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House Post: Dining Room

The dining room has been in progress for waaaaaaaaaaay too long. This past week and a half, I finally decided to channel all my frustrated energy from Tristan’s terrible summer into doing something, and that something turned out to be finally screwing up my resolve to push forward on the dining room.

To recap: the lower half of the dining room had a weirdly-low chair rail, with horrible textured plaster underneath that. I dithered a lot about how to deal with this and eventually decided on skimcoating.

So, this past week, I’ve devoted between 15-30 minutes a night to hard labor, and have finished the first plaster pass at skimcoating the textured plaster away.


It’s frankly sucked. I’ve split it up into sections, but it’s a lot of hard upper-body work. The process is to layer on plaster as thinly as possible, but not to worry too much about slight ridges.

Then, do a rough hard sand with 80 grit sandpaper with the goals of sanding down those ridges. The idea was not to make it perfectly smooth – but rather to get an even top layer. Concave spots (bubbles, divots, etc.) will take care of themselves with the next plaster layer, but convex spots (build-ups, ridges, etc.) will not.

The guy who taught me how to plaster made me promise two things: always do three layers, and remember that you can fixed raised spots with sanding, but you can only fix sunken spots with plaster.

IMG_4230post-plaster, pre-sand


As of today, all of the first layer is done, and over the next week the plan is to do layer 2, which will be a lighter spreading of plaster with the goal of getting it smoother over the top. It was really hard to even try for smooth with the first layer, because the raised texture was so bad. Then a finer-grit sanding.

The last layer will be when the real work starts. That will be touch-ups of plaster and the finest grit of sandpaper and/or a sponge. I’ll spend a lot of time squinting at the wall in raking light and making sure it’s as smooth as absolutely possible, since any defects will be glaringly obvious once I paint.

Then, once the plaster is done, I’ll either paint or re-install the new chair-rail. Honestly not entirely sure which one I should do first. I’m leaning towards the chair rail, since a) it, too, will need to be primed along with the walls and b) it will be the same color as the lower half (a pale cream). I’ve picked it out, at least, after several trips back and forth to the lumber yard.

The push goal is to have this done by September, so that in September we can move on to the living room. Which will be a beast of a project, but who knows, I could still be out of the saddle and in need of a project…


5 thoughts on “House Post: Dining Room

  1. Ok, I may need to pick your brain on this one. I also have a section of plaster underneath my chair rail in my dining room that I need to skimcoat, and I have an entire laundry room that either needs skimcoated or drywalled. How do you know how thick to make the skimcoat plaster?


    1. So my answer is…it depends? And I am hardly an expert! For this project, I went with straight plaster because I needed to fill in deep texture. I don’t think it would have stuck to the wall if I had thinned it. For another wall that got destroyed when we took off the wallpaper, I mixed gobs of plaster with water until I got it it about the thickness of really good paint. Then I actually rolled it on just like paint. I might do that same thing for layer #3 here. I think it really depends on what you have to cover. The thinner you make the plaster the more layers you probably have to do, though. And I feel like if you’re good with the joint & plaster knives you can err on the thicker side.

      We talked about drywalling this part, or more accurately covering it with a very thin board. I decided against because it would have overlapped with the bottom trim in a noticeable way. In a different room without those limitations I don’t think that’s a bad solution.

      The other possible answer is hire someone. Professional plaster guys are fast and very good. And they use fast-drying stuff so they move like lightning. I have absolutely zero extra money right now, so however tempting, that option was never on the table for me. 😦


      1. Thanks for that! I’ve always heard you always water it down for skimcoating, but some of mine is REALLY bumpy because it’s where the “browncoat” came off the plaster when the wallpaper came down, and I just never thought it was feasible to put a thin coat there. I’m in the same boat with drywalling at least the dining room, it would stick out over the historic trim that I absolutely cannot take down. Our houses are so similar! I feel the same way about hiring stuff out, we’re in the final six months of student loan repayment and every dollar I don’t need to spend is a dollar that goes to that! Although we definitely need to get the laundry room ceiling replaced with drywall and that will definitely be hired out – I have very few hard limits but drywalling over my head is one of them!


  2. Wow, that is an incredible amount of work! It clearly needed to be done though. Can’t wait for the finished product! (and I’m sure you can’t either)


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