How to Paint Over Venetian Plaster?

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Venetian Plaster is a beautiful, durable, and classic wall finish. Its layers catch and radiate natural light. It’s easy to clean, and it can last over 400 years when properly maintained.

The longevity of Venetian plaster is positive. However, sometimes homeowners might want a change in the aesthetic of their home. Paint is a cheap and easy way to update any room.

Paint over Venetian plaster can produce beautiful results. When done properly, the luminance and texture of the plaster are visible through the paint. Rather than masking everything completely, the paint will add color and life to the surface.

How to Paint Over Venetian Plaster?

What is Venetian Plaster?

Venetian plaster is a general term that refers to the putty made from mixing together fired limestone, water, and sometimes marble dust. Once dried it reverts back into limestone, making it a particularly durable form of a plaster. When applied correctly, it creates a solid, marble-like finish once polished.

Venetian plaster is formed by laying down thin layers of plaster that are allowed to dry separately. These layers are not smooth and even, but textured. The more time that is spent working on repeating patterns into the surface, the better it will look when is finished.

Once the layers are all down, the surface is sanded to reveal the texture and layers of the plaster. This depth is what gives Venetian plaster its unique, lovely finish.

Venetian plaster is popular for use in areas that would be expensive or challenging to fit with marble. Things like curved walls, intricate columns and carved baseboards are all common places to find Venetian plaster.

It may also be tinted using dyes and powders. This means it can have a wide range of colors and textures.

What paint is best to use on Venetian plaster?

Venetian plaster is mostly limestone, making it a highly alkaline surface. Regular vinyl and polymer-based paints will not properly adhere to the surface. I suggest you use Latex paint like Rust-Oleum or something similar.

Rust-Oleum 1990730 Painter's Touch Latex Paint, Half Pint, Flat White

The simplest solution is to buy an alkyd primer. This is a type of primer that adheres properly to the limestone, while it will simultaneously create a surface that other types of paints can adhere to.

NOTE:  Primer and paint mask some of the luminosity and depth of Venetian plaster. This is not necessarily a negative, but it is something to be aware of when deciding to paint over venetian plaster.

How to Paint Over Venetian Plaster?

Follow this easy few steps to successfully paint over your venetian plaster.

1. Gather Materials

To successfully paint a Venetian plaster surface, you will need a few different things. To prepare the wall, you will need:

  • Painters Tape (also known as Masking Tape)
  • Fine Grit Sandpaper
  • Mineral Spirits (optional)
  • Venetian Plaster
  • Clean Microfiber Cloth
  • To paint the wall, you will need:
  • Alkyd Primer (optional, depending on paint type)
  • Proper Paint (see above for additional details)
  • Drop Cloth
  • Paint Brush
  • Rolling Paint Brush
  • Paint Trey
  • Ladder (if necessary)

2. Instepct and Repair Surface

The first step to painting any surface is to carefully inspect the area. Check for any signs of damage, cracking, chips or dents. These should be fixed before putting any kind of paint on the wall.

Surface imperfections can be sanded down to leave a smooth area. Alternatively, dents and cracks can be filled with additional plaster. Once the fresh plaster is fully dried, it can then be sanded down to provide a smooth finish.

Also, be sure to check for any wax that may have been applied to the plaster. Wax polishing is a popular way of adding sheen to Venetian plaster, but must be removed prior to painting.

NOTE: If there is any wax on the surface, remove it using mineral spirit.

3. Clean and Prepare Surface

When you removed all the wax and let mineral spirit dry completely, Wipe down your Venetian plaster with a clean, slightly damp cloth. Be sure to remove any dirt, debris, or build-up on the surface. The paint will have a harder time adhering to a dirty surface and may peel or bubble if this step is skipped.

While cleaning the surface, areas that will not be painted can be taped off. This includes window sills, baseboards, and electrical outlets. In addition, patterns like horizontal or slanted lines can be added using painter’s tape.

TIP: This is also a good time to lay down a cloth to collect any possible drippings or spills from the paint.  Be sure to cover the whole area, including where you will set the paint.

4. Prime the Surface

Start priming the Surface. The primer will help with adhesion to the wall, and create a more solid color once finished.

I would suggest you apply a single thin coat on the venetian plaster. Start with a brush in the hard-to-reach areas. Then transition to a rolling brush for larger spaces.

Be sure to let the primer dry completely before moving on to the next step!

KEEP IN MIND: The more coats are added the more texture and depth of the Venetian walls will be hidden.

5. Apply the paint

Using a clean brush, begin applying paint to corners and other hard to reach places. Then transition to a rolling brush for larger spaces.

Be sure to apply the paint in thin, even strokes.

Allow the paint to fully dry before moving on to the next step.

6. Apply a second Coat (optional)

Inspect the finish of the surface so far. Check for any patchy or overly translucent spots.

If a deeper color is desired, apply a second coat. Again, begin with the brush in hard to reach places, and transition to the rolling brush for larger spaces.

This step can be repeated until the desired surface color is achieved.

7. Remove Painters Tape

Once the surface is satisfactorily painted, carefully remove the painters tape.

Painters tape should be removed while the final layer is still damp. If the paint is fully hardened before the tape is removed, then the tape can peel off sections of the paint. This should be avoided.

When removing the tape, you may notice a few areas that need to be touched up. Sometimes paint slips under the tape, or the tape might pull up some of the fresh paint. Touch up these spots as you go using a hand brush and leftover paint.

8. Inspect Surface

The plaster surface should now look as desired. Inspect the surface for any imperfections. Imperfections can be thin spots, missed areas, paint drips, or lumpy areas.

Thin spots and missed areas just need another layer of paint. Drips and lumps will require sanding. Sanding off drips ad lumps may create a new thin spot in the paint. If this happens, simply wipe away any dust and apply another layer of paint to the area.

If any imperfections catch your eye, take care of them now while you have all the supplies gathered and set up.

9. Clean Up

Clean up any paint spills or splatters. Inspect the baseboards and floors for any wayward paint. Cleaning paint now, before it has fully set, will be much easier than trying to scrape it off months or years later.

Wipe away any dust from sanding down drips and lumps.

Fold up the drop cloth for later use. Be sure to thoroughly wash any brushes.

Put