Plaster Skimming specialists - what you need to know
Skimming plaster is the secret weapon of any home renovation connoisseur, giving you a smooth, modern finish to work from. It instantly transforms a drab interior and can be used to cover up dated decorative surfaces and fusty old-fashioned patterns.
It may look easy enough, but skimming is a job for a seasoned plastering pro. The skim layer itself is wafer-thin –just 1–2 mm in depth. That means it must be applied precisely, and with painstaking care. And before you even reach for a trowel, you’ll need to ensure the surface you’re plastering is correctly prepared, while also mixing your skim plaster to perfection.
Once your tradesperson has finished skimming walls and ceilings in your home, it will be ready to decorate however you choose. But remember – painting on fresh plaster may need a dedicated base coat, or the new surface may start to flake and crumble.
What is the price of skimming?
Most plastering jobs are priced per square metre. While a full plastering job will cost around £15 per sqm, skimming alone is usually cheaper (as it’s quicker). Expect to pay between £3–£5 per sqm.
How to skim plaster
- Every experienced tradesperson knows that the essential first step in any job is gathering the right tools and materials. For skimming plaster, it means the correct type of plaster (more on that below). It also means a large bucket, an electric mixer (or a drill with a mixer attachment), a stainless-steel trowel, a plastering hawk, a float, a step ladder and a large paintbrush. Finally, you'll need a supply of clean water nearby too.
- The next task is measuring the ceiling or wall to calculate how much plaster is needed. Depending on the type of plaster your professional is using (and the manufacturer), this could vary. Be sure to check the instructions on the plaster bag.
- Following those same instructions, your plasterer will slowly fill the required measure of water in a large bucket and gradually add the plaster, stirring the mixture as they go. When all the water and plaster has been added, they’ll start to mix using an electric mixer or drill. The consistency they’re looking for is similar to that of double cream.
- Your pro will moisten the surface of their hawk and apply some plaster to it. They can then take the necessary amount of plaster from the hawk onto the float and apply it to the wall or ceiling. When plastering, they’ll hold the float at a slight angle to the wall and work towards themselves, aiming for a thickness of around 1–2 mm.
- The entire wall or ceiling needs to be covered in one hit, including all edges and extremities. The plaster lasts around 30 minutes before it goes off. At this stage, the plasterer will just be looking to make sure there are no large lumps.
- After around 10–15 minutes, they can do a touch test. If the plaster marks but doesn’t leave a fingerprint, it’s ready to be smoothed over with a clean float. This is when any lines or bumps can be removed.
- It’s then time to apply a second coat of plaster, following the same process that we’ve outlined above. As soon as the second coat is dry, it can be “closed in” – smoothing it over with a metal float. This process should be repeated another three or four times, leaving an interval of around 10–15 minutes between each pass.
- Finally, your plasterer will use a dry paint brush to sweep away any plaster from the edge of your wall or ceiling. The plaster will then need to be left to dry out fully for a few days before decorating.
What type of plaster to use for skimming
Pop down to your local DIY store or builders’ merchant and you’ll probably find a deluge of plaster products. The type of plaster you’ll need will depend on the surface you’re skimming over.
Here's a brief guide to the types of plaster you can use for skimming:
- Multi-finish plaster. A versatile plaster that can be used to skim over undercoats, existing decorative surfaces and plasterboard.
- Board-finish plaster. Ideal for use on plasterboard, as well as other low grip surfaces.
- Durable or tough-finish plaster. This versatile product is tougher than standard plaster and engineered to withstand knocks or bumps.
- Finishing plaster. Designed to finish undercoat plasters and plasterboard, this product delivers a supremely smooth surface.
- PVA-less plaster. A plaster that will grip without having to prepare surfaces using PVA first.
The qualifications your tradesperson needs
Your plasterer won’t necessarily need any trade body accreditations or formal certifications. But you should expect them to hold some evidence of training – either a City & Guilds, NVQ or diploma qualification. This shows they’ll be versed in best practices and have the necessary knowledge to deliver a top-notch service.
Insurance your tradesperson needs
Check your tradesperson has public liability insurance. Chances are everything will be fine. But just in case anything goes awry when your skim plastering is taking place (think stained carpets or damage to your possessions), public liability insurance will cover you and your tradesperson.
Questions you should ask your tradesperson
- What type of plaster would they recommend using (and why)?
- Can they skim over the particular type of surface you want to plaster?
- Does their quote include labour and materials?
- How would they recommend preparing the new plaster for decoration?