Plaster Walls are worth saving and painting
Plaster walls are harder to prep and paint than modern drywall, but it is great to save them, and it will probably cost you less in the end. Often plaster walls have a lot of lime so mold cannot grow in them. Plus…Character.
Right here at the top, you will be happy to see my top primers and paint. (For old plaster, I don’t recommend any paint-and-primer-in-one).
Water-stained walls? You need a stain-blocking primer. Here you see Zinsser’s Cover Stain. Tops. Some stains will still bleed through after some years, so you need to go nuclear. Just spot prime with shellac-based primer (nasty, nasty). Read about stain-blocking primer (scroll down to #3).
There’s more below.
Plaster walls are usually cracked but are worth saving. If the plaster wall is still firm and has just separated from the backing “lath” which was usually cedar strips, you just need to re-attach with drywall screws. This will cause some cracking which you just patch up with spackle (sand all when dry). The products you need are all below.
Painting plaster walls in 5 steps
- Use a putty knife to remove any loose plaster. If you see a brown discoloration, that is probably a water stain from years of moisture and maybe leaks in the roof, etc. You’ll have to prime that with a stain-blocking primer such as Kilz Premium or a good product called 1-2-3. For mold, it’s the primer you see here, (comes in quart or gallon), but please read my post about mold-resistant paint.
- One trick is to fill tiny cracks with paintable caulk. It’s faster, and it stretches a little whereas other spackle and mud compounds will not. You have to assume those cracks will keep moving over years.
- Patch the hole with a pre-mixed drywall compound and give it a day or so to dry, and add a second or even 3rd coat if the dried patch keeps shrinking. Deep patches will shrink: no way around that.
- Large repairs will need tape and you can find how to do that in this post on preparing walls for paint.
- Sand with rough (100), then transition to, finer sandpaper (120) and then prime with drywall primer pictured above (only one coat is needed in most cases).
You should be ready to paint at that point.
Paint your walls with 2 coats of paint (in most cases):
Sometimes, if your primer is white and your wall/ceiling/trim/whatever is going to have white paint over that, you may be ok with one top-coat, but you have to cover every square inch with no skipping.
Worried about future mold? This fine mold-resistant paint is from Rust-Oleum (shown here).
Make sure you have all the painting tools that you need.
If you are working with a lot of sanding, read our respirator mask guidelines.
How to paint plaster wall – summary
Painting plaster walls is almost like painting any other drywall. The primer that you use is the key. Don’t skimp: you need to use the best primer for plaster walls to seal the wall. If you don’t, top-coat paints won’t take to it evenly.
Important point: watch out for the toxins you are putting into the air that you and yours are breathing. My respirator link is just above. It’s for the zombie apocalypse also.
Key point: most water stains from plaster walls will bleed through every coat of latex painting work. Then you are laughing. After your top quality primer, you paint plaster walls just like any other interior paint job, which you will read about all over my site.
Write a comment below with any questions about how to paint plaster walls!