Painting New Plaster

I often get emails from diy’ers and inexperienced people asking me questions and the question of how I paint new plaster is a plastering question I get asked frequently. I figured that this is a subject I would cover here on Plasterers News, so I can now direct the questions to this page from this day forwards. It is a question that gets asked a lot on lots of forums all over the internet, and it has been asked numerous times on The Plasterers Forum as well. So I am pretty sure that this post is going to be very popular.

When I was on the tools full time (long time ago now) I use to have little postcard sized “how to” sheet that I would give to my customers at the end of the job and for me this was another way for them to get my number and a lot of the time this card would end up on the fridge and act as another flyer for their friends and family to have when they needed a plasterer.

On this card, I would explain how to paint new plaster, and also I use to have a name and contact details of a painter I use to use. This painter was a great painter (had to be to get over my work) and every time he got work off that postcard, I would get a nice kickback so it was definitely a win-win situation for everybody.

As with running any business you need to stay one step ahead of the game and by using this postcard it would win me more work, and also it kept the painter busy. However, not only that it was a great way to build a reputation that is still very much intact to this very day. Going that extra step makes people remember you and that is where the repeat business comes from and all plasterers know repeat business is where the money is.

So How Do You Paint Fresh Plaster?

One of the common suggestions, and I am going to go as far as to say myths is that the walls need to be pva’d before you paint them… I personally don’t recommend this and have never in all my years seen this being done!! So I would not recommend it at all. You may need to lightly sand the walls before you start painting to just give the paint something to key into as some plasterers over polish the walls, and the paint just slides around the plaster and does not soak in, but make sure that your walls are clean and free from dust as the paint will just stick to the dust and not the plaster.

In the photo below this is what plaster looks like before it is properly dry…

A properly finished plastered wall should be a matt finish and not shine…

Plaster is ready to paint when it has all dried out and gone a light pink colour. This is if the plaster that was used was British Gypsums Multi Finish, some plasters are white, but you can clearly see when plaster is dry. Furthermore, the drying time can vary from property to property depending on the suction of the substrate it was going over or whether the property has any drafts or heating on. Most of the time within a couple of days, it is good to paint.

The first coat of paint you put on any fresh plaster should be what is known as a mist coat and this is to highlight any blemishes or misses in the plaster. Once this coat has been applied you can go filling and sanding anything that stands out and needs putting right.

The photo below shows a wall drying out and the light parts of the wall is the colour that it is when its totally dry…

The mist coat is normally using the cheapest white or magnolia emulsion paint you can find, and then you water it down a bit. This miss coat then gets rolled onto the wall like you would be painting anything else. Make sure that you roll out any lines and what not as the dry plaster will pull the moisture out of the paint and will dry very quickly, and any lines left in the paint will need sanding.

The mist coat being diluted paint gets drawn into the wall and in essence, seals the wall. If you use undiluted paint, the moisture would get drawn out quickly, and the paint would sit on top of the plaster rather than become part of the plaster, if that makes sense. You may have seen in the past paint just pealing off walls in big sheets, and it looks like fresh plaster underneath and nine times out of ten this is because the plaster was painted without a mist coat.

I never recommend using any one coat paints as I find the extra coats of paint on a wall or ceiling the better it tends to look. All these one coat products never, in my opinion, get the high-quality finish I am after and in the end if you are spending all that money getting things plastered you may as well go that extra mile and finish them to a high standard.

I have a little OCD when it comes to finishing, and I like everything to be perfect and any imperfections are sorted out at the mist coat stage. I hate seeing blemishes in painted walls and some of the plastering I have seen in my time needs a good painter to straighten them out. Spend your time getting this right, and you will have a first class finish, and you won’t be lying in bed staring at a slight mark in your ceiling that will drive you crazy.