Have you ever tried to make minor changes in your bathroom that unfortunately led to a huge headache?
Well, this happened to me when I decided to swap out a towel holder from 1985 (circa Back to the Future). What I thought would be a simple update turned into a nasty plaster wall fix.
But the repair isn’t too bad.
Let’s dive in!
Plaster Wall Fix Genesis
Even though I used a utility knife to carve around the old towel bar’s base it still peeled up several layers of paint when I removed it.
This left a gaping wound on the old plaster wall that needed to be filled in.
Unfortunately, the new towel bar’s base was smaller than the old one, too. So a simple swap to hide my wall blunder was out of the question.
Darn it (although this wasn’t exactly what I said at the time)!
Here were some questions that ran through my head:
- How can I quickly fix this without spending a ton of money?
- How do I match the existing wall texture?
- How can I get my patch to match the existing paint color?
Well, I recently used 3M’s Patch Plus Primer to fix a crack in our living room wall and it worked out great.
Patch Plus Primer is different from traditional joint compounds in that you don’t need to prime the patch.
Maybe I’m getting lazy as I get older but just thinking about having to open the primer, mixing it, priming the wall, cleaning my brush, waiting for the primer to dry, then doing this all over again for the topcoat seems like a lot of work for one small wall fix.
Using Patch Plus Primer for Plaster Repair
Patch Plus Primer comes in small containers and you spread it onto the wall with a putty knife.
You could also use a 3-inch drywall knife but I forgot mine at home. Spreading the patch is actually fun and reminds me of adding peanut butter to toast.
It’s definitely okay to be a glutton in this instance because you can use a 6-inch drywall knife to make the patch smooth.
Our wall had a paint stroke texture in some parts. So I used my trusty Purdy paintbrush (this little dude has been used for the last 2 years) to make the patch match the adjacent wall area.
Painting Plaster Patches
Depending on the heat and humidity the patch may set up in as little as 30 minutes. It was hot as snot on the day of this repair. I literally felt like this bathroom was in the middle of the Amazon rain forest.
As such, the Patch Plus Primer took a little longer than 30 minutes to dry but once it hardened I was able to use a sanding sponge to smooth out the edges.
You should use a circular motion with the sanding sponge. This will help blend in the transition between the new patch and old plaster.
When we painted this bathroom four years ago I used Valspar paint because there’s a Lowe’s about 15 minutes away. Three tenants later it still looks good.
Durability is what you should be looking for in paint and that’s what Valspar offers. I chose a semi-gloss finish for this bathroom since it’s easier to clean up and tends to hide fingerprints.
Bathrooms take a beating and need all the help they can get in the way of paint, flooring, and fixture options (but this is a whole other strategy I can share with you at a different time).
Strokes of genius rarely happen for me and I experienced two during this repair. The paint for this rental home is stored in the basement which is two floors below the bathroom.
Accidents happen but spilling paint on the carpet is one expensive mishap. I’m unfortunately prone to spilling things, too. Enter the “Coffee Cup Carrier”.
Admittedly I had this coffee cup in my car for a few days but after a quick rinse, it served as an excellent paint cup.
You can add a lid to any convenience store coffee cup and voila, botch-proof paint carrier.
Like I said before, Purdy makes the best paintbrushes in my opinion. Primarily because the darn things last forever and always provide the best-looking finish.
Yes, I realize the paintbrush description isn’t in my native English but you get the point. The XL is the best option for a project that involves latex paint and cutting in.
Speeding Up Plaster Repairs
The cool part about Patch Plus Primer is that you definitely don’t need primer. I just painted right over it with the Valspar paint and used a hairdryer to speed up the drying process.
Yes, you read that correctly-I used a standard hairdryer to dry the paint. Our new tenant just moved in and as such, I wanted to make sure there were no paint accidents.
Who likes ruining clothes by rubbing up against wet paint? Nobody.
Sadly, the new towel bar from Allen & Roth wouldn’t fit on the mounting bracket because like a dummy I forgot to pull it off the wall and patch the entire area.
As such, the bracket was a bit sunken into the wall. This prevented the set screw from biting. This is when my brain had a second stroke of genius.
