Updated: Sep 27
Skimming walls & ceilings?...check these DIY products out
Before we jump into the products that I recommend for the job, it's worth clarifying exactly what 'the job' is. All the examples I cover in blog posts and on my main skimming page are skimming older walls that needed a bit of TLC, either to repair damage or restore smoothness, as opposed to plastering new walls.
What's the difference between plastering and skimming?
Plastering is the name for the trade as a whole, it's an art form and one that transforms the bones of a building into habitable rooms. People also refer to applying the first coat of plaster to new walls as 'plastering', whereas skimming or applying a skim coat is the name given for replastering older walls essentially by giving them a very thin refresher coating. Skimming is more likely to be tackled by DIYers and is an excellent way of prepping a room to look its best.
I've added a whole DIY Skim coat / 'how to' skimming section to my website because going by the feedback so far it's a DIY that people are keen to try. Recently, DIYers seem to be even more interested than usual in skimming walls and ceilings due to the cost of living crisis putting pressure on people's finances resulting in less spare cash to pay contractors.
DIY Skimming: Which products
Plastering, can be messy, hard work and require a lot of attention to detail to get a super smooth finish. You can make life easier for yourself by completing the prep work correctly - read my top tips on wall prep here...
My go-to products for skimming walls
*the B&Q links for the products I purchased are affiliate links
Dust sheets You can buy dust sheets in your local DIY store but I personally prefer to use old bed sheets because they are more hardwearing and resilient than plastic sheeting and you can even wash them before folding and storing them for next time. Repurposing linens is a more sustainable way to go and is obviously kinder to the environment than buying new, especially disposable plastic sheets.
Sponge You'll need a sponge to clean the wall with and can pick up cost-effective options at your local DIY store.
Cleaning spray I'm a big fan of sugar soap as it cuts through grease and grime that can accumulate on your walls without you even realising and will reduce the adhesion of plaster (or in fact, paint).
Masking tape This is a toolbox staple and can be handy for a number of reasons during a plastering project. You can use it to tape your dustsheets to the skirting boards to save them from getting messy, you can also tape off areas, like the side of the architrave around a doorway for example.
PVA glue PVA can be picked up cheaply at most DIY stores and makes an excellent primer for skimming. you'll need to dilute with water (check the packaging for dilution instructions but it's usually 3 parts water to 1 part PVA). Blue Grit bonding agent is perfect for surfaces that require a stronger bond (heavily indented for example). A primer will help the plaster adhere (stick) to the wall - particularly important for high-suction (porous) surfaces as they pull moisture out of the plaster.
Plastering pan The exact tools you choose might differ depending on factors such as experience, hand size and what you are used to. One option is to use a taping knife and plastering pan (or a plastic tub like the one I picked up from B&Q ) alternatively, you can work straight out the plaster tub.
Skimming spatula I'm a huge fan of the skimming spatula I bought from Concrete Lab as it is super flexible and lightweight which makes it easy to use even if you have small hands.
Plaster This is obviously an essential requirement for a skimming project and my go-to product is Ready-mixed interior smoother / Finishing plaster Note: I always dilute this product down a bit as it comes quite thick as standard. You can save money by buying a multi-purpose plaster powder and mixing it up yourself of course, but as the ready-mixed stuff is only £22 for a huge 10kg tub I opt to cut out a load of hassle and save time by buying ready-mixed. I might think differently if attacking a huge project where multiple tubs were needed as the cost saving would outweigh convenience!
Roller? If you are starting out on your DIY skimming journey, then you could use a roller or squeegee to apply the product as they can help keep a more consistent thickness during application. These are not essential and are really down to personal preference. A roller and tray is also a handy tool for applying the PVA mixture for priming as saves a lot of time compared to a paintbrush.
Gloves I definitely advise wearing gloves when applying a skim coat or handling plaster for any project as you really want to limit contact with your skin where possible. As well as protecting your skin, gloves make cleaning up afterward quicker and easier.
Eye protection Googles are a good idea for skimming a ceiling as you will undoubtedly encounter some wayward plaster splashes raining down on you when you get started.
Flexible filling knife These are super handy for applying filler (joint compound) for wall repairs as part of your pre-plastering wall prep.
Sander If you have lots of filling and repairs to tackle before skimming then a sander can help speed up the final surface prep. This is mine.
So there you have it, my top tools and product recommendations for DIY plastering projects at home.
Let me know if you try any of these products or have any of your own that you love to use instead.
I recently shared a series of reels and stories on Instagram showing the DIY skimming process in more detail which you can watch here…
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