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The Difference Between Skim Coat Plastering And Traditional Plastering Methods

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    Plastering, which involves applying a smooth, durable coating to surfaces like walls and ceilings, is essential to any building or remodelling project. However, there are many plastering techniques, each with its tools and materials. Skim coat plastering and conventional plastering techniques are two common choices.

    In this blog, we'll compare and contrast the two strategies and discuss how to decide which is best for your work.

    Traditional plastering methods have been used for centuries, standing the test of time in construction and renovation projects.

    This approach involves the application of multiple layers of plaster, building up a thicker coat that provides a solid and durable finish. Although traditional plastering can create a visually appealing result, it may present challenges in terms of pest control.

    Over time, cracks and fissures can develop due to natural settling or changes in temperature and humidity, creating ideal entry points for pests. Furthermore, the thicker layers of plaster can hide existing pest infestations, making detection and treatment more difficult.

    To combat these issues, it is essential to regularly inspect and maintain traditional plastered surfaces, ensuring that any cracks or gaps are promptly sealed to deter pests and preserve the integrity of your space.

    By understanding the differences between skim coat plastering and traditional plastering methods, you can make informed decisions that enhance both the aesthetics and pest resistance of your property.

    When combined with professional pest control services, these plastering techniques can fortify your defense against unwanted visitors, fostering a safe and pest-free environment for years to come.

    What Is Skim Coat Plastering?

    Skim coat plastering is a hybrid between the time-tested practise of applying three coats of plaster and the speed and efficiency of modern drywall, with some of the advantages and visual appeal of both methods preserved. Skilled plasterers will then apply a thin coating of gypsum plaster, typically 1/8 inch thick, over the finished drywall and taped seams.

    Using this process, you may achieve the look of a professionally troweled plaster wall finish without hiring a professional.

    The use of wood or metal lath behind the plaster is unnecessary with skim coat plastering, which saves both time and money. Instead of using lath, you can use plasterboard.

    Compared to regular plastering, skim coat plastering calls for drywall with a somewhat different composition; specifically, drywall with a thicker paper facing on one side and a very fine texture. Blue board, another name for plasterboard, is almost indistinguishable from normal drywall.

    The paper face's increased thickness and texture provide a substantial key for the veneer plaster to grip onto, so preventing delamination.

    You can use veneer plaster instead of plasterboard if you have a bonding agent on hand.

    You might also use a modern plaster blend, like the one we've been using for years, which combines veneer plaster with joint compound to enhance both workability and bonding strength. 

    Advantages Of Skim Coat Plaster

    Superior Savings: Comparing it to conventional three-coat plaster systems, plaster offers substantial cost savings. Despite the lower expense, the final result closely resembles the appearance of a three-coat plaster. A skilled plasterer can achieve comparable patterns and textures using skim-coat plastering.

    Exceptional Durability: Plaster outshines drywall by a considerable margin when it comes to longevity. Its robust nature ensures that it lasts significantly longer, providing a more durable solution for your walls.

    Reduced Curing Time: Compared to the curing time required for a three-coat plaster, plastering with skim-coat plaster requires considerably less time. This quicker drying process saves both time and resources, allowing for faster project completion.

    Versatility in Surface Textures and Designs: One of the key advantages of plaster is the wide range of surface textures and designs it offers. With plaster, you have access to an extensive array of options to suit your aesthetic preferences, allowing you to create unique and visually appealing finishes on your walls.

    Cost-Effective Option: Opting for plaster over a three-coat plaster system is a cost-effective choice. The lower price tag makes plaster an attractive option for those seeking quality wall finishes without breaking the bank.

    Enhanced Accessibility: Another benefit of choosing plaster is its accessibility. Unlike a more complex three-coat plaster system, plastering with skim-coat plaster is a more straightforward and accessible process. This accessibility makes plaster an appealing option for various applications and a wider range of individuals.

    Versatility in Home Improvement: Plaster can be utilized in diverse contexts within almost any home. Whether you are considering renovating your existing walls or constructing new ones, plaster provides a versatile solution. Its adaptability makes it suitable for a wide variety of home improvement projects.

