DIY Polished Stucco Finishes to Enhance Your Walls

Have you ever looked around a room in your house and just thought, “Ugh. Bland.” Yeah, no matter how much you loved your decor when it was new, eventually you crave change. Completely redecorating an entire room can cost a fortune if you go down the route of replacing furniture, flooring and the whole nine yards, but sometimes a single change can make a huge impact.

This is where the walls come in. Sure, a new coat of paint will refresh the place a bit, but what color? Any drastic deviation from what you already have can throw the whole look of the room out of sync, then you’re back to replacing carpet, furniture, etc. Instead, what about changing the texture?

Polished stucco, or Venetian plaster, is that texture you see in luxe places, the uneven plaster on the walls that lends a bit of elegance to any room. It looks like someone paid an artisan thousands of dollars, but really, you can do it yourself in an afternoon. So get ready to get messy!

Gather Your Materials

Obviously, you’ll need Venetian plaster – any home improvement store has it (it’s near the paint), and they’ll tint it to your specifications. Read the can to figure out how much you’ll need – know the square footage of your walls, not the floor space, before you go. This stuff goes on pretty thick, so you’ll need more of it than you would paint.

Prepare the Room

FIrst, move all furniture to the center of the room. If space is tight, move everything out completely. This job will be messy. Put down dropcloths, and cover any surface that you don’t want plastered.

You’ll also need painter’s tape, a trowel and burnishing tools – these will be near the plaster – the burnishing tools are thin, flexible spatulas that generally come in packs of three sizes. You’ll need at least two of them.

Tape around all woodwork and windows, and remove all switchplates, outlet covers, light fixtures, or anything that attaches to the wall. Venetian plaster is thick enough that precise application is difficult, so you don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you’re trying to dab it into tight spaces while maintaining a clean edge. Give yourself room to be expressive. Wash down the walls with a clean, wet rag, and let it dry completely.

Plastering and Stucco Burnishing

Use your trowel to scoop a hunk of plaster out of the can, then slap it on the wall. Spread it around a bit using an arcing motion – you’ll notice it spreads similarly to toothpaste. Scoop out another hunk, and spread it around the same way, slightly overlapping the last swoop. Continue like this until the wall is covered and there are no bare spots. Wipe your trowel off with a clean rag periodically to keep dried bits of plaster from leaving gouges in your application.

Corners are tough, including where the wall meets the ceiling. The easiest way to do it is to put a smallish blob of plaster about a half-inch away from the corner, then gently smoosh it into place with the trowel. Don’t worry too much about overlapping here, just make sure the plaster covers the wall. If you can’t quite get it to the edge, try dabbing it on with your finger and smoothing it with a damp rag.

Once the plaster has dried to the point where it’s no longer wet but is still cool to the touch, get out your burnishing tool. This may be 20 minutes later, or it might be two hours later – it depends upon how thick you applied it, and the temperature and humidity level of the room.

Hold your burnishing tool flat against the wall, press on it, and rub in a circular motion. It takes some muscle. This knocks off any peaks and adds a slight sheen. You can burnish a little or a lot, depending upon your taste. The more you burnish, the more cohesive and understated the texture will be – if you prefer a patchier arts and crafts look, you can even skip burnishing altogether.

Stucco Arts and Crafts Design

If the plaster is in a high-humidity area (like a bathroom), it’s best to apply a wax topcoat (also sold near the plaster) to protect from cracks. If not, you’re done – except for the cleanup, that is.