Ultimate Guide to Plastering a Ceiling


One of the steps in renovating and refreshing a room in your home is plastering a ceiling. It can help improve the overall look and feel of a space by making your ceiling smooth and seamless. However, it is also very challenging, especially if you are thinking of doing it yourself. Plaster is going to be the finish that you will likely paint over. Therefore, it needs to be done perfectly, or the natural light during the day and the light from the lamp at night will illuminate the lumps and bumps of your ceiling.

If you are thinking of plastering the ceilings at home but don’t have any idea what to do and how to start, we are here to help you. In this post, we are giving you the ultimate guide to plastering a ceiling, which includes tips and instructions that will help you achieve a professional-looking ceiling. With the right tools and techniques, you’ll be able to transform your space and create a beautiful and smooth ceiling.

Tools Needed to Plaster a Ceiling

man using plastering hawk and trowel

There are various reasons for wanting to plaster a ceiling. Maybe you have a ceiling that is beyond repair and needs to be taken down and reinstalled, or perhaps you thought of removing a popcorn ceiling, and you need to apply a new coat of plaster to your ceiling. Before anything else, you first need to gather all the tools that you need. Some of them might be available at home, while others you can buy in the hardware store. Below are the essential tools that you need to plaster a ceiling:

  • Plastering Trowel: Used to apply and smoothen the plaster onto the ceiling.
  • Plastering Hawk: A flat, rectangular tool with a handle used to hold and carry the plaster.
  • Bucket: Used to mix the plaster in.
  • Mixing Paddle: Attached to a power drill and used to mix the plaster.
  • Dust Sheets: Used to protect furniture pieces and floors from dust and debris.
  • Step Ladder or Scaffold: Used to reach the ceiling safely.
  • Plastering Float: Used to apply the plaster onto the ceiling.
  • Sandpaper: Used to smooth the plaster after it has dried.
  • Safety Gear: Includes safety goggles, gloves, and a dust mask to protect yourself from dust and debris.
  • Utility Knife: Used to cut plasterboard and make adjustments to the plaster.

If you are going to reuse tools for plastering your ceiling, you need to make sure that they are clean and do not have any residue from previous plastering jobs.

Preparing the Ceiling Before Plastering

person cleaning the ceiling

In order to ensure a smooth and successful ceiling finish, preparation plays a vital role. Below are some of the steps and tips that you can follow when it comes to preparing the ceiling before plastering:

Wear Your Safety Gear

Before you begin working, you need to make sure that you are wearing your dust mask, safety goggles, and gloves. These will help you protect yourself from the dust and debris that will fall from the ceiling.

Clear the Workspace

It is also important to move all of the furniture pieces and fixtures from the room. If they are heavy or big and are impossible to move, you can instead use dust sheets to cover them and protect them from dust and debris.

Inspect the Ceiling for Any Damage

Take a good look at your ceiling and see if there are any cracks, holes, or other damage. If there are any, you need to make sure that you repair them before plastering. You can also use a utility knife to cut away any loose or damaged plaster.

Clean the Ceiling

Make sure that the ceiling is free from any dust or debris. You can use a soft brush or vacuum to clean your ceiling thoroughly.

Prime the Ceiling

If you have a new ceiling or if you have removed the old plaster or popcorn ceiling, it is important to apply a primer before plastering. This way, the plaster will adhere to the ceiling better.

Mask Off the Edges

In order to protect the walls from the plaster, you can use painter’s tape or masking tape. Apply it along the edges of the ceiling where it meets the walls.

Steps in Plastering a Ceiling

After gathering all your tools and preparing the ceiling, it is time to start the plastering process. Below are the steps that you can follow in plastering a ceiling:

Step 1: Mix the Plaster

Note that mixing plaster should be done with thought and consideration as it is a challenging task. Keep in mind that you always have to add the plaster to the water and not the other way around. Once you have prepared the plaster, it should have a thick, creamy consistency without any lumps.

To start mixing, you need to fill a large bucket with clean cold water about a third of the way up. After that, add the plaster until the heap increases above the surface of the water. Use a paddle to mix the plaster, and move it around slowly. The mix needs to be between the consistency of mayonnaise and peanut butter. It is better to have another bucket of water nearby so you can clean your tools immediately after mixing the plaster.

If you do not want to undergo the hassle of mixing the plaster, there are also available premixed plasters in the market. If you are going to use this, you can then proceed to plaster the ceiling. But keep in mind that ready-mixed plaster is best used for smaller jobs, and it is not an economical option. Most premixed plasters can also dry out fast.

Step 2: Apply the Plaster to Your Ceiling

There are various ways to plaster a ceiling. For instance, if your ceiling already has a plasterboard installed, taping the joints using traditional drywall tape first, then using a chemical set compound or a plasterboard jointing compound is recommended to smoothen the ceiling. After that, you can apply a coat of plaster using a hawk and trowel.

To start applying plaster, pick up a small amount of it from the hawk board and apply it to the ceiling using the plastering trowel. Use large sweeping strokes with the trowel angled a bit away from the ceiling to spread the plaster firmly.

After applying the plaster to your ceiling, go over the surface lightly using a clean trowel blade. You can dampen the surface using a spray bottle as you go. Then, angle the blade a bit so the edge smooths over the plaster. Once the whole ceiling is covered in plaster, leave it for two days to let it dry. Once dry, apply a second coating using the techniques mentioned above, and let it dry again.

Step 3: Refine Your Ceiling

Even the most skilled painter can have imperfections in their work. Therefore, you do not have to worry if there are a few bumps in your project. You can use sandpaper to smoothen the bumps. You can start with a coarse-grit sandpaper and then slowly move to a finer grit to achieve a smooth finish. However, be careful not to sand too much or too hard to avoid damaging the plaster.

After sanding, you can also apply a thin finishing coat of plaster to the ceiling. This can help fill in any small imperfections and provide a smooth finish. After that, use a plastering float to smoothen the surface of the ceiling. Do this fast before the plaster begins to set. Let the finishing coat dry completely overnight, then you can begin painting or decorating your ceiling.

Advantages of Plastering the Ceiling

man applying plaster to the ceiling

If you are wondering about the importance of plastering the ceiling, below are some of the advantages that come with doing so:

Aesthetic Appeal

When a ceiling is plastered, it has a smooth and seamless finish that can make it look more elegant and sophisticated compared to a textured or popcorn ceiling. Aside from that, a plastered ceiling can be decorated and painted in many ways to match the décor of the room.


Plaster is a strong and durable material that can withstand wear and tear. It works well in high-traffic areas at home, such as the hallways, living rooms, and bedrooms. Plus, plaster finishes are less likely to crack because it expands very slightly on the setting. Therefore, if you want the beauty and smoothness of your ceilings to last, plastering them is an important step you should not forget.


Plaster also has insulating properties. This means that it can help regulate the temperature in a room, keeping it cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.


Noise levels in a room can be reduced by plaster as it absorbs sound waves. It can also prevent sound from bouncing off hard surfaces. Therefore, if you have another floor on top of your room, plastering your ceiling is a good way to reduce noise levels to make your room more comfortable to stay in.

Easy Fix

Over time, if a part of the ceiling gets damaged, small parts can be repaired independently without having to tear down and restore the whole ceiling.


Plastering a ceiling may seem like a challenging task, but with the right tools, preparation, and techniques, it can turn into a satisfying project. By following the tips and tricks we’ve shared in this post, we hope that you will be able to achieve a smooth and professional ceiling finish that will improve the look and feel of your space.

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