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Getting Plastered, DIY-Style

How to plaster your home yourself

Last year Grant went on a DIY-plastering course to learn all about how to plaster, DIY-style. With small budgets and trying to do everything ourselves, we knew this was an area that was vital we did ourselves to save some cash. That being said, plastering is still a skill and we wanted to get it right. I'd plastered the ceiling of our bathroom a couple of years back and the imperfections on it really really bug me. I mean REALLY bug me. This time around, we decided it was worth investing in a DIY course to get perfect. I've done a whole post of the course, which you can read here, but essentially it cost a whole lot less than what we would have paid a plasterer.


We spent much of the summer plaster-boarding walls (you can read all about that here) but it took many months later to actually get plastering. And to couple that, since it's was Grants first time plastering away from the course, we also decided to do it in very small bite-size sections. So unlike paying a plasterer who will probably be done in a day or two, for us - it took many weeks, little by little, as and when we had the time free to get it done. And so maaaaaaany months later, I can now share the final results with you!

So, you may (or may not!) remember our now-kitchen actually used to be two separate rooms. One was the downstairs shower room, and the other the kitchen. After hacking a load of tiles off from all the walls, it was pretty obvious they needed re-plastering. Along one side, we've opted to install new plasterboard with battens, around the french door we've used an insulating plasterboard and along the other side, we're just plastering straight over the old plaster. If we were to use plasterboard on this side, the windows and doors would have become more recessed and we really didn't want that. We also didn't want to remove the old plaster, because well - it was actually some kind of cement render and a flamin' NIGHTMARE to remove. And we really couldn't see any benefits in doing so, other than causing a lot more mess and requiring a lot more money.

Here's a reminder of how it looked before and after we'd finished plaster-boarding...

kitchen renovation during demolition
plasterboarding a kitchen yourself

We also needed to plaster the new pillar which was built to support the steel-beam in the new opening between the kitchen and dining room (also needed boarding up), as well as the missing plaster on the wall where the old cupboard had been. Oh and then we had the chimney to re-board and plaster in the dining room as well. Basically, a whooole lot of plastering! And before we could do any of that, we had to make sure the electrics and back-boxes were all in place, as well as all the plumbing. DIY renovating really is a long process and it's all about doing it in the right order! But here's some shots of the other areas that needed some serious wall-attention...

how to repair and plaster damaged brick work
patch plastering diy
patching a hole in the ceiling

For all these areas, we've mostly attached plasterboard over the brickwork using the dot and dab technique, to give a suitable base for plastering. I use the word 'mostly' because in some areas, plasterboard was just too thick. For example, the steel beam which we're keeping exposed sits perfectly in line with the brickwork. To add plasterboard would have made the the beam then recessed by around 2cm and we really wanted everything to be flush and line-up perfectly, without any awkward edges, so we've used browning/bonding plaster as a thinner base in some sections instead. It all took A LOT of thought and planning, but we got there in the end!


how to fit plasterboard
plaster boarding a corner

As I said before we opted to do this bit by bit, sectioning off areas in scrim tape and then blending and feathering the plaster in to join against the next section. The system worked pretty well (you can't see any of the joins, but we did need to sand them!) and it meant Grant could give his full attention to a small section, rather than stretching himself thin over a larger area.

how to plaster diy style
diy plastering with no experience
first time plastering tips

The first wall Grant tackled was definitely his worst and he even ended up going over it a few weeks later once he felt he had perfected the technique a little more. Having left a few months in-between learning to plaster on the course and actually doing it, needless to say meant he had forgotten a few things. Like what consistency of plaster is best - one of his biggest mistakes on the first wall was definitely mixing the plaster too thick, which caused it to dry out much too fast and become a pain in the arse to smooth out.

can anyone plaster?
DIY home renovation - plastering

But I have to say, with each wall he tackled there were less and less dings or imperfections. Any bad spots were very luckily (or was it strategy?) in areas that would be covered by the fridge or wall dresser, or cupboards. I will however say, the floor took one hell of a beating. He definitely gets zero points for tidy and clean working!

messy plaster during renovation

Overall though, he's done a fab job and I think unless you get close-up and critical, you would barely know it had been done by a DIYer. To say it's perfect would be a total lie and we did have to give it a very thorough sand down before painting, but I've certainly seen much worse! We'll mark him at least a 7.5/10 ;)

DIY plastering
DIY plaster dry

One of the worst bits that is on-show is the join between the old shower-room and kitchen on the right hand wall. The plaster between these two walls weren't level, which means there is now a curve in the wall. It's not overly obvious, but in some lights, it does show up. Other than that, everything else is certainly passable by my standards (with perhaps the odd bit of filler required!) and I do have quite high standards! One of the sections he plastered was even completely faultless. Like, seriously - plaster like that more-over and this boy could even take it on as a job. (Perhaps to forgiving friends and family only. Let's not get too carried away now!)

