Learn How to Apply Finish Plaster on Walls

Finishing (skimming) with topcoat plaster is an art that takes practice to get a smooth finish. Follow these steps to master the technique of applying finishing plaster.
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Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Smooth Drywall Joints

Use drywall tape to cover joints between drywall sheets, attaching it with a little prepared plaster.

Fill Gaps

Trim tape with scissors to get a neat edge. Fill any gaps greater than 1/8 inch with pre-mixed plaster.

Prepare Plaster

Half-fill a bucket with clean tap water and slowly add the plaster, carefully following the manufacturer's instructions. Mix more as you need it.

Stir the Plaster

Use a power stirrer to mix the plaster. Submerge the stirrer before starting the drill and use at a low speed. You can also mix manually.

Mix the Plaster

Keep adding plaster and mix until it has a creamy consistency. Run a trowel around the edge of the bucket to incorporate all the dry plaster.

Spread the Plaster

Pour the plaster onto a board. It should be thick enough to spread evenly over the board without running over the edge.

Transfer the Plaster to a Hawk

Use a trowel to cut away a section of the mixed plaster and transfer it to a hawk (a tool for holding the viscous material during application). Use a small amount at first to get used to handling the hawk.

Apply Plaster to a Wall

Holding the hawk in front of the wall, cut away a section of plaster, using the plastering trowel. Push the plaster up and onto the wall surface.

Spread Plaster on the Wall

Spread the plaster across the wall surface, pressing firmly and distributing it as evenly as possible. Work from the top of the wall to the bottom, in broad, vertical and horizontal strokes. Aim to work quickly to cover the surface before the plaster starts to dry.

Cover a Surface With Plaster

Continue to add more plaster, building up a rhythm of loading the hawk and transferring the plaster to the wall surface.

Smooth the Plaster

Once the surface is covered, go back over it, smoothing the plaster to an even thickness. Do not try to achieve perfect smoothness yet.

Let the Plaster Dry

Leave the plaster to dry for another half hour, until it is harder, but still slightly damp.

Smooth the Plaster Again

Sweep a clean, dampened trowel blade across the entire surface, smoothing the plaster and redistributing any excess to fill small indents. Hold the blade at a slight angle with only one edge on the plaster to achieve a smooth finish. Leave the plaster to dry for at least half an hour, until the surface is firm enough to touch without moving the plaster, but is still damp.

Continue Smoothing the Finish

Repeat the smoothing process, again using any excess surface plaster to fill small depressions. If necessary, use a wet brush or garden spray gun to dampen the plaster as you work. Aim for a smooth finish at this final stage; it is more effective than trying to sand rough plaster when dry.

Finish the Plaster Wall

Use a small, damp brush to finish edges and corners neatly.

Finish an Outside Corner

To produce a sharp, straight edge when plastering an outside corner on drywall, use a corner bead. This acts as a guide for the finishing plaster, but is covered by the plaster to give a clean finish. Saw the corner bead to the length you need using a junior hacksaw or tin snips.

Attach a Corner Bead

Attach the bead to both walls at the corner ensuring that the bead is tight against the corner.

Plaster the Corner Bead

Apply plaster over the top of the corner bead, allowing the plastering trowel to rest on the apex of the bead to give you a good finish.