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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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71 thoughts on “Modern Plaster Techniques (Video)

  1. What about poured concrete basement walls? Mine are rough and ugly and I want to cover them without finishing with drywall.

  2. Hi Scott, I recently came across your blog and find it both useful and informative. I saw a question/comment from Justin sent on November 2, 2016. My situation is nearly identical, but don’t see any suggestions. Would you help me?

    Thank you in advance for sharing your expertise.

  3. Hi Scott,

    I’m wondering why you need the addition of the joint compound? Could I use veneer plaster on its own for a skin coat?

    1. Anna, the joint compound makes it so you don’t need to apply a binding agent to the wall first which is required for a veneer plaster skin coat over anything other than bare blueboard.

  4. Can we use this technique on cheap paneling? Not real wood paneling, but that nasty looking stuff from the 60’s. We just bought a 1925 Bungalow and the entire house downstairs is that yucky paneling. We’d like to bring it back to an authentic looking Craftman’s home again but putting up drywall in the entire house will be cost prohibitive, plus I love the look you are getting with plaster.

  5. I am currently removing about 6 layers of wallpaper (god help me!) and it appears the plaster was never skim coated before the wallpaper was applied. It is coming off beautifully and the plaster is in really good shape- but certainly needs something to give it a finished look.

    Do I apply this mixture right over the “naked” plaster or do I need to prime first?

      1. I’m so sorry if this is a stupid question but prime with what? I am in process of removing as many layers as well on my 1926 baby.

  6. Scott, I can’t seem to find the video on plastering on your side. Is it located via another avenue. Thanks

  7. I am not sure about different comments about the video, I found one

    your link goes to “Diamond Int Finish Plaster”
    Home depot sells “Diamond Veneer Finish Setting-Type Joint Compound”
    are these at all equivalent, or totally different?
    Killian’s hardware sells something called “Dash Patch” as patching plaster,
    can that be used instead of Diamond veneer plaster?
    All of the home depot joint compounds say they are “setting type” except the premix, do I just need to go to a “real” building supply store?

    Can one roll it on with a thick paint roller and then smoothed out with a “Miracle trowel” or other trowel?


      1. A follow up. The “Diamond Veneer Finish” package actually does not say “setting type” on it, that is the Home Depot description which may or may not be correct.
        here is the manufacturer’s page on what I have:

        The USG plaster listing is here:
        I can’t find anything anywhere other than that Amazon listing for a package like what is shown.

        How long before you can paint your system? Does it need special paint?

        1. USG says the picture at the amazon link is old and the packaging doesn’t look like that anymore, it looks like this:

    1. Abbie always do a little test first, but I can add up to 1 gallon of flat paint to a 5 gallon mix of modern plaster without any problems. Anymore and you might have issues. Also realize that the final color will be much different that what comes out of the can.

      1. Hello Scott,
        Further to your answer above. Are you saying that I can put paint into the wet mix of the modern plaster to save painting the plaster? I ask because the effect I’m looking to achieve is lime-wash in between the existing posts and beam of my 1762 barn, which I am turning into a living room. Against my better judgement, I did accept the addition of drywall, but I want it to look like lime-washed plaster like an old English cottage. If I put white paint into the modern plaster, then it seems like it would work, yes?
        Thanks a lot in advance for your answer.

          1. Thank you for you response. What would you recommend for the finish I am looking for?

  8. Hi Scott, You mentioned a mixing video at the beginning of this one. I can’t seem to find it on your website. Could you point me in the right direction? I was curious to know how much time I have to leave the product in the bucket (mixed up) before it is no longer good for use. Thanks!

  9. Hello, Scott.
    1. We are doing a 1/8″ coat of Diamond Veneer finish plaster over 5/8″ blueboard. In spite of careful work, occasionally some plaster splattered on the woodwork and stained it. The beams are a few years old and have darkened over time. They were originally oiled with tung oil and citrus thinner. The fir window frames had a light factory finish but are otherwise untreated and have also gotten darker over time. Any thoughts on how best to clean up the plaster stains on the woodwork without having to sand everything down to a new layer of wood?
    2. The unfinished plaster has a sheen to it that I’m not sure I like (although I love the other qualities of the plaster!). I was curious if a matte paint would dull the sheen a bit? I’ve used self-priming Bioshield zero-VOC wall paint before and was hoping that could work on the plaster, but I read something in one of your other posts about the plaster requiring a specific type of primer due to the pH. Any recommendations on a non-toxic primer?
    3. What may be the cons of leaving the plaster unfinished? (I know the major pro is saving time & money by not painting!)

    Thank you for your time. I’ve just discovered this blog and looking forward to reading more.