Here's a few shots of the kitchen plaster after we'd given it a good sand...

kitchen renovation plaster
tips for plastering
a guide to diy plastering
sanding plaster
imperfect plaster

Once the main walls in the kitchen were done, we could then move onto some of the smaller, but fiddlier sections. I used a pre-mix plaster skim for some of the smaller more tedious areas around the beam - it's sand-able and basically more like a glorified filler which is a little more forgiving if you don't get it right first time. We were also able to paint straight onto the plasterboard along the top of the beam as Grant had very skilfully fitted in one length with the most perfect cut. It was so good, it actually seemed totally unnecessary to plaster! Again, a bit of pre-mixed plaster skim I was able to blend the join into the original plaster, so it now looks completely seamless.

plastering around an exposed steel
plastering a kitchen opening

The exposed brick where the old cupboard used to be also got a coat of browning. Plasterboard was again too thick to join up with the original plaster, so we're plastering straight to brick here. And the pillar got boarded up, leaving a very small section to brown, again just to blend it in gently to the steel beam, so it's not massively thicker at the top. Am I making sense?

patch plaster diy
how to dot and dab
diy plasterboarding
Plastering, DIY-Style

As you can see, there was also a tiny section on the ceiling too. And then finally, we just had the chimney breast! This was the last bit of plastering Grant tackled and by this point, I can confirm we didn't even have to sand it! You'll notice our chimney has a weird kind of extension to the side - We'd been uhhming and ahhing whether to take this down or not - It starts in the basement and stops in the room above and we think maybe it was used as a side-flue, or perhaps added to support to water tanks in the room above. We have however decided to leave it in place for now. Hopefully it'll be a quirky feature, (albeit total waste of space), but there you go...

Chimney with extension

We'd already boarded the inside of the chimney with a fire-resistant cement board back when we installed the log burner (read how we fitted it here). This can't be plastered as the heat from the fire would be most likely to crack the plaster - so we're using a angle stop bead, which allows you to plaster up to the corner, giving it strength without having to use a corner bead, which would otherwise need plastering in along the other side. We'd also fitted the cement board with an overhang so that it would match up with the plasterboard and luckily everything worked out the way we'd planned!

how to board a chimney
matching up plasterboard corners
how to use angle stop bead
plasterboarded chimney diy

Some plastering later and finaaaallly we were complete! I could grab a load of wet clothes, dusters and spend many hours hoovering in the hope we would now be plaster-dust free!

DIY plastering a chimney
DIY plastering first timers


Tips for First-Time Plasterers:


  • Get yourself a good trowel. No cheapy shortcuts here or you'll regret it later! We thoroughly recommend the Marshalltown Permashape trowels!
  • Consistency is key. Mix your plaster too thick and you'll be having a nightmare, too thin and half of it will end up either on top of you, or on the floor.
  • Timings - Don't be tempted to smooth out too early. Learning when to take a break and let the plaster firm up is one of the hardest but most important factors to learn.
  • Don't overstretch yourself - Stick to small walls that you can really give your full attention to, without the pressure of having to do too much.
  • Find a friend - having someone to mix plaster for you is essential. Mixing is so time-consuming, so having someone on hand to do it for you will make the whole experience a lot less stressful.
  • Keep your tools wet - A fresh bucket of water is vital when plastering. Don't let plaster dry on your trowel or you'll be picking lumps of plaster off the wall for weeks after.
  • Good Lighting - You'll notice we use weird stage-like spotlights. They were cheap and help to give good lighting even when plastering late at night. It's important the lights aren't too bright though, or this can just help hide imperfections. But obviously too dim and you'll also miss a load of impertions too. You have to find the right balance of light!
  • Keep the heating off - At least whilst you're plastering that is! Plastering under too much heat can make it dry far too quickly and you'll be forever stressing. Keep the radiators off until you've finished. And if possible, avoid plastering on the hottest days of the year!
  • Be prepared to possibly have to sand your plaster down - You may not get the perfect finish first-time DIY plastering. So do be prepared to spend some time afterwards sanding and then cleaning up plaster dust. It's a faff but worth it for the best results. 

After many months of plastering - This is even how we spent our New Years Eve(!) we now have something that looks a whole lot like an actual room!


kitchen renovation progress
DIY kitchen renovation


We've saved mega bucks doing this ourselves, but we have had to put a lot of time and effort into getting it done right. It's been a challenge, but one that we can use elsewhere in the house hopefully and in the long-term will really pay off!

Have you/Would you do your own plastering, DIY-Style?


Costs


New Tools Purchased:
Trowel £32
Mini Trowel £16
Plastering Bucket £7
Mixing Paddle £10
Bucket Trowel £8


Materials Used:
Plasterboard (for chimney & around steel) £22
PVA £10
Bags of Plaster £36
Plasterboard Adhesive £18
Browning Plaster £17
Pre-Mixed Plaster Skim £14
Angle beads £16

Total: £206

1 comment

  1. This is a great guide, the difference between working with plaster and plasterboard is something a lot of DIYers can learn from! Did you consider insulated plasterboard for your project? It's not too pricey and can save loads through energy efficiency.

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