how to plaster a ceiling

How To Plaster A Ceiling

Have you been meaning to update that old cracked or crumbling ceiling at home? You’re probably dreading the thought of calling a professional plasterer for a budget breaking quote. The good news is you can do it yourself if you put in the time and effort.

Plastering is messy and requires a lot of work, but if you have a weekend to spare, you can plaster your ceiling yourself. You’ll need to have all the right tools for the job which can be a bit pricey. However, by doing it yourself, you’ll learn another valuable skill that will save you tons of money in the long run.

So, pay close attention because in this tutorial we will show you exactly how to plaster a ceiling like a true professional.

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Tools & Materials

Make sure you have the following tools and materials before you get started.

Tools

  • Step Ladder
  • Trowel
  • Hawk
  • Small Tool
  • Sanding Block
  • Hammer 
  • Screwdriver
  • Utility Knife
  • Putty Knife
  • Canvas Drop Cloths
  • Plastic Sheets to cover furniture

Materials

  • Wall Plaster
  • Mixing Buckets
  • Eye Protection
  • Protective Gloves
  • Dust Mask
  • Stir Stick or Electric Drill with Mixing Paddle

How To Plaster A Ceiling

Prepare Your Work Area

The truth is, plastering your ceiling is going to be incredibly messy, so you will want a few large drop cloths to cover your whole floor. Splatters and spills are a part of the process, so make sure surrounding furniture are protected. Ideally, you should remove all furniture from the room, but if this isn’t possible, cover them with plastic sheets instead.

Check out our post on Painting A Room With No Mess for more tips on preparing your work area.

You’ll want to wear safety goggles, a dust mask and some old clothes you don’t mind ruining. You’ll also need a few buckets on hand for mixing the plaster and a bucket of fresh water for cleaning your tools.

Prepare The Ceiling

prepare ceiling

Remove any nails or screws from the ceiling. Make sure all light fixtures are taped and covered up before you begin.

If there are any high spots or crumbling and loose plaster, you’ll need to sand these spots down with a sanding block. 

Mix Up Your Plaster

mix plaster

Next, start mixing up the plaster. Make sure you give it a good mix so that everything blends in and you get an even texture and consistency throughout the plaster.

You don’t want your plaster to be too thick nor too runny, so make sure to add water as you go. Refer to your plaster package instructions for the correct mixing ratio. 

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Pro Tip: Buy or borrow a mixing paddle for your electric drill if you don’t want to mix your plaster by hand

Skim Coat

Now you’re ready for the action! A ‘Skim Coat’ is a thin first layer of plaster that you will apply to your ceiling.

Plastering will be hard at first and will take plenty of practice before you perfect it. Therefore, please be patient and start with minimal plaster, as it’s easier to apply and control.

Scoop a generous amount of plaster onto your hawk and then scoop a bit off with your trowel. Starting from the edge of the wall, trowel the plaster onto the ceiling in thin (roughly 2mm thick) and even rows. Try and keep it as even and consistent as possible while minimising the lines left from the trowel.

Check out the video below by Tommy's Yard around the 3:55 mark for a lesson on skim coating.

Second Coat

Your first coat of plaster will dry rather fast, so it’s now safe to trowel on the second coat.

You should end up with around 4-5mm total of plaster on the ceiling after the two coats have been applied.

Trowelling Up

You’re now done applying plaster to the ceiling, so give all your tools a quick wash before we start the ‘Trowelling Up’ process.

Trowelling up is the finishing process of smoothing the plaster, ensuring there are no high spots, and everything is even. For more info, Gypsum Tools has a good explanation of ‘trowelling up’ here.

Work the plaster and smooth out the trowel lines in between. Take this opportunity to fill in any blemishes before the plaster gets too hard. Work the plaster back and forth with the trowel until the ceiling is smooth and consistently even. 

Check out the video below by Tommy's Yard around the 8:00 mark for a professional lesson on finishing plaster.

Final Trowel

Final trowel, as the name suggests, is your last trowel before the plaster fully sets.

Continue ‘Trowelling Up’ but add water while trowelling. Many Professional plasterers wet a paintbrush and flick the water onto the ceiling. The Pros then proceed to trowel back and forth as explained above. Using water while trowelling up will add a smooth glowing finish to your plaster.

Clean Up Time

As mentioned earlier, plastering is incredibly messy. While cleaning up and carrying tools through your house, make sure you don't track plaster throughout your floors and carpets.

Give all your tools a final wash and clean out all buckets and mixing gear.

If you correctly followed all the steps above, you should now have a freshly plastered ceiling ready for painting!

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About the Author Dylan

Dylan Bair is a Building and Construction Industry Content Marketer and Copywriter. He is a builder by day and writer by night. When he is not working you can find him traveling the world, surfing, snowboarding and camping