    1. Phoebe, I’m using imperial blue board and currently trying to decide which direction to go with plaster veneer!! I’ve looked at California one kote, this modern mix using diamond/drywall mud/sand as well as American clay. I was wondering what you ended up using? Thank you

  10. Hey Scott, Another question re the modern plaster mix. We want to add paint to the mix. Can we add paint? Do you have a formula for adding paint? How much and when to add? Any tips about adding paint? Thanks, Doug

  11. Scott, We have finally located and purchased the correct veneer plaster for the modern plaster formula. Now, we are having a hard time locating the sand. Which sand do you recommend for the DIYer to use in your above formula? Can we purchase it in bags? We bought some play sand, but it had some large pebbles that did not give a smooth skim. Thanks again! Doug

  12. Scott,
    In November 2016, my husband and I bought an 1893 home in Chicago that needs a great deal of plaster repair – cracks everywhere. I have been scouring the interwebs for information on plaster repair and latched on to your site. I’m a pretty adventurous DIYer, so I’ve purchased a contractor’s pack of Big Wally’s and am getting ready to dive in. I have been reviewing all your posts and videos and those of Rory Brennan. I wanted to confirm that once my cracks are fixed, I do NOT need to apply a bonding agent if I use your modern plaster technique. Also, once this is finished – will the wall be ready to apply paint? Are there any additional steps?

    Also, I have 3 closets which have cracking plaster, but also significant flaking of the top layer of paint/plaster. The layer exposed is not the lath, but it’s definitely a plaster layer. To fix this, could I scrape off all the flaking stuff, repair the cracks and apply the modern plaster or will it not adhere to the layer? Thanks!

  13. Hello Scott, We watched your video re the modern plaster formula and you used the words veneer finish plaster. I cannot find that particular wording as I am looking for a plaster product. Can we just use “finish plaster” of any brand for your formula? Also, it is very hard to find finish plaster of any brand in stock at the retail level. Do you have a suggestion as to where to get some?
    Thanks, Doug & Rafa

  14. Scott,
    Can I use this mixture as a faster easier way to repair a hole in a ceiling? It is drywall with a knockdown texture. A repairman put his foot through it from the attic.

  15. Hi Scott, thanks so much for the video. I’m a little confused, so if you could explain one more time, that would be great. What are you applying the plaster over? Can we plaster over existing drywall? If we are starting a new wall, should we use the blue board that other people are talking about?

  16. Hi Scott,
    I am finishing my basement and found your article on the modern plaster technique. I would like to use this method over the traditional drywall mud, sand, repeat process. Can you tell me approximately how much area one bag of plaster and bucket of compound should cover?

  17. Hi Scott,
    I have a quick question, and I think it’s what you were doing in the video. I am looking to skim coat the plaster walls in my 1925 colonial. I have been all over the internet and landed on your site today.

    My walls are smooth in texture, but they have tons of pock marks and little holes. I believe this is from the original job; it’s not damage to the wall.

    I would like to have a super smooth wall, but I also want to keep the integrity and super hard strength of the original plaster. Is it even possible to get plaster smooth like that or is it inherently going to be a little rougher than a level 5 drywall job?

    Sorry for so many questions, but:

    If I want to skim coat with your modern plaster mixture, can I sand afterwards?

    Will the modern plaster mixture permit me to do the roll on method with the Magic Trowel?

    It seems something like Durabond 90 cannot be used to skim coat over plaster because while it’s super hard, you cannot sand it down. Am I correct in that thought? Many people mention using standard joint compound over Durabond – but I’m afraid then the joint compound won’t be as hard.

    What would be your recommendation for what I’m looking to do?

    Thank you in advance!

  18. Similar to Lauren’s situation, most of my 1895 Victorian’s severely damaged plaster was applied directly to brick, and some of the damage is 2-3 feet square (such as missing all plaster above a window).

    For repairs this large, and directly on brick, do you still recommend this modern plaster technique or something else (such as a more traditional 3-coat)?

    1. Modern plaster will work well directly on brick just make sure to thoroughly wet the brick first or it will suck up the water from the plaster too quickly and dry it out prematurely leading to poor adhesion.

  19. Hi Scott, Not quite sure where to begin because the story could be long…haha. My husband and I were lucky enough to purchase and start renovating a 1798 farmhouse. We came across your page too late, I think, unfortunately because we did use the dreaded sheet rock in some parts of the house. Now that I’ve confessed and we’ve found your page, we are in the last room of the house, which is also, the oldest. We just took down the lovely paneling from the 60s (trust me, it was everywhere) and discovered more plaster, that I don’t think is too bad at all. Here’s the catch though. It’s over brick, not lath, and it is covered with amazing old wall paper. The wallpaper is far from in good condition, but we’d love to attempt to save this plaster. Is this process the same over brick as it is over the lath? I have a few more questions if we could send pics. You inspired us in our irreplaceable, amazing historic home. Thanks for all your help.

    1. Hey Lauren, this works best over top of drywall or old plaster. It doesn’t matter what is behind the plaster whether brick or lath. You’ll have to remove the wallpaper though and to seal up wallpaper residue I prefer to prime the wall with an oil-based primer first.

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