    Preserving the Charm of Older Homes: When restoring older homes, skim coating the walls with plaster is an excellent way to revive their original charm. The imperfections found on a plaster surface serve as a testament to the artisan's skill and add to its appeal. The uniqueness and individuality of each wall's character contribute to its beauty, with no two walls being identical.

    Plaster offers numerous advantages over regular drywall. From its cost-effectiveness and durability to its accessibility and versatility in surface textures, plaster presents an appealing option for homeowners seeking high-quality wall finishes. Whether you're considering renovating existing walls or embarking on new construction, plaster is a reliable and aesthetically pleasing choice.

    Materials Required For Skim Coat Plastering

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    The proper tools and supplies are crucial for a successful skim coat plastering project. The most crucial components are listed below.

    Plasterer's Trowel

    The blade of this device is made of steel and is about square or rectangular; a wooden handle is attached to the spine. It comes in various sizes, but a four-by-ten-inch trowel is a good choice for novice plasterers because of its manageability. In addition, the trowel's weight and feel will be familiar if you've used a similar tool to spread mortar or smooth cement. 

    Other Trowels

    A wide variety of purpose-built plastering trowels are available, including options with short or narrow blades, trowel or scraper handles, and a wide range of prices. To get started, you only need two tools, one about two inches wide and another about four inches wide. Of course, it's also helpful to have a corner trowel. However, if you have nothing else, a joint-compound corner trowel will do in a pinch.

    Water Brush

    We recommend using a blister brush when smoothing out plaster, but any good-quality brush will do. It has two felt pads that absorb surprisingly large amounts of liquid. Since there are no bristles to shed or leave behind, this brush will last much longer than its competitors and can be used directly on the plaster to speed up the smoothing process.


    This device holds extra plaster for the plasterer to use later when necessary. One hand is on the hawk, and the other is on a trowel. The hawk's top is made of magnesium or aluminium and has a flat surface, while the handle is made of wood or plastic. The top has a square shape with rounded corners and comes in three different sizes (12, 13, and 14 inches), though it's best to start with the smaller one.

    Step-By-Step Process Of Skim Coat Plastering

    A smooth and shiny finish on walls or ceilings can be achieved with skim coat plastering. Plaster is used to hide surface flaws and make everything look more consistent.

    Here is a step-by-step guide to help you through the skim coat plastering process:

    Prepare The Surface

    First, make sure the area you'll be working on is free of debris like dust and grease. Next, remove peeling wallpaper or paint, and patch any holes or cracks. If better adhesion is required, a primer can be used.

    Mix The Skim Coat Plaster

    Combine the skim coat plaster and water in a clean mixing container as the manufacturer directs. To ensure an even consistency throughout the mixture, use a mixing paddle or a drill fitted with a mixing attachment. Let the concoction sit for a while before using it.

    Use The Skim Coat Plaster.

    Mix a small amount of skim-coat plaster and place it on the edge of a trowel. Use upward strokes while holding the trowel at a slight angle to apply the plaster. Spread the plaster evenly in thin layers, working in small areas.

    Spread And Smooth

    After applying a base coat of plaster, it can be smoothed out with a trowel. Use a light, sweeping motion while applying even pressure with the trowel. Maintain a consistent thickness by working from one end of the segment to the other.

    Feathering Technique

    Use the feathering method to end up with a smooth surface. Then, as you get closer to the section's edges, you can ease up on the pressure you're applying with the trowel. This will ensure a seamless transition devoid of any harsh edges or marks.

    Check For Imperfections

    The best time to check for imperfections in the plaster's surface is still wet. Gently smooth rough spots with the trowel or putty knife to create a uniform surface. Relax and focus on the finer points.

    Allow For Drying And Sanding

    Once the skim coat plaster has dried per the manufacturer's instructions, usually within a few hours, the surface can be gently sanded with fine-grit sandpaper or a sanding block. In doing so, you'll get a surface free of flaws and primed for painting.

    Clean The Surface

    To clean up after sanding, you can use a dry cloth or a vacuum to remove the dust and debris. Before painting or applying other finishing touches, ensure no dust or dirt on the surface and debris.

