Our guide to plastering
Molly Longman

Our guide to plastering

First published date April 16 2015 Amended date May 08 2015

Whether you’re a whiz with a trowel already, or you don’t think you have a handy bone in your body, you’re sure to flourish on a plastering course. You’ll develop many skills on these courses, and you’re sure to come out with a little dust on your hands, as well as the ability to apply plastering materials to internal and external surfaces, form sand and cement screeds, produce components from moulds, and much more. Maybe this all sounds a bit overwhelming to you, but fear not, you’ll have plastering down pat in no time after taking a course.  


What is plastering anyway?

Plastering generally refers to the construction or ornamentation of an exterior or interior wall using plaster. Plastering can also involve creating decorative mouldings on ceilings or walls. Plaster itself is made of a dry powder that is mixed with water to form a paste that hardens when it dries. It is relatively easy to work with plaster, when equipped with the right tools and skills.


The ancient art of getting plastered...

The Romans discovered and perfected plaster when building their empire around the fourth century B.C. However, it wasn’t until the Middle Ages that plaster decoration really caught on and gypsum plaster was used widely around Europe.


Interesting ingredients

In the mid-thirteenth century, there was not hard and fast recipe for plaster. Trying to  find the sturdiest ingredients, Europeans experimented with additives to assist the set and plasticity of their buildings. Ancient plaster included malt, urine, beer, milk, and eggs.


Tools you’ll need

Plasterers will use a variety of tools to help them perfect their plastering including:

Trowels – hand tools used to smooth over the plaster

Hawks – tools used to apply a smoother finish to a wall

Laths – thin, narrow strips of straight-grained wood that are used to hold plaster in place

Hair – though most wouldn’t classify hair as a tool, it can be used in plastering as a binding medium that gives tenacity to the material.


People who plaster

When guessing at stars with a background in plastering, most wouldn’t think of Frank Sinatra on the first try. However, he married plasterer’s daughter, and spent his early years, working with his father-in-law plastering walls while waiting for his big break.

Who would have thought that James Bond could form a bond with plaster, as well? Sean Connery worked with his brother who was a plastering contractor before becoming Agent 007.


A few tips for starters

  • Aim for flatness – not just smoothness
  • Make sure you have the right size trowel for the job
  • Keep your layers thin – mixing the finish plaster that is too thick can make it difficult to keep things flat, not to mention your arm will ache from trying to spread out the plaster
  • Apply two coats of plaster – A very thin first coat is necessary to ensure that the plaster will stick and is applied with lots of pressure, while the second can be a thicker coat applied with less pressure



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