the wall and screwed into place on the studs.

  • Any seams will need to be spackled over and the Spackle™ smoothed out with a sponge.

TIP: The ideal temperature for plastering is between 55 and 60°F. If it's particularly warm, the plaster could set too fast, and, if it's very humid, the plaster will be too wet and gloppy.

Once the wallboard is secure and the Spackle™ is dry, you can begin plastering. Plastering is a delicate operation and requires a great deal of skill to make everything smooth. If you have any doubts about your abilities, hire a professional instead.

You'll need:
A hawk
A trowel
Plaster (which can be purchased as a dry mix)
  • Using the trowel, scoop a mound of plaster onto the hawk.

  • Scoop some plaster onto the trowel and make sure it's centered on the blade.

  • Spread the plaster onto the wall with an upward-sweeping motion. Repeat the motion downward.

  • Keep an even amount of pressure so that you have a thin layer of plaster. Work your way across the wall, making sure you get into all corners. You may need a stepladder to get into hard-to-reach places.
It takes about 30 minutes for the plaster to set, so it needs to be on the wall and smoothed out very quickly--that's what makes the job particularly difficult. If you don't get it smoothed out before it sets, you'll be left with imperfections in the wall like bumps and creases. If that happens, you'll have to add another step of sanding out the imperfections before you can paint.

Plastering is certainly more involved than just putting up drywall, but, if you're looking for strong or soundproof walls, plastering is a great option. If you hire someone who has experience plastering, he or she should have no problem providing you with smooth plaster walls.

Adam Mandelbaum  Posted by Adam Mandelbaum on January 7, 2013

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