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What is veneer plaster? Is it better than drywall? Pros and Cons

Applying plaster to a wall

Oh oh, you're interested in veneer plaster. It's a great interior wall surface option that not a lot of people know about. Learn all about veneer plaster here.

One of the hardest parts of DIY renovations these days is all the choice in materials we have for every job.

I get that advancements are meant to improve our lives and usually it does, but it sure can make the process more difficult.

Indecision is a tough nut to swaller.  I hate indecision.  But I hate having buyer’s remorse more.

I spend a ton of time researching my material options.

When it comes to something “simple” such as an interior wall interior, there are many options.  Drywall is popular of course, but there are many drywall alternatives.

One such alternative is veneer plaster.

No, I’m not talking about veneers, as in teeth enhancements.

I’m talking about veneer plaster for interior walls.

Yeah, exactly, what’s that?  What on earth is veneer plaster.  Should I care?  Why not just go with drywall like most folks do?

Let’s dive into this weighty interior wall issue.

What is veneer plaster?

To start it’s a plaster, which means it’s applied to a surface, called a substrate.  The most common substrate it’s applied to is a specially formulated gypsum board base which is similar to drywall.

These days most new construction uses drywall.

Plaster veneer is ideal for renovating older homes that have existing lath-and-plaster walls.  It’s a lot easier, cheaper and faster to slap on veneer plaster over existing walls that need work than ripping those walls out and putting in drywall.

Which means in areas where there are many older homes, plaster veneer is commonly done and you can find professionals who are adept at applying plaster veneer.

Here’s what it looks like when you buy it:

Plaster veneer from Home Depot
Source: Home Depot

Can veneer plaster be the finished surface?

Yes, it can and it’s used as a finished surface.  If you like the look of it, it works.

It’s much harder and smoother than drywall surfaces making it more resilient to dents.

Also, if you choose to paint it, paint tends to dry in a more even consistency.  This is also a result of veneer plaster being a harder surface than drywall.

What kind of surface should it be applied to?

Old lath and plaster wall
Old lath and plaster wall

Most veneer plaster systems suggest applying it to some gypsum base wall such as blueboard or even drywall (you can buy veneer-plaster ready gypsum products here).  Yes, it’s both a drywall alternative as well as a drywall enhancer.

That said, you can apply it to many different surfaces (substrates) such as old lath and plaster walls, sheetrock, concrete, plywood… whatever you want.  Depending on the surface, you may need a two-coat system instead of the thinner one-coat system.

PLEASE NOTE, when you buy veneer plaster, check whether your surface requires to FIRST apply a bonding agent to the surface for the veneer plaster to adhere to.  For example. Bluebird (gypsum-based substrate) does not require a bonding agent but plain drywall does.

How do you apply veneer plaster to a surface?

This is where you need some mad trowel skills.  You definitely want a smooth finish so unless you can get a smooth finish with your plastering skills, you’re better off hiring a professional.

There are two types of veneer plaster systems.  One is a two-coat system and the other a one-coat system.

Below is the best video explaining and showing you how to apply veneer plaster.

How is it better than drywall?  Worse?  Is it cheaper?

Whether it’s better as a drywall alternative or used in addition to drywall as a surface enhancer, depends on the situation.

Drywall is not a finished surface.  You must apply paint, wallpaper or plaster veneer to it… unless you like the taped drywall look (nobody does) or you run out of money and have to live with it for a while.

As mentioned above, if there are existing walls in an older home, veneer plaster can be a much better way to resurface and fix up interior walls than drywall because it’s faster.  You use existing wall surfaces and merely apply plaster to finish them.

Another consideration is whether you’ll be finishing interior walls yourself or have the budget to hire a professional.

It’s easier to hang drywall reasonably well than apply plaster veneer skillfully.  If you make mistakes drywalling, you can always mud and tape the imperfections.  Not so with plaster veneer.  Any imperfections with plaster veneer will show.

But let’s talk imperfections.  Even the most skilled trowel workers may end up with some imperfections in a finished veneer plaster job, especially if creating a smooth finish.

BUT, a skilled plasterer can give you smoother walls applying veneer plaster over some substrate than you can achieve with tape and mud on drywall.  

Overall, veneer plaster will last longer, withstand scratches and dents much better than a drywall surface.  This makes the effort well worth it if you have the budget.

Is veneer plaster waterproof?

While it can withstand more wear and tear than drywall alone, it is not waterproof.

Typically this isn’t an issue because it’s used for interior walls.  However, it is vulnerable to moisture and humidity.

Can you paint over veneer plaster?

Yes, you can but you don’t have to.

That said, it’s also a great surface for painting assuming the plastering is skillfully done.

The reason for this is it’s a hard surface and paint dries uniformly.  You won’t notice different paint color shades once it dries.

Where can you buy veneer plaster?

Most hardware companies sell veneer plaster including:

Where can you buy veneer plaster ready drywall?

Whether it’s Blueboard or others, there are some good options for buying veneer plaster ready gypsum-based boards. Here are some of them:

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