What is the difference between plastering and skimming?

People often look at a wall in need of some love and improvement and say ‘this wall needs plastering’, but actually it may need a simple skim. Have you ever wondered what the real difference is between skimming and plastering?

Skimming and plastering are often referred to as the ‘finishing’ of our walls, but there are some fundamental differences between the two.

What is plastering?

The term ‘plastering’ covers a range of surface preparation. It refers to the trade of preparing and coating of internal walls and ceilings of a building.

Commonly used on brand new buildings as an essential part of the building process, plasterers are called upon to ensure the walls are transformed. A mix of sand, cement and water is prepared so that it can be applied to walls in layers. It remains wet as it is worked with and hardens as it dries.

Tools are used to create the desired surface texture as each layer is added, and some layers or mixtures may have added ingredients such as lime or gypsum depending on the property, room type and job requirements.

Plastering vs skimming

If you are plastering you may be doing a variety of things to your wall:

  • Straightening a crooked a wall
  • Sanding and preparing the surface
  • Removing old plaster
  • Filling holes
  • Applying and/or covering plasterboard
  • Dot & dab
  • Plastering over Artex
  • Bonding
  • Adding insulation
  • Mixing plaster before application
  • Adding plaster in layers
  • Using tools to create the right surface

Skimming, however, is one part of the plastering process.

What is the difference between plastering and skimming?

Unlike a full replaster where several layers are built up, skimming involves applying a thin, skim coat on top of the rough cement, plasterboard or brick. It is then smoothed out, giving the uniform look of a freshened up wall. Walls are left stronger, smoother and more pleasing to the eye.

It is the final step of the traditional plastering process which leaves the walls looking finished and ready for your local painters and decorators.

No lumps or bumps are left behind and walls are ready for your choice of paint colour or wallpaper.

When to skim vs when to plaster?

A skim coat is typically applied to a thickness of 2 to 5mm, making it a much thinner and quicker process when used as an alternative to a complete replaster.

A skim coat is quicker, uses less material and is therefore more cost effective than a full replaster, check out our handy guide to the cost of plastering and skimming.

Here are some examples of when a simple skim alone could work for you:

  • Fixing damage
  • Filling holes
  • Repairing cracks
  • Smoothing an uneven wall surface
  • Repairing a wall after the removal of crumbling paint or paper
  • Smoothing ceilings after the removal of Artex
  • Preparing an older wall for wallpaper
  • Covering boxed in pipes or wires

To find out whether your walls need a full replaster or a skim, get free quotes from local plasterers in your area today.

If you’d like to know more about the cost of the next steps, to paint or decorate, browse our guides covering the average costs to hire a painter and decorator or the typical costs to paint and decorate a room.

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