DIY Calendar: May - Preparing the Interior Of Your Home

If you're planning on redecorating, you will want to make sure that you have a good base to start from.  You spent the first few months tidying your home and cleaning the exterior, now you need to prepare the interior.

Most homes have some cracks on the walls or the ceiling and around chimney flues.  Homes with a significant amount of plasterboard can have cracks or chips in the walls caused by previous DIY projects gone wrong.  Most of these problems are minor, however, and can be easily fixed.

Diagnosing Cracks

Before you start patching up your damaged walls, you need to make sure that you aren't simply sticking a band-aid over a more serious problem.

Small cracks across the ceiling are usually nothing to worry about, as are cracks around chimneys, and in plasterboard walls.  However, if you have a crack that is more than a couple of centimeters wide, or that appears suddenly and gets wider and wider over a short space of time, then this could be a sign of subsidence.  You should get this looked at by a qualified surveyor immediately.

crack caused by Subsidence Subsidence. Photo: Matt Gibson

Become a Plastering Expert

Plastering is actually a complex skill, and to be truly good at it takes a lot of practice. Professional plasters require careful mixing, and must be applied quickly otherwise they could set before you're finished working, producing uneven results.

There are DIY grade plaster mixes that are far easier to work with, and if all you're doing is smoothing out some cracks or fixing up a couple of small holes, then you should use those mixes.

Prepared plaster Plastering. Photo: Icerunner


For plastering work you will need.

  • A bucket to hold the plaster
  • A stiff bristled brush
  • A plasterer's hawk
  • A plasterer's trowel
  • A straight edge
  • Some joint tape

Absorbent Surfaces

Before you start applying plaster to a surface, you must prepare that surface properly.  If you apply plaster to a surface that is dirty or damp then you could end up with some serious flaking problems.  To prepare a surface for plastering, brush it thoroughly with a stiff-bristled brush to remove dirt and dust.  Next, splash some water over the bricks.  If the water stays on the surface, then you can apply plaster to that surface with just a little dampening.  If the bricks soak up the water immediately then they're too absorbent to take plaster in their current state, and you should prepare them by brushing them with water before plastering.

Highly absorbent surfaces such as concrete blocks will need further preparation with a bonding agent before you can use plaster on them.

Preparing Tiles

Tiles, especially ceramic tiles, need special treatment.  Prepare a mix of two parts sharp sand, one part cement, one part bonding agent, and one part water. Mix this together until it forms a fairly consistent slurry, and brush this over your tiles.  Allow this application to dry before you start applying the regular plaster mix.

Achieving a Smooth Finish

You should work quickly but methodically when applying plaster.  Put a generous dollop of plaster on the hawk and then load a small amount of that plaster on to the trowel.  Spread the mix on to the wall in a sweeping arc, keeping the trowel slightly angled.  Never push the trowel directly in to the wall.  When the plaster has dried out slightly you can smooth it with the trowel.

If you're working in a small area, use the straight edge to level the plaster off.  If you're working on plasterboard, you can cover the joints with joint tape if you don't want to fill them with plaster.  This works best if you will be papering over that area.

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