Painting Plaster Walls in 5 Easy Steps

Painting plaster walls is not at all difficult.  If your house is  old, it will have plaster, sometimes called ‘horsehair plaster’ on the walls. The old workers used the tail hair from horses to mix in with the plaster to give it strength.
Painting Plaster Walls
Painting Plaster Walls Photo painting plaster walls is not at all difficult. Runder

Plaster Walls are worth saving and painting

Plaster walls are harder than the modern drywall, but it is great to save them, and that will probably cost you less in the end.  Often plaster walls have a lot of lime so mold cannot grow in them.  Great news.

Also, just as a point of interest, the reason people put wall paper over the plaster walls was not just for decorating.  The wall paper also gave strength and stability to the walls!

This plaster is usually cracked but is worth saving. If the plaster 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.

Painting plaster walls in 5 steps

  • Use a putty knife to remove any loose plaster. If you see a brown discoloration, that is probably water stain from years of moisture and maybe leaks in the roof etc.  You’ll have to prime that with a white pigmented shellac such as spray Kilz or liquid Kilz or a good product called 1-2-3.
  • One trick is to fill tiny cracks with a paint-able caulk.  It’s faster, and it gives a little where as other spackle and mud compounds will not.  You have to assume those cracks will keep moving.
  • Patch the hole with 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.
  • Sand with rough then transition to finer sandpaper and prime with drywall primer. Please don’t buy paint-and-primer-in-one: here is why.

Make sure you have all the painting tools that you need.

You can also read my post about paint primer. And if you are working with a lot of sanding, read our respirator mask guidelines.

painting tools infographic by brad the painter

You should be ready to paint at that point.

Painting plaster walls is just like painting any other drywall.


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