    Use Additional Coats (If Needed)

    Additional skim coat plaster applications may be necessary to achieve the desired level of smoothness, depending on the state of the surface. Apply, even out, and smooth multiple coats, waiting for each to dry and sand thoroughly between applications.

    Finalise The Finish

    You can finish the walls with paint, wallpaper, or whatever else you like once you've determined that the skim-coat plaster is to your satisfaction in terms of smoothness and quality. Follow the manufacturer's directions when applying the chosen finish.

    What Is Traditional Plastering

    To plaster something is to cover it with a layer of plaster. Gypsum, lime, or cement can all be used to create the plaster. Then, it can be applied to walls and ceilings to hide flaws and make them look more uniform.

    Materials Used In Traditional Plastering

    Plastering is a time-tested technique for producing long-lasting, glossy surfaces on walls, ceilings, and other architectural elements. Several coats of plaster are applied, each of which calls for unique tools and supplies. The main components of traditional plastering are as follows:

    Lime Plaster

    Lime plaster has been a standard building material for generations. A mixture of lime, sand, and water strengthens the finish on your walls and ceilings. Depending on your aesthetic preferences, you can paint over lime plaster or leave it natural. Tools like a straight steel edge and a wooden float are used to guarantee precision and consistency during the application process.

    Depending on the design intent, different methods are used to achieve various finishes, such as sand-faced and rough-cast. Lime plaster looks great and protects against moisture and other elements for very little money. In addition, plastered surfaces can last for many years with only occasional maintenance and repair if treated with the care they deserve.

    Plasters Made Of Clay And Mud

    Plasters made from clay and mud have been used for centuries in building and remodelling.

    Natural clay and mud are combined with other ingredients like straw and debris to create a thick paste-like material used in their production. Clay and mud plasters offer a durable finish for interior and exterior walls.

    They work particularly well for making decorative patterns and designs like swirls and geometric shapes on the walls and ceilings.

    Regarding home energy efficiency, clay and mud plasters are a more economical option than traditional lime plasters because of their superior insulation properties.

    You can apply them with a trowel or a wooden float in multiple coats to achieve different effects, such as a smooth finish or a rough surface. In addition, plasters made of clay and mud can last many years without major repairs or replacements if they are cared for properly.

    Cement Plaster

    Plastering with cement plaster is a common practice in the building trades.

    Plaster is a mixture of cement, sand, and water used to cover walls and ceilings. Trowels, floats, brushes, and other tools are used in the application process to spread the coating evenly and precisely.

    When applying cement plaster, a scratch coat is applied first, and a finishing coat is applied for protection and longevity. Scratch coats are made of cement combined with a coarse aggregate like sand or gravel, while finish coats are made of finer materials like lime or gypsum to create a smoother surface. Once applied and allowed to dry, cement plaster can provide an aesthetically pleasing, durable, and, if necessary, paintable finish.

    Gypsum Plaster

    Gypsum plaster is a common building material that creates a flat, uniform surface on walls and ceilings. A paste-like material is created by mixing calcium sulphate hemihydrate, water, and sand.

    Gypsum plaster provides a smooth, long-lasting surface that can be painted or left unfinished.

    Troweling it on in layers, waiting for each one to dry in between, is the standard method.

    Gypsum plaster has better-insulating properties than lime plaster and doesn't need to cure before use.

    Gypsum plaster has a long lifespan and requires few repairs or replacements if cared for properly. As a result, it has many practical uses, from fixing broken surfaces to adding decorative touches.


    Fibres can be added to the plaster mixture to make it stronger and less prone to cracking. Traditional plastering often makes use of fibres such as horsehair or synthetic fibres. Adding these fibres strengthens the binding ability of the plaster and lengthens its useful life.

    Bonding Agents

    Traditional plastering sometimes uses bonding agents to increase layer-to-layer and layer-to-substrate adhesion. Some examples of such agents are casein, glue, and even specialised plastering-oriented bonding agents.

