Technique: Venetian plaster – first attempt

Because of the different finishes on the wall, such as behind the former cabinetry, we’ve decided to go with the Marmo color in Venetian plaster from Lowes. Here is information and video specific to this product.

This is the first time we’ve used this product and have already figured out that you have to double the amount you think you’ll need – if not triple when it is applied to not-smooth walls! So in the long run you are better off buying plastering product, getting the walls smooth first, then putting on a layer of priming paint (or ordinary flat to prepare the raw plaster that sucks up paint) before applying the Venetian plaster which is far more expensive.

After we opened the can, it was only to find that the product had not been mixed thoroughly. I’m sure the Lowes guys mixed it like paint instead of the thick product that it actually is. A bit of work with a stirring stick fixed it right up though.

The wet plaster is far darker a color then the finished paint chip but it does dry a LOT lighter then first appearance. This is the first coat and I’ve had to help hubby understand that it is OKAY! to have the undercoat see through at some spots; the second coat will cover it and you need the first coat thin so it will dry evenly and without cracking.

I also like straight lines drawn with the trowel, not arcs, because I like how the edge appears.  Work from a center spot and then outwards with the trowel. When using the trowel, it’s important to have it flex so it can lay the plaster evenly throughout the stroke.

Some people commented that the Lowes Venetian Plaster product is too liquid and dries too fast. That hasn’t been our experience but then we are used to working with products for tiling and so are maybe faster and more confident when working with it…? The consistency of it is about the same as a thick pudding.

While some websites and videos suggest using a roller for the first coat, we applied everything with the trowel. Be prepared that this is going to take a lot of hand strength and a lot of time. I started this project thinking we would have it done in two days – I’m doubling that time estimate now.

Here’s some photos of the first coat and it’s applications:

The first stroke on a bare wall – note the marks on the right,white wall from the removal of all cabinetry from the room. That is the purpose of the plaster – to make all the walls even in appearance.

Second stroke is at right angle, like an x. I prefer straight strokes rather then arcs.

The amount of flex given to the trowel varies, but here is an sample of how more flexible a venetian plastering tool is over a regular tile setting trowel.

As you can see from this close up, our walls were originally plastered with an uneven appearance. Because they are not smooth, we ended up using a lot more product.

The upshot:

1.) Read all the directions, do research online and in this case also do a sample board. I generally skip sample boards as I feel confident about my color choices but this is a finish that definitely changes through the process and can be changed further with a coated glaze (if you choose).

2.) It takes a lot of time, patience and hand strength. We ended up putting on 3 coats of plaster (4 gallons of Lowes’ Valspar Venetian Plaster brand) to do roughly a 5×9 room. Because we were going over a textured wall, we sanded between each coat with a very fine sandpaper on my Mouse electric sander.

3.) After working hard to get a beautiful glossy buff, the finish was all destroyed by the lackluster top glaze that had to be applied to protect the plaster. The plaster itself has a chalky feel to it that would be highly absorbent – so it definitely needs some sort of protection.

Without adapting the Mouse Sander we would have been even more tired then we were by the time were done buffing!

This scrub pad with handle also worked well for buffing.

4.) I was led astray by  home design shows… this is NOT a textured wall plaster but is designed to become a smooth flat surface with a glossy, reflective sheen.

All the design shows I had seen, the end product had appeared to be textured – so while I’m happy with the end result, we were working on textured walls that were never going to be quite smooth. It’s why our project took so much more plaster.

5.) Because of the work involved, use this technique in small rooms.

6.) If dealing with rough walls or those needing repair, use regular drywall plaster for the first coat and get it as smooth as possible before using the Venetian plaster which is more expensive. This will save on the Venetian plaster needed for the job and give you a smoother finish in the end.

After living with it for a week, the conclusion is that though it was a lot of work, people who visit are immediately wowed by it. Thumbs up!

Some finished photos… due to the camera flash and the variation of the wall, I’ve chosen these as the most accurate in terms of real color:

P.S. After doing more research, there have been a lot of negative reviews of the Valspar product and more positive reviews on the Home Depot’s Behr Venetian Plaster. However, we really didn’t like the color choice with HD’s brand as well as Lowes.

NOTE! When we did the downstairs bathroom over smooth walls, most of the problems we had in the laundry room, did not re-occur (and it only took one gallon).

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