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peterstb 06-11-2013 09:03 AM

Imperfect Smooth (Venetian Plaster)
Hi All,

In California (at least Northern Cal), "Imperfect Smooth" has become extermely popular.

I have enough of a drywall background, where I can hang my own rock, tape it, and do some minor repairs around the house. I am not a great finisher though! I do own a hopper/sprayer, and have done some of my own patches and knock-down, and have been "somewhat" satisfied with my results, but I always see things others don't necessarily see.

We recently moved into a house that is completely textured with skip trial (sand-based) texture, and I would like to convert all of the corners to round bull-nose, then apply an imperfect smooth finish. I can't seem to find any good resources that describe "how" to do an imperfect smooth finish. For the most part, it's clear that it is mostly skim coats to the point of getting a smooth wall, but can't really find info on the techniques for getting the "right level" of imperfections in the finish. I think there is a great YouTube opportunity for someone that knows how to do this!

So... I'm looking for a couple of things:
1. The best way to start attacking a skip-trial texture with a desire to go smooth.
2. Techniques/tools/etc. to get a nice smooth coat over the existing texture
3. Techniques/tools/etc. to get minimal, evenly distributed imperfections, in the wall to get a consistent Imperfect Smooth look

For those that might not have heard of "Imperfect Smooth", I think it is sometimes referred to as a "Venetian Plaster" look.

Most of the responses I have seen on the web so far is, "Is that what it's called? I seem to get that everytime I do smooth, without even trying". I'm ok with that, but what is the technique and tooling required to get it?

Thanks in advance for any thoughts!

funfool 06-11-2013 11:25 AM

practice on one wall, will learn some tricks as you go, may also prompt you to ask more detailed question about a certain technique when applying plaster.
I do not know what your current texture looks like without a photo., plaster would be a good choice to bring it smooth. You can also do it with regular drywall mud, but can only apply it so thick at one time and takes several coats to get a smooth finish.
Using plaster and a plaster trowel, you can bury the neighbors cat in the first coat.

Tools you will need to get started,
two 5 gallon buckets, one for clean water and one to mix plaster in.
1/2" drill and a mixing paddle.
drywall hawk, not totally needed does make it easier
plaster trowel is needed, I prefer a pool trowel but cant get the corners, then need the plaster trowel ... will use drywall knifes or other items as needed for tight areas to get to.
Bag of structolite plaster, will be other brands, structolite is what I buy from home depot.

Mix and apply the plaster, learn to work the trowel back and forth to get the first coat applied. It will fill the low spots of current texture, the high spots is what the trowel will be riding on, sets the depth for the first coat.
As it dries, come back and spray water on it. Will slow down the drying process and make it stronger and prevent it from cracking. Does not hurt to sprey water on the wall before applying the plaster also, not soaking wet, but damp.

You have a base coat of plaster. You can finish this many ways now. If you plan to paint, could just use drywall mud and skim it smooth.
You can use the same structolite for the second coat, as it dries, keep your trowel wet or spray it and work it. The more you work it, the smoother it gets.
They sell dyes for this also, mix it in with the finish coat and it is the finished color of the wall, never needs paint.
There is also finish plaster, you add the color to it, it is smoother, goes on thinner and you really need to trowel it. The more you work it, turns a beautiful it becomes.
Because of the effort, I would save it for a feature wall around a fireplace or something.
Just pick a small wall and practice on it and learn the level of smoothness and flatness you want. 2 coats would be smooth and bumpy organic look, 3 would be less bumpy, maybe you want 4 coats and look like new flat drywall.

A skill worth learning, last time I did it for a customer in a couple rooms. Was over $3k in labor and $200 for materials. Looked 100% better then old lumpy sanded texture they had.

peterstb 06-11-2013 12:29 PM

Thanks for the detailed information. I may just go do that! I already applied one layer of drywall mud, in an effort to skim coat a wall in the hallway, where I did some work. Not wild about it so far, but like the approach you've laid out.

I have a large family room that was converted from a garage. It was skip-trialed, but the tape joints are all visible (and cracking/bubbled), and the highs are high and the lows are low! Will this same approach work for that? (I can send pictures tonight?)

Is there anything I need to do to deal with the current state of the walls/ceiling before I start to plaster, or will the plaster (and keep moist) approach work right over the top of that mess?

Thanks so much!

ToolSeeker 06-11-2013 05:04 PM

Venetian plaster I have heard of. Doesn't it take like 5 coats. Hope you have done your homework on bullnose bead, that I know something about. Looks good PITA to install, especially around windows. Doorways aren't bad if you use the adapters for the base. And the inside corners can be tricky.

funfool 06-11-2013 06:46 PM

As far as prep goes, just remove anything loose and tape anything like you would with regular mud.

Really is another example of why to add your location to your profile.
I can give some examples of a South West New Mexico look, but may not fit with your North East New England look.

I really do like to use bull nose and 1/2 nose for trim, depends on what you want.
If you need help in how to apply it, just ask.
Here is a photo of a not finished job. It does have bullnose for the outside corners, 1/2 nose for the glass block.
If you could look at the walls you would see a really rough texture finish.
3 guys we did the first coat in about a 1/2 day for the base coat of plaster on a 15'x25' room and we did not touch the ceiling or the fireplace. the fireplace was done separate.
It is now a tangerine orange color with the dye added to the final coat. Would be a shame to ever consider painting this room in the future. While next door in the formal dining room is same treatment and purple, I think is safe to paint it.

Plaster is like magic what it will fix once you get used to using it ... puts drywall mud to shame. But it is labor intense, you cant load up the normal drywall tools with plaster, like a machine they use to do taping with.

funfool 06-11-2013 06:49 PM

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forgot to post the pic ... is close to dinner time :yes:

peterstb 06-12-2013 11:59 AM

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Thanks for the reply guys!

That picture looks great!

I have updated my profile (location), and am adding pictures of the room I am talking about. I would love to tackle this room, and get smooth imperfect in the entire room!


peterstb 06-12-2013 12:02 PM

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By the way...

Here is a picture of the room (hallway) I have been experimenting with, using drywall mud, and attempting to skim coat it. This is one coat of mud. It is clear, that using this approach is going to take multiple coats, and will require a lot of sanding.


peterstb 06-12-2013 12:05 PM

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and... my first attempt at bullnose, in the attic access...


drywallfinisher 06-13-2013 09:53 PM

try thinning your mud to a thick paint consistency and roll the mud on the walls with a paint roller. Paint it on to a consistency that is not to thick but thick enough to sand....sand it after it drys and start skimming by hand. Putting mud on then pulling it all off.

OK...Yes you can burnish drywall have to use an all purpose mud on top of your first two coats of some sort of light weight in reverse.....sand your final coat and thin after cleaning the wall of with a rag, start burnishing. It wont do a marbling shine but it will give you varying slick spots that you can tweek to your taste.
at that point you could also do a synthetic VP. Do not buy the Lowes brand. The brand HP sells Behr is far superior.......look up Eli Lucero on youtube. he has several instructional videos and is renowned in the American sphere of VP...

peterstb 06-14-2013 08:22 AM

Thanks DryWallFinisher!

mommydoll 07-21-2013 08:31 PM

Funfool, this is your neighbor. Wheres my cat?!!!

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