DIY Plastering

Think About It as Art

Plastering is a neglected art; few people realise the ease of this type of "art" and the value and importance of this rather easy task all of us can master.

You might be thinking now that this is one of those discussions that will provide you with all the information you do not want and little of what you need. Rest assured, the above statement is not some controversial opinion.

The water, air, and the timing of the mix are critical for the success of the whole process. Fortunately, several companies providing the do it yourself enthusiast with plastering products and equipment, have begun to make different products that are much easier to use and faster to prepare.  This allows for quicker repairs and enhances the chances for success of any job. 

It is highly likely that you will find on older homes, particularly those that were built before WWII, will probably have plaster walls.  In fact, a plaster wall is really three layers of plaster applied over numerous narrow strips of wood called laths. 

When you plan on taking on plastering an entire wall or even several walls, it is advisable that you sharpen up your do it yourself plastering skills. When it comes to plastering a complete wall, you would require considerable amount of skill.

However, when it comes to patching plaster work, that is simple and easy enough so that most of us DIY enthusiasts can do with a significant level of success.

The purpose of this article is to take you on a step by step informational ride on the "what to use" and "how to do it the right way", patching up cracks and holes in plaster. 

Plaster repair/Cracks and Holes

As mentioned before, the majority of older homes are constructed by way of wood framing.  These materials have a natural seasonal reaction to the weather and different humidity changes.  In the summer when the humidity is high the framing tends to expand because the wood absorbs moisture out of the atmosphere.  In addition, during the winter months where there is less moisture in the air, it dries out.

The cracks in the ceiling or walls that you see are, as a matter of fact, stress points.  With the process of expansion and contraction movement takes place and this causes the cracks in the plaster.  As the frame expands, the plaster needs to expand with which are not always the case and that is how the crack appears.

Repairing cracks in plaster is not a simple mater of plastering the crack back over.  That just stores up trouble for the future. When the expansion and contraction takes place, the crack continues to move and you will constantly need to repair it, as it would just keep on reappearing.  The sensible way to repair these types of cracks is to cover the crack with some paper tape in order to put it out of sight and then plaster over the crack.

Fixing plaster cracks

  1. Firstly, you always will need to remove any loose plaster.
  1. Next, prepare some joint compound and mix until it is smooth with no lumps at all.
  1. Then you will need to tape the crack.  Usually, you will need to do this by using small pieces of tape to make your way around the curve of a crack.
  1. After completing the tape work, you start by applying a 1/8" thick layer of joint compound over the crack.  Drag your putty knife across the tape to remove about half of the compound you just applied.
  1. Finding the golden midway here is important. If you remove too much plaster the tape will make a bubble in the plaster.  If you don't remove enough joint compound, you will end up having a lump on the wall. 
  1. Once after the first coat you applied hardens off you can start by applying another coat.  You will need to repeat this step until you have applied at least 4 coats. When the fourth coat is hard and dry, you can start to smooth out the plaster.

Patching plaster walls

Some plaster repair secrets from the pros:

Plaster repairs buyers guide:

Cracks and broken plaster

Cracks and broken plaster may be signs of bigger problems, usually a settling house.  If the house continues settling after you patch the wall and the wall cracks again this is often in the same place.  A simple solution may be to install one or two basement floor jacks underneath the wall with the recurring crack.  Be careful not to raise them too much. 

Brown spots or crumbly plaster usually indicates water damage from the roof, a leaky window, or a leaky pipe.  Find and correct the problem before beginning to repair the plaster. 

When removing plaster you will need to remove all of the loose material.  You may be taking out more plaster than you intended.  If the hole is larger than 10-12" wide you can fill it with a piece of drywall. 


Now you are ready to complete your DIY plastering job.  If you follow these suggestions, it is likely that you will meet with success and will be able to enjoy your very own piece of plastering work.  If you have additional questions be sure to ask the employees and professionals at your local hardware store.  As a rule, they are equipped with the correct information and product knowledge to put you on the right track so you can do the plastering yourself and save a lot of money!

"very useful imformation , thank you "

B S Hadley