    Lath Or Mesh

    Plastering, traditionally done, often calls for a lath or mesh base to keep the plaster in place. Wooden laths or metal mesh are typically used depending on the surface's purpose and state. The lath or mesh creates a surface for the plaster to adhere to, which reduces the likelihood of cracking.


    Traditional plastering uses various implements, such as floats, trowels, straightedges, and brushes. These implements facilitate plastering by aiding in its application, levelling, and finishing. The goal of using each instrument is to create a flat, uniform surface.

    Step-By-Step Process Of Traditional Plastering

    Applying multiple coats of plaster to walls, ceilings, and other surfaces is a time-honoured technique that results in a smooth, long-lasting finish. Here is a detailed explanation of how to plaster like in the old days:

    Surface Preparation

    Get started by priming the area that will receive the plaster. Ensure it's spotless, dry, and devoid of dirt, grime, or debris. Next, remove peeling wallpaper, paint, and patch any holes or cracks. If the surface and the plaster aren't sticking well to each other, use a bonding agent.

    Mix The Plaster

    Plaster materials should be mixed in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. The exact amounts can change based on the desired consistency and the plaster used. Sand, lime, cement (or gypsum), and water comprise the bulk of the mixture. Make a plaster mixture that is easy to deal with using a clean mixing container and instrument.

    Apply The Scratch Coat

    The first coat of plaster used on a surface is called the scratch coat, which also goes by the names base coat and brown coat. Use a trowel to apply a uniform layer of plaster, typically between 10 and 15 millimetres thick. Divide the task into manageable chunks and work your way up.

    Key The Scratch Coat

    Make a key by scratching the wet scratch coat with a scratcher or a nail. The adhesion of subsequent layers is enhanced as a result. It's best if the scratches are narrow enough and uniform.

    Allow Time For The Scratch Coat To Cure.

    The scratch coat needs some time to cure after being applied. Depending on the conditions, this can take several hours or even an entire night. Therefore, the scratch coat must be dry enough to support the subsequent layer but not so dry that it cracks.

    Apply The Float Coat

    Apply the float or levelling coat after the scratch coat has dried. The final finish coat will adhere better to a smooth surface prepared with this layer. Spread the plaster mixture with a trowel to an even thickness. 

    Await The Float Coat's Curing

    The float coat needs time to cure, just like the scratch coat. Conditions like temperature and humidity will determine how long it takes for something to dry. Applying the finish coat before the float coat has dried can cause cracking or unevenness in the paint job.

    Apply The Finish Coat

    The final layer of plaster, known as the finish coat, is responsible for the surface's aesthetic appearance. Lime putty, gypsum, and fine sand or marble dust should be used to achieve the desired consistency. Then, evenly and smoothly apply the finishing coat in small sections using a trowel.

    The Finish Coat Should Be Smoothed And Troweled

    Applying the finishing coat while still wet allows you to smooth and level the surface with a trowel. Take your time to achieve a uniform and aesthetically pleasing result. Smooth out the rough spots so that the transitions between paragraphs are unnoticeable.

    Allow Time For The Plaster To Cure

    Let the plaster dry and cure completely after you've applied the final coat and smoothed it out. Depending on the layer thickness and the weather, this can take a few days to a few weeks. Keep your hands off the plaster until it dries.

    Sanding And Finishing

    After the plaster has dried, any rough spots can be polished to a satin sheen with fine-grit sandpaper or a sanding block. Before continuing with different finishes like painting or wallpapering, ensure the surface is clean and dust-free.


    Using a combination of ancient plastering techniques and modern drywall, skim coat plastering creates a smooth, long-lasting covering on walls and ceilings without the expense or hassle of hiring a professional.

    Plasterers can achieve the look of professionally troweled plaster without breaking the bank by applying a thin layer of gypsum plaster over the completed drywall and taped seams. This saves both time and money because there is no need to apply wood or metal lath prior to plastering.

    Drywall with a thicker paper facing on one side and a fine texture, like blue board, is required for skim coat plastering because it provides a substantial key for veneer plaster to cling onto and prevents delamination.

    You can use veneer plaster instead of plasterboard if you have access to a bonding agent or a contemporary plaster blend that combines veneer plaster with joint compound to improve its workability and bonding strength.