Instead of using washers, I ended up using two pennies as spacers. You’d be amazed at what you can do with pennies in DIY projects. I slipped the pennies between the mounting bracket and the wall. The set screw was then able to bite.
If you ever need to fix a piece of plaster-like we did totally go out and buy Patch Plus Primer.
It also comes in handy if you’re a renter and needs to fill in nail holes (it’s better to pay a few bucks versus losing a portion of your security deposit). This project turned out great.
Learning how to repair nail pops and holes in sheetrock is also a good skill to learn. You’ll save a ton of money in the process!
If you’re doing a bathroom remodel and need help, join one of our online courses – they’ll make your bathroom renovation much easier!
Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to help.
Thanks as always for reading, watching, and being part of our awesome community.
This tutorial was just what I needed, Jeff. Our new fixer-upper has plaster walls and we have a TON of patching to do. Thanks for workin’ this one out! YOU ROCK!
Thanks Lisa. Plaster is beautiful but sometimes needs a little TLC. If you have large repairs (bigger than a 3 x 3 inch area) whereby you can see the lath I highly recommend using drywall, fiberglass mesh tape, and setting type joint compound. This process is more involved than using Patch Plus Primer but will serve you well.
Just make sure to measure the depth of your existing plaster so that you can buy the correct size drywall. You’ll likely need 1/2 inch drywall but if your plaster is a bit thick you can choose 5/8 inch instead. The mesh tape will help prevent the new patch between the plaster and new drywall from cracking. And the setting type compound, even though you have to mix it with water, will harden like a rock. Get the setting type compound labeled “90” because it will dry in 90 minutes.
Let me know if you have any questions. I’ve made many mistakes with plaster but have learned my lessons with these types of repairs.
Good post. I’ll try that patch plus primer. I love saving the step.
PS- Again, I’m impessed with your attire. My wife would kill me for handymanning in a nice work shirt. At least you took off the tie this time, so us normal grunts can almost to keep up.
You keep me laughing John. Don’t worry, I’m a grunt too. You should see some of my DIY work clothes. They’re looking pretty bad at this point. I could be waiting on a corner and people would likely give me their loose change.
great tips Jeff. I find that most small touch ups will “flash” not because the paint doesn’t match or because the repair is not good, but because the texture is off. I am big fan too of lightly damping a touch up roller and working it to create texture that way, deep naps can even achieve something as pronounced as an orange peel … but you are right an old paint brush can be an invaluable prep tool (on many levels). thanks and congrats on the work with Lowe’s … looking forward to more. ~jb
Thanks jb for the additional roller tip. Orange peel is a toughy to mimic. Matching textures reminds of art projects in grade school. Sometimes it works and sometimes you scratch your head.
Plastering/patching has always been a tricky thing for me. I’m always transfixed any time I watch This Old House and they bring in a plasterer to work on a historical job. He will quickly take a big glob of plaster on a huge trowl and within seconds, there is a beautiful and flawless finish on the wall. I’m never able to achieve that without days of sanding and re-spackling and even then it’s questionable…lol..
Plasterers are certainly artists when it comes to their trade. It’s tough for me to get a good drywall finish but, with practice it gets easier and easier. I love watching This Old House. So many wonderful projects that are inspiring.
I first saw your information in DIY magazine and then looked up your website.
I bought my first home this year. Im 29 and the home is 70. So I am still learning from it.
My first project was a fence and my last project in the house to date was a new bathroom fan.
Fun stuff. I really like your website and will ask many questions if allowed. 🙂
Greg from Denver Colorado – Jersey native.
Way cool. Congrats on your new home. You can totally ask me any question, I may not have all the answers but together I’m sure we can come up with a great solution.
Jeff,I first heard of your website in my issue of handyman mag. I’m very impressed with the way you explain and demonstrate
your teaching. You can be sure I’ll be using your website a lot as I try doing my handyman impression-lol. Please keep adding
you teaching tutorial’s on projects you take on.
Thanks for dropping in and you can bet that I’ll keep adding more tutorials. I’ve been super busy this month with all sorts of projects and have a ton of stuff that I think will be super helpful to you & everyone else. Family Handyman is a great magazine, I learn so much from them. Talk with you soon.