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The Home Depot

Plaster Wall Installation Guide

Pro Referral > Home Guides > Drywall > Plaster Wall Installation Guide
Plaster Wall Installation Guide

While there's absolutely no doubt that drywall is the preferred material for creating indoor walls in modern times, its predecessor, plaster, still holds an important place in the home improvement industry. Harder and tougher than drywall, plaster is also extremely fire-resistant. Plaster walls tend to be thicker and more sound-proof than their drywall counterparts, and many believe that plaster has a more luxurious appearance, as well.


So why has this incredible material been replaced almost entirely by drywall in modern construction? The answer is simply convenience. Drywall is far easier to work with, and many consider hanging drywall to be one of the most do-it-yourself friendly tasks in the remodeling industry. Plaster, on the other hand, is not generally considered a good DIY option. Though the seasoned professionals make using this material look easy, anyone who's tried it will tell you it takes more than a little practice to do the job right.

  1. 1.Installing Plaster Walls

    Depending on the temperature of the room and the humidity in the air, the perfect proportions for a plaster mix can vary

    Very old plaster walls (some of which have survived not just for decades, but for centuries) were installed over wooden lath. Today, however, most plaster walls are created using metal lath or blueboard, a special kind of board that is hung like traditional drywall but designed specifically to be a base for a plaster surface. Whether installed over lath or over blueboard, plaster walls typically employ multiple continuous plaster surfaces. This eliminates the visible joints that can be found in many drywall installations and results in a more durable and more uniform surface.


    Though plaster is sometimes applied in a single, polished, veneer coat, it is usually applied in at least two coats. The first layer of plaster applied to the board or lath is called the scratch coat; here, the surface is roughed in and often textured to provide better adhesion for the top or finish coat. In some cases, a middle coat (sometimes called a "brown" coat) is used between the scratch coat and finish coat. When performed properly, the result is an extremely smooth, tough surface that is ready to receive paint or wallpaper.

  2. 2.Plaster Is Picky

    One of the most significant reasons why drywall has so thoroughly captured the modern market is the delicacy with which its predecessor must be applied. Though moisture can certainly play a role in drywall's performance over time (as it can play a role in plaster's), drywall does not have to be mixed. Depending on the temperature of the room and the humidity in the air, the perfect proportions for a plaster mix can vary. Too much or too little water in the plaster mix and the installation becomes less durable. Unlike drywall that simply gets screwed in and covered, plaster must be finessed onto the walls by someone who knows exactly how to mix and apply it.

  4. 3.Finding a Good Plaster Contractor

    Lots of plaster walls installed decades ago is still performing well today. Add that to the fact that very few homeowners opt to build plaster interiors in modern times and you get a market that is flooded with drywall contractors and lacking in plaster craftsmen. This means that it can be rather difficult to find someone who has experience in the field.


    What a homeowner should absolutely not do is hire a plaster installer who does not have a sufficient amount of experience using the material. Sure, there are probably good contractors out there who can do a passable job without having decades of experience, but because this job is going to be more costly than the alternatives anyway, it is certainly worth a little extra research to ensure you get what you're paying for.

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