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Modern Plaster Techniques (Video)

Modern Plaster Techniques (Video)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

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.

The Mix

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.

Plastering Technique

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.

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70 thoughts on “Modern Plaster Techniques (Video)

  1. Can I use this technique on dry wall and then paint with lime based paints to get that aged look? I live in a 1750s colonial and over the years some plaster walls are left intact and others completely replaced. I am looking for the uneven lime wash painted look

    thank you

  2. It’s hard to find veneer plaster near me. I can find plaster of Paris. My question is can I use this as a substitute for the veener? Mix one part plaster of Paris and one part joint compound for the same effect?

  3. I’ve tried this, looks good. It even burnishes, if you want that look. But it seems to left a dusty surface, or dust comes off when you touch it Looks like it needs to be sealed. Do you seal it, and if so, what do you use? If you don’t seal it, what am I doing wrong. Thanks!

  4. My old cape home was build in 1925 and we recently started fixing up the walk up attic. We had to remove 2-3 layers of wallpaper but the walls look terrible now so I thought this would be a much better resolution than gutting the attic. I have 2 questions: the wall we’re never taped, do I need to tape the joints? The walls were scraped pretty good and gone over with 220 grit sandpaper, do I need to use a sealer or should this have removed all the wallpaper residue? I do not see any discoloration or obvious residue on the walls.

  5. Hello Scott!
    It is now Nov. 2018! GREAT site! Thanks for this great video and recipe! I live in small town Utah, an hour away from a Home Depot or Lowes or even a town. But I went to EVERY store in that town today asking for veneer plaster and they all looked at me like I was crazed. I even went to the ones that said, online, they carried it! Home Depot and Lowes online sites show the Diamond brand and another, but say, “not in stores and can’t be delivered.” It’s not available on Amazon et al.either. Since I’ve just base-coated (with drywall compound) two walls to cover truly horrible faux “southwestern” texturing (the previous owners did with a MOP!) I’m feeling a bit desperate! I searched everywhere on the web to find somewhere that would deliver, but came up empty handed. Suggestions? Can I mix my own? Thank you!!

    1. I reached out to the USG manufacturer to find distributors in my area and found a contractor wall supply that carried it!

  6. Hi Scott,

    I started to remove ceiling paint and old ceiling paper in 1924 kitchen to prep for your plaster technique and discovered it isn’t plaster but like an old wallboard type. so when i tried to remove the ceiling paper, i was also removing the paper on the wallboard. The ceiling paper is very thin. Can i just prime the whole ceiling as is (paint over ceiling paper) and apply the modern plaster?


  7. Hi Scott

    We just purchased a home where tape joints show everywhere and thus are considering your method. We are familiar with plastering as we lived in Costa Rica where cement block walls often get a bonding and plaster finish, but we had never come across the method of mixing plaster and joint compound.

    My question is: can you plaster this way over a wall that is already painted?

    1. I also just purchased a home where the tape joints are showing. In fact, in some places it looks like they didn’t even tape – just painted. So I’d also love to know the answer to this question. Can this technique be used on an already painted wall?

  8. First off, love your book “old windows made easy”! I restored 2 bathroom windows in a 1924 revival house, way more to go…! so thanks!

    question about modern plaster technique?
    1. can i use this plaster technique over a painted and wallpapered plaster wall and ceiling? (kitchen ceiling is papered then painted) —i removed the paint and layers of paper off one wall and there are strange layers of mud and taping and textured plaster.
    2 .can i use this technique over wood paneling?

    thank Scott,

  9. Any tips for ensuring color match between batches if I color it? I was going to use powdered pigments, carefully measured and recorded to hopefully duplicate formula each mix, but seems like that is still going to lead to variances. I am guessing you cant mix extra plaster and use it the next day? I don’t think I can get the room done in one day as a beginner.
    I see you can mix latex paint in, maybe that would offer more control than powders?
    USG also says you need to seal Diamond Veneer when finished, in your experience is this necessary?

  10. Scott!
    As a fellow professional in the field of drywalling and plastering I appreciate your take on why this form of plaster is much better for old homes! I think I am going to recommend it to some of our clients at http://www.nashuadrywall.com and see what they think. Of course I will have to practice your technique in the video first! 😉

    Thanks again

  11. Can this mix be used over pre-painted regular drywall, or pre-painted plaster? Do I need to remove all drywall covering and replace with blue board? All of our exterior plaster walls have 1/4″ sheetrock over them.

    Thank you

  12. Scott,
    Can’t find veneer plaster anywhere in my neck of the woods. Will plaster of Paris work the same for this technique?

      1. I mentioned this before, Home Depot has something called veneer plaster from USG Diamond

        If you look on the home depot ite it alls it “setting type plaster”, but I think Home Depot is wrong in calling it that. When I looked at it in the store I could find nothing that said “setting type” on the bag, and in the manufacturer’s site it does not use that phrase.
        I think this has been there only in the last year or two, with the advent of the “blue wall”/plaster method

  13. Hi Scott,
    I’m remodeling our living/dining area and want to use veneer plaster instead of drywall, tape and mud. I’ve been practicing on our bathroom which we will redo later and using a 2-coat system with Imperial base and Diamond finish.

    After getting the veneer finish on last night, this morning I’m finding that it hasn’t hardened completely and I can fairly easily knock down lines I missed last night. I know it has only been 12 hours or so, but shouldn’t the Diamond finish be harder than that by now? I wonder if I did something wrong or if I’m just not waiting long enough? I did use a spray bottle with water to wet down the surface as I was troweling it to get it smooth. Could I have used too much water and weakened the plaster?

      1. It got better, although it didn’t get as hard as walls where I used fresher mixes. The bag I had a problem with was 14 mos. old. I went out and purchased the Diamond finish with a date that was less than three months old and it took a more reasonable time to set and mixed to a smoother texture. The old bag seemed to have crystals in it.

        I may try to use some Plaster Weld and do another coat or I may just tear it all out when I redo the bathroom. I’ve moved on to the living room and so far, it looks pretty good, but surely not as nice as a professional plasterer could do. Getting the hang of this takes awhile: when to double back, when to use water, how to avoid voids (?), etc. Small ridges are easier to deal with than voids once it starts to set up.

        Another tip for us newbies: clean your bucket!! Even with fresh plaster, I had the bucket rinsed but not scraped clean and it contaminated my new batch. That was a mess, both on the wall and in the bucket.

        1. Thanks for the follow up.
          If I don’t use a plaster/concrete product right away, I try to remember to put it in a plastic trash bad to seal it from moisture, after making a few 50lb paper weights…

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