    Skim coat plastering has many benefits over typical drywall, including lower costs, greater durability, faster curing time, a wider range of options for surface patterns and designs, easier accessibility, and more potential uses in house improvement. Its versatility makes it an excellent choice for a wide variety of home renovation tasks.

    Skim coating plastering is possible with the right equipment, such as a plasterer's trowel, water brush, and hawk. Plastering entails priming the surface, combining the plaster with water, spreading it out in thin layers, and smoothing it with a trowel.

    In conclusion, skim coat plastering is a practical, long-lasting, and adaptable choice for residential wall treatments. It's a safe and attractive option for renovations and brand-new buildings alike.

    Plastering walls, ceilings, and other architectural features in the traditional manner is a tried-and-true method for producing durable, glossy finishes that last for years. Plastering is a multi-step process that requires a wide variety of equipment and materials. Lime plaster, clay and mud plaster, cement plaster, and gypsum plaster are the basic components of conventional plastering.

    Plaster made from a combination of lime, sand, and water is an age-old construction staple. You can paint over it or leave it natural, and it will last for years with only periodic upkeep and repair if you do.

    The construction industry frequently uses trowels, floats, brushes, and other implements for applying cement plaster. Cement plaster requires a scratch coat for adhesion and a finishing coat for durability.

    Gypsum plaster is a popular building material because it does not need to cure before use and creates a level, homogeneous surface on walls and ceilings. If maintained properly, its lifespan is long, and it needs few fixes or replacements.

    Adding fibres to the plaster mixture makes it more durable and less likely to break. Commonly used in traditional plastering, fibres like horsehair or synthetic fibres improve the plaster's binding capacity and extend its lifespan. You can improve the adhesion between layers and between layers and the substrate by using bonding agents like casein, glue, and specialised bonding agents designed for plastering.

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    Tools including floats, trowels, straightedges, and brushes aid in the application, levelling, and finishing of plaster, while lath or mesh bases help to keep the plaster in place. The end result of utilising each tool should be a smooth, level surface.

    Scratch coat application, plaster material mixing, and sanding are all part of the classic plastering process. The last coat of plaster is applied, and then the surface is painted, wallpapered, or left unpainted. Use a nail or scratcher to make a key in the wet scratch coat for better adhesion. Make sure the scratch coat is dry enough to support the next layer without cracking by letting it cure for several hours or overnight. Once the scratch coat has dried, it's time to apply the float coat by applying a thin, equal layer of plaster.

    Float coat curing time varies depending on environmental factors like temperature and humidity. Lime putty, gypsum, and fine sand (or marble dust) make up the smooth, even finish coat. Using a trowel, smooth out any bumps or uneven areas to achieve a uniform and aesthetically pleasing surface. It may take several days or weeks, depending on the plaster's thickness and the weather, for it to dry entirely. Use fine-grit sandpaper or a sanding block to smooth the surface before painting or wallpapering.

