I posted a while back about my aversion to drywall and how I feel it has absolutely no place in an old house. I mentioned a technique that my company uses called ‘Modern Plaster’ to repair and re-coat old plaster walls and new sheetrock to make them look and perform like a brand new old plaster wall.
Well, I’ve finally gotten around to making a video to show you some of the techniques that we use to attain this look. A lot of this work varies from home to home as we attempt to match the original finishes.
The plaster may be smooth and sand free in one house, then a heavy sand finish, or crow’s foot texture on the next. You never know what you’ll find, but with a little experimentation, you can usually find a solution.
Modern Plaster is a hybrid of the commonly used veneer plaster and joint compound finishes available today. It was introduced to me by plasterer with over 40 years experience as a very workable solution to damaged plaster walls.
This post doesn’t cover how to patch plaster, which is handled before the application of Modern Plaster. The typical procedure for skim coating a wall with veneer plaster is to coat the wall with a PVA bonding agent. Typically two coats are applied and then you can begin skim coating.
With Modern Plaster, you can skip the bonding agent and move right to plastering which saves hours but yields almost identical results. You get the same hard finish typical of veneer plaster in less time with a modern plaster wall.
Here’s the recipe for my Modern Plaster mix:
- 1 part Veneer Plaster (I prefer Diamond Brand)
- 1 part Pre-mixed Joint Compound
- 1 part Sand
Sand is optional depending on the texture you are trying to match. If you aren’t adding sand, then it’s a 1:1 mix of veneer plaster to joint compound. When sand is added to the mix, it becomes even parts of all three items 1:1:1.
To make a full bucket of Modern Plaster, begin by filling a 5-gallon bucket 1/3 full of water and then mixing veneer plaster into the water and mixing thoroughly until ALL lumps are gone and you have a thin sour cream like mix.
Then add the same amount of pre-mixed joint compound (not setting type compound!) to the bucket followed by the same amount of sand. Tip: When you add the joint compound, the mixture will stiffen up significantly, so make sure to mix your veneer plaster a little thinner than you would want your final mix to be.
The thickness of your final mix should be thick enough that if you put a margin trowel right in the center, it won’t sink down and disappear in the plaster. Aim for a regular yogurt (not Greek yogurt) like texture. If it’s too thick, then it will setup too quickly and kill your shoulder during application, too thin and it’s unworkable.
Before you mix up a full batch, try mixing a small amount to get a feel for working with the material.
Here’s where the video comes in. I can explain this all day, but you need to watch someone plaster to get an idea what to do. Watch this video and then practice, practice, practice. The first time you try it, it will be weird and awkward like the first time you rode a bike, but you can get a decent technique down with a little practice. Be sure to subscribe to The Craftsman Blog Youtube channel to receive all of our handy, money saving DIY videos first!
No, you won’t be as fast and smooth as someone who has been plastering for decades, but neither am I, and I make a living doing this stuff! Good luck with your plastering and feel free to leave any comments or questions below.
A note to the purists:
I know this is not historically accurate, but in the interest of saving more historic plaster, this option makes skim coating more affordable, more attainable to the DIYer, and creates a historically accurate appearance to the original.
Founder & Senior Editor
I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.