Last year I did a beginner’s plastering course at a local college. I haven’t had the opportunity to do any plastering since, until my dear husband thoughtfully provided me with the chance to practise recently. I got home one day to find he’d knocked off the plaster around the door of our spare bedroom, in an effort to find out why the door would no longer shut. To be fair, he had taken some basic steps first to identify the problem, like checking the hinges hadn’t moved and the door hadn’t warped. But then he got out a hammer and chisel and set to work, suspecting a broken lintel. The lintels in this old cottage are all wooden and we had to have one above a window replaced not long ago after it became rotten. Thankfully, the lintel over the bedroom door was still in good condition, but we found the bricks at one end of the opening had all slipped a bit because the old slate packing between them had cracked in several places.
We got a local builder in to have a look, to be on the safe side. He confirmed that there was nothing basically wrong – there are no cracks in the wall beneath this room, which might indicate the dreaded subsidence – and packed some more slate between the bricks. Predictably, bashing the wall with a heavy hammer to cram the new slates in knocked off a chunk of plaster on the other side of the wall. The builder then left us to it, since he freely admitted that plastering wasn’t his strong point and I was dying to have a go. But before that, we mixed up some mortar and pointed the gaps – not strictly necessary for an internal wall, but we felt it might help to keep the slate in place and support it so that it doesn’t crack again.
A few days later, when the mortar was good and dry, we mixed up a load of one-coat, patching plaster and I set to work. I’ve never used this type of plaster before and the instructors on the plastering course were quite disparaging about it when someone asked. But buying a 25kg bag of bonding plaster and another of finishing plaster seemed daft for a couple of patches totalling less than a square metre. The patching plaster dries a lot faster too, meaning we could get on and repaint the wall once it was done instead of having to wait for weeks.
This one-coat plaster had more the consistency of old-fashioned linseed oil putty than the gypsum plaster I’m used to. It took a while to get the hang of it, although it was more forgiving than “proper” plaster – it didn’t fall off the trowel if I forgot to keep it to within a few degrees of the horizontal, for a start. But it soon started to go off and, realising that I wasn’t going to get a great finish, I just applied a base layer. It’s a good job that I did, because even that took a week to dry fully.
The next coat finished off the landing side of the wall nicely, and after 3 coats of emulsion I swear you can’t see the patch. I ran into the same problem as before with the larger patch on the bedroom wall though, the plaster was hardening before I had time to get a smooth finish, so I opted to leave room for a third, skim coat. Again, I had to wait a week for the previous layer to dry first.
Now the skimming is done, plus a little sanding afterwards and a couple of coats of contract emulsion, and I’m pretty pleased with it. You can see the patch in the photo, but only because it’s a different colour from the rest of the wall. (I filled a crack above the left side of the door while I was at it.) This bedroom was last decorated about 10 years ago and the leftover emulsion paint has long since dried up and been thrown away, which means I’ll have to repaint the whole wall at some point, if not all four walls. They’re white, but not brilliant white, rather some almost-white shade that was fashionable circa 2006 and will be impossible to match, especially as I don’t have a sample of it I can take along to the paint shop. (Should have kept some of the old plaster!) Ah well, you live and learn.
With this job done, we’ve moved into the spare room so that we can redecorate our bedroom. Today we steamed off all the wallpaper and found where we’d signed and dated the plaster in traditional fashion the last time. That was in 2001 – 16 years, this room is SO in need of a revamp. Ahead of us we have a lot of filling of cracks and dents in the old plaster, then we’re going to cross-line and paper the chimney breast and emulsion the rest of the walls and the ceiling. I also have 4 curtains to make and 2 chair covers. There isn’t going to be a lot of time for anything other than decorating and work in the next few weeks.
I can swing!
That includes knitting, unfortunately, but I did a little more of the swing knitting sample before pulling it out.
My version of swing seems to work, which is all I wanted to prove. I’d start “swinging” after the first “furrow” (the yellow stripe) not the second if I was knitting this for real though.
Now I need to decide what to knit in the swing style, but that will have to wait until I have time to think.