    Content Summary

    • Skim coat plastering and traditional plastering methods are two common choices for applying a smooth coating to walls and ceilings.
    • Skim coat plastering is a hybrid technique that combines the advantages of three-coat plastering and modern drywall.
    • Skim coat plastering involves applying a thin coating of gypsum plaster over finished drywall and taped seams.
    • Wood or metal lath is not necessary with skim coat plastering, saving time and money.
    • Plasterboard can be used instead of lath in skim coat plastering.
    • Skim coat plastering requires drywall with a thicker paper face and a very fine texture.
    • Blue board is another name for plasterboard used in skim coat plastering.
    • Veneer plaster or a modern plaster blend can also be used in skim coat plastering.
    • Skim coat plastering offers cost savings compared to traditional three-coat plaster systems.
    • Plaster is more durable than drywall, making it a long-lasting solution for walls.
    • Skim-coat plastering requires less curing time compared to three-coat plastering, allowing for faster project completion.
    • Plaster offers versatility in surface textures and designs, allowing for unique and visually appealing finishes.
    • Choosing plaster over a three-coat plaster system is a cost-effective option.
    • Plastering with skim coat plaster is a more straightforward and accessible process compared to traditional plastering methods.
    • Plaster can be used in various home improvement projects, making it a versatile option.
    • Skim-coating walls with plaster is an excellent way to preserve the charm of older homes.
    • Plaster offers numerous advantages over regular drywall, including cost-effectiveness, durability, accessibility, and versatility in surface textures.
    • Proper tools and supplies are crucial for a successful skim coat plastering project.
    • A plasterer's trowel is a key tool for skim coat plastering, typically made of steel with a wooden handle.
    • A water brush or blister brush is recommended for smoothing out a plaster.
    • A hawk is used to hold extra plaster for the plasterer to use as needed.
    • The step-by-step process of skim coat plastering includes preparing the surface, mixing the plaster, applying the plaster, spreading and smoothing, feathering technique, checking for imperfections, drying and sanding, cleaning the surface, using additional coats if needed, and finalizing the finish.
    • Traditional plastering involves covering surfaces with layers of plaster made from materials such as gypsum, lime, clay, mud, cement, or fibres.
    • Lime plaster is a standard building material that provides a durable and paintable finish.
    • Clay and mud plasters offer a more economical and energy-efficient option with decorative possibilities.
    • Cement plaster is a common practice in the building trades, providing a durable and paintable finish.
    • Gypsum plaster creates a flat and uniform surface that can be painted or left unfinished.
    • Fibres can be added to plaster mixtures to enhance strength and reduce cracking.
    • Bonding agents are sometimes used in traditional plastering to improve adhesion between layers.
    • Lath or mesh is often used as a base for traditional plastering to prevent cracking.
    • Floats, trowels, straightedges, and brushes are tools used in traditional plastering.
    • The step-by-step process of traditional plastering includes surface preparation, mixing the plaster, applying the scratch coat, keying the scratch coat, allowing time for curing, applying subsequent layers, and finalising the finish.
    • Skim coat plastering provides a smooth and shiny finish on walls and ceilings.
    • Skim coat plastering can hide surface flaws and create a consistent look.

    FAQS About Plastering

    The average drying time for skim coat plastering can vary depending on factors such as humidity, temperature, the thickness of the skim coat, and ventilation. However, as a general guideline, skim coat plastering typically takes 24 to 48 hours to dry completely. Therefore, it is important to allow sufficient drying time before proceeding with any other finishes or painting to ensure a smooth and durable surface.

    Skim coat plastering can be used on a wide range of surfaces. It is a versatile technique applied to various substrates such as drywall, concrete, masonry, or previously plastered surfaces. Skim coat plastering is particularly beneficial for uneven or damaged surfaces, as it helps to create a smooth and uniform finish. However, it's important to assess the condition of the surface and ensure proper preparation before applying the skim coat. In some cases, additional measures such as priming or repairing the surface may be necessary to achieve optimal results.

    Skim coat plastering is generally not suitable for exterior applications. It is primarily used for interior surfaces such as walls and ceilings. Exterior surfaces are exposed to harsh weather conditions, temperature fluctuations, and moisture, which can compromise the durability and longevity of skim coat plaster. Instead, alternative methods, such as cement-based renders or specialised exterior plaster systems, are typically recommended for exterior applications. These systems are designed to withstand the elements and provide superior protection for exterior surfaces.

    Traditional plastering is known for its durability and longevity. Traditional plastering can last for several decades or even longer when properly maintained. The lifespan of traditional plastering depends on various factors, such as the quality of materials used, the skill of the plasterer, the environmental conditions, and regular maintenance. 

    However, with proper care and periodic inspections, traditional plastering can retain its beauty and functionality for a considerable period of time, providing a lasting and timeless finish to your walls or ceilings.

    Yes, you can apply paint directly over skim-coat plastering. Once the skim coat has dried and cured properly, it provides a smooth and suitable surface for painting. However, it is important to ensure the skim coat is fully dry and free from dust or debris before applying paint. 

    It is also recommended to use a primer before painting, as it helps to enhance the adhesion of the paint and promotes a more even finish. Applying a primer can also help seal the skim coat's porous surface, ensuring better paint coverage and durability.

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