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How-To Basements
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Trans 1) Lower Level Planning Trans
2) Plumbing & Fixtures
3) Framing
4) Veneer Plaster Walls
5) Lighting
6) Finishing Details
7) Fun Extras

Veneer Plaster Walls man on stilts troweling cieling

In our lower level we decided to put up a veneer plaster system instead of conventional drywall. Veneer plaster is a higher quality product because it's stronger, more durable, and richer-looking than drywall. And you won't see seams or get nail pops like you sometimes get with drywall.

Plaster walls like this will probably never surpass drywall in popularity, but it is making a comeback as an upgrade to drywall. The labor and materials for our job was about 50% more than a regular drywall installation, but this figure varies depending on where you live in and how common it is in your area.

Watch Video: Modern Veneer Plaster


Hanging Gypsum Board

gypsum board The gypsum board that's used for the plaster system is very similar to conventional drywall, so the hanging techniques are about the same. (For step-by-step instructions on how to hang and mud drywall, check out our Drywall Index.



People sometimes call this gypsum board "blueboard" (different than greenboard), because the paper on the surface is a blueish-gray color. This paper is designed to absorb moisture better than regular drywall, so when the plaster is applied, it'll stick to the surface better.

Over the joints of the gypsum board they put a special fiberglass tape. It has an adhesive back that makes it stick to the blueboard. On the outside corners, a wire mesh corner bead is used. It grips the plaster a little better than drywall corner bead.


First Plaster Coat

troweling on first plaster coat This type of system can be installed as either a one-coat system or a two-coat system. Ours was a two-coat system.

Unlike drywall, the entire surface of the gypsum board is covered. The plaster ends up only about 1/16" thick; just enough to cover the walls evenly.

This first pass is a little coarse, but the plasterers aren't as concerned about getting an absolutely smooth surface yet.


Second Plaster Coat

2nd plaster coat The second plaster coat goes on about the same thickness as the first coat -- but this plaster has a finer texture to achieve a very smooth finish.

This coat takes a lot longer to apply than the first coat because it involves a three-step process. First, two more layers of plaster are put on and allowed to set up a bit. This coat is called the scratch coat.

Next, the wall is ""water troweled." That involves flicking water from a brush onto the wall. This raises the "cream" of the plaster and keeps it workable. Then the surface is troweled over again to smooth it out. This is when any blemishes or trowel marks on the wall are removed.

The plaster sets a bit, then is ready for the third and final pass called the "hard trowel." At this point the plaster is getting fairly dry so it's troweled with quite a bit of pressure to polish it up.


Finish Textures

troweling cieling Although we opted for a smooth finish, there are other textures that you can apply to the surface. You can go with a wavelike swirl trowel, a skip trowel, a sand-aggregated float finish or a Spanish texture.

Priming over this type of plaster is a little different, too. We first sprayed the walls, then had to go back and "back roll" the paint. This is because the surface is so smooth. If we had just sprayed on paint, the spray marks would show. The roller we used had a 1/2" nap which gave us just enough to make it look uniform without hiding the hard, smooth plaster surface.

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