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 ...and thanks for stopping by. I'm Claire Douglas,  DIY and home interiors writer specialising in money-saving and creative home interior projects. I've spent years developing my 'bespoke on a budget' approach to DIY and home interiors and I love sharing all my tips and tricks in tutorials and posts here on my blog, in articles I write for some of the leading titles, in the press, on Instagram, Tiktok and my online course

DIY plastering: 6 steps to perfect wall prep

Updated: Feb 3

Because getting the wall prep right is important for perfect DIY plastering

Interior wall with marks from removed panelling strips

After my budget DIY project to smooth over a textured artex ceiling went viral, I get a lot of questions about DIY plastering to smooth over damaged/imperfect walls, so I thought it would be helpful to show you the steps I go through to prepare a wall for a DIY skim coat. The example below was on a solid wall with some damage to the surface plaster from where some mdf strip panelling had been removed. If your walls are plasterboard then you need to read my post about the best plasterboard filler and how to repair holes in plasterboard.

Here are my top tips for how to prepare a wall for skimming…

1. Remove wallpaper or panelling

Metal scraper removing dried adhesive from wall

As with most DIY projects, the surface you apply the skim coat to needs to be clean dry and sound and this means all wallpaper, flaky paint and loose plaster needs to go as it will either stop the plaster from sticking or at least cause you a patchy final result.

You don’t have to remove all the paint on a wall if it is in good condition. When I removed the paneling on this wall some of the paint came off around the edges of the paneling strips. I used a palette knife to scrape off any loose bits and paid extra attention to the PVA around the edge or the remaining paint to seal it (more on this below)

2. Remove dust

Microfibre duster being used on wall

This is an essential step in the DIY plastering wall prep process. You can easily brush or hoover away any dust from the surface of the wall and this is essential for good adhesion of the primer.

3. Clean the wall surface

sugar soap spray bottle in front of wall with flaking paint

The walls need to be clean for DIY plastering because grease and grime can also affect adhesion. I used to use sugar soap for this job, but I'm trying to avoid harsh chemicals wherever possible so an eco-friendly alternative is baking soda and water which you can use in the same handy spray bottle and is perfect for this job. Just spray it onto the wall or a sponge and rub it over the wall surface. If the walls are really greasy then you might need some diluted white vinegar, but I've discovered that it's possible to get really clean results without chemicals.

Don't forget to rinse: rinse off your cleaning agent with clean water & allow to dry.

4. Repair wall damage

Before you start any DIY plastering, any damage to the walls ie cracks and holes should be patched. Filler is fine for this or for superficial (<3mm deep) damage you can use plaster but you’ll need to apply a bonding agent first (undiluted PVA will be fine or blue grit is good if the patches you are repairing are large). I’m going to do some separate reels on patching & wall repair so feel free to drop any questions in the comments. You can read about how to repair plasterboard/drywall here...

5. Prime the wall

PVA glue tub next to black plastic roller tray and empty glass jar with lid on the floor

Once the repairs have dried, prime using the diluted PVA mix using my tip for preparation (shake don’t stir). You can see more of that here...

This first coat of PVA needs to fully dry so should be left for at least a few hours, possibly longer.

The second coat of diluted PVA only needs to go tacky so apply it just before you want to start skimming.

6. Protect the rest of the room

DIY plastering can be a bit messy, so it's a good idea to protect the room. Cover the floor & items like radiators. Tape round wall sockets and switches if you haven’t unscrewed and pulled them out temporarily (taping around them works fine for DIY purposes and I don’t encourage messing with electrics - even unscrewing faceplates if you aren’t confident ).

I'm going to be sharing lots more info about the tools & products I use for DIY Skimming, process and tips & tricks for achieving a super smooth finish even when you’ve ended up with a few lines and lumps in the plaster you’ve applied. Here's the link to my main DIY Skimming page where you can find all the resources in one place.

I recently shared a series of reels and stories on Instagram showing the DIY skimming process in more detail which you can watch here…

My product of choice for skimming is this finishing plaster from B&Q

Where next?

Here are some related blog posts that you might find useful...

Best plasterboard filler for fixing cracks and holes: A DIY guide

Use this guide to save time and money searching for the best plasterboard filler. This post is all about finding the best plasterboard filler.

Plastering products every DIYer needs

Check these plastering products out for your next DIY Before we jump into the plastering products that I recommend for the job, it's worth clarifying exactly what 'the job' is.

Gaps, cracks or holes in your internal walls? Don't panic; here are my tips for how to repair plasterboard.

DIY tutorial to safely smooth over artex on a budget.

Step by step to skimming walls as a DIY

Find out about pink fire-rated plasterboard here.

Disposing of plasterboard

You do have to be careful when it comes to disposing of plasterboard because if left to rot in wet areas like landfill it releases toxic chemicals as it deteriorates which is bad for the environment and people's health. It's also easy to recycle it which is a much more sustainable approach. I wrote a separate blog post about how to dispose of plasterboard which you might find useful. Read the plasterboard disposal blog.

Thanks for reading. I'd love to keep you up to date with future DIY, decorating, interior styling, and upcycling projects, if you would like to receive my (not more than weekly & no spamming I promise) emails then please subscribe (scroll down to the box at the bottom of the page).


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