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How to Plaster a Ceiling

Whether it’s to cover up settling cracks or to finish off a recent sheet rocking project, knowing how to plaster a ceiling properly can make all the difference in how a finished room looks. If you intend on plastering a ceiling that is already painted, be sure you are aware of all the imperfections and there exact location. This can help the process go a bit smoother and ensure plaster coverage is even throughout.

What You Will Need

  • Drop Cloth
  • Sand Paper
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Safety Glasses
  • Putty Knife
  • Handheld Hawk
  • Trowel
  • Ladder
  • Plaster

First Things First…

Wear your goggles. There is nothing worse than wet plaster or paint debris in the eye. Next, lay down your drop cloth in the area you will be working. This will protect your rug or hardwood flooring from plaster spatter.

Prep Work

If you are working with a previously painted ceiling, sand down any imperfections before wiping it down. Scuff any glossy painted areas using the sandpaper, this will help the plaster better adhere to the ceiling. Thoroughly wipe down the ceiling with a damp cloth to remove any dust, cobwebs, or debris and allow it to dry.

Tape it Up

Taping the walls where they meet the ceiling will prevent plaster app accidents; it will also reduce cleanup time significantly. Make sure when taping that the top of the tape meets up squarely with ceiling-to-wall edges all around the room.

Plaster Pre-Mix

Most bucket plasters need to be mixed before applying. Check the label and follow the manufacturer instructions for proper mixing, application, and drying time. As a rule of thumb, mix the contents anyway; ingredients can settle over time and if applied right out of the bucket, the plaster may not adhere properly or not spread evenly.

Plaster Application

It’s best to start plastering a ceiling in a corner of the room first then spread out slowly. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, work consistently in manageable 3 x 3 areas until the ceiling is completed.

Using your putty knife, apply a chunk of plaster to the handheld hawk and head up the ladder. When you are ready to apply, transfer the plaster from the hawk to the trowel. Apply the plaster to the ceiling leaving the edges random. This will allow you to feather in the start-stop points of application so they will be unnoticeable upon completion.

Each plaster coat should be about ¼” thick, try to maintain this thickness throughout; that way you will have less finishing work to do at the end of the job. Once you have finished a section, apply more plaster to the trowel and begin applying your next set making sure to overlap and feather your previous stopping point.

Finishing Up

Once you have coated the ceiling completely, allow the plaster to set before removing the painter’s tape. If you aren’t sure how long it will take to dry, wait 24 hours before removing the tape just to be sure.

Once the plaster has had some time to set, it can be left as a textured finish or can be sanded smooth and painted. If you are painting, try to stick with a matte finish, especially in bedrooms; this will offset the glossiness of the walls nicely and add depth to smaller rooms.