Preparing Walls for Plaster
Installing rock lath, the base to which wall plaster is applied, is not a difficult job and requires only a few tools. If you can swing a hammer or cut wire with tin snips or read a carpenter's level, you can do your own lathing. For speed and convenience, invest in a lathing hatchet. If you prefer to use your own hammer, you'll have to score and cut the lath with a knife, which takes longer.
First calculate the square yardage on all surfaces to be covered and order lath accordingly. Buy metal corner stripping by the linear foot for openings and corners. Ten pounds of lathing nails will be needed for each 100 square yards of rock lath.
The next step is to set up baseboard grounds - 3/4' wood strips which allow for some foundation settling and prevent plaster cracks. Nail these along all walls to be plastered. Then proceed as outlined in the photographs. Remember to keep all lathing work neat and the corners square. The final job will be just as good - or bad - as this essential base job.
How to Plaster a Wall
There's an art to making a good plaster wall, and the use of the proper tools is essential. These include a plasterer's trowel, a corner-shaping tool, a hawk, a darby, a screeding rod, a heavy brush and a bucket. To order the materials you will need, figure the square feet of the area to be covered. The undercoat is a mixture of sand, pre-pared gypsum plaster and water. You will need - for each 10 square feet of undercoat - 90 pounds of plasterer's sand, cleaned and screeded, and 30 pounds of gypsum plaster.
1. Trowel: a plasterer's trowel is a must. This has a long brace bar on the top side in contrast with the shorter bar on a mason's steel float. It costs several dollars more and is worth the price.
2. Hawk: this is the classic mortarboard device. Use one made of aluminum and save wear and tear on yourself. The wooden type weighs a good deal more. Load with plaster and hold in the left hand while the right does the work.
3. Darby: a two-handled smoothing tool to level large flat areas. It is held flat against the wall as it is moved along and levels out raised spots.
4. Screeding Rod: a straight-edged wood or metal stick to level off rough plaster applications. One end is usually held against guides as the upper end scrapes excess plaster back onto board for reapplication.
5. Water Brush: this, and a bucket of clear water, must be kept on hand for finish plaster coating. The brush spreads as well as dashes water over the surface being troweled smooth.
To mix, use either a wheelbarrow or shallow wood box and mix the sand and plaster, dry, in one end. Tilt the mixing box with the dry mixture in the upper end and put water in the low end. Then draw the mixed sand and plaster into the water a little at a time, mixing constantly. If water is added into the dry mix, or all of it is pulled into the water at once, lumps are formed which can't be easily broken up. Mix to a heavy creamlike consistency. Add more of the dry mix or water, as necessary.
Apply the base coat as shown in the photographs. The final coat of finishing plaster is mixed with water without sand and applied as illustrated. Troweling technique is quickly mastered. Plaster is applied from a full trowel on upward strokes, using light pressure only. The trowel, in finishing, is held at an angle of about 30A� to the wall. If pressed fiat against the wall, the trowel is held by suction and will pull the plaster off. If the angle is too great, the edge of the trowel will leave wavy lines in the surface.