Hand Application of Plaster

By applying your own plaster by hand, you can drastically reduce labor costs for this time-consuming process. Mixing and applying plaster is a very basic, simple process, and the help of friends and family can be most welcome at this stage. If you spread the effort among a dozen people, it can speed up the work and make for a fun weekend of shared effort.

A natural division seems to exist in the human population: those who enjoy plastering and those who detest it. If you are among the former, you might actually have a good time putting in the effort that's required. If you are among the latter, it may be worth any price to have professionals do the work for you!

First-time plasterers are infamous for the creation of unintentional sidewalks of spilled plaster around the base of the wall. It's no easy feat to get a full trowel of plaster on a wall and have it stay in place! Still, with some practice, most people are able to get the hang of it and do a good job. The techniques are much easier to demonstrate than to describe in written form, so getting a lesson from someone with experience is a definite plus. (It's even better if you can convince that person to join your crew!)

First of all, you should always start plastering at the top of the wall and work your way down. You not only get the harder stuff done first, but when you inevitably drop or roll some plaster down the wall, it doesn't ruin the nice job you've just finished on a lower section of the wall! From the top, you'll be able to rest the front edge of your hawk directly against the wall to take some weight off your arm without sticking it in fresh wet plaster.

If you are using a hawk, you can use the cut-and-swipe technique. Place a hawk full of plaster near or directly against the wall. Using the trowel, separate a hunk of plaster and smear it against the surface with a smooth curved swipe, lifting it onto the wall. Position the trowel so that you are using the trailing edge to push the plaster into the wall; the leading edge should be riding just above the surface. Apply lots of pressure to ensure that the plaster bonds well with the bare straw or the previous coat of plaster.

The most common mistake people make in plastering is to worry one small section of the wall at a time. The best technique is to quickly

19.10: Misting the walls is very important; it helps the cement gain full strength and is essential to the adhesion of the next coat. On windy and/or sunny days, more misting is needed.



19.11a - b: After getting a hawk filled up at the wheelbarrow, the troweller rests the hawk against the wall and starts to push plaster upwards.

smear plaster over an area of three to six square feet. This may take two, three, or several hawk loads of plaster. Then, once you have the plaster applied to the large area, start your trowel at the bottom-most edge and make one continuous stroke, applying lots of pressure to the trailing edge of the trowel until you run out of plaster to smear. Then, repeat with another long stroke right beside the previous one. Keep repeating until you've smoothed out the whole area. Then, if you have some ridges or hollows to be filled, go back over the surface you've just troweled, using less pressure. You may need to add a bit of plaster to low spots. Always make the longest trowel stroke possible;you'll never get things smooth by dabbing at the wall with the tip of the trowel! Wipe your trowel clean on the edge of your hawk to keep it from sticking to the plaster on the wall and dragging ridges into the finish.There is no point in visiting the same area of the wall more than three or four times, because you won't get it to look any better. On the first and second coats, don't worry about it too much, there's still more plaster to go! Then, once you're happy with your area, repeat, over and over and over.

The hawk technique works well when you cannot work right next to a wheelbarrow or mortarboard full of plaster. The fully loaded hawk is very heavy, and your arm may quickly tire of holding it. A second technique, used by bricklayers and masons, involves a triangular brick trowel in one hand and your wall trowel in the other. Use the brick trowel to scoop some plaster and scrape it on the wall trowel. True professionals make this look easy as they throw perfect lumps of plaster onto their trowel in a seemingly fluid and endless motion! With some practice, anybody can get the hang of this technique and use a hawk only when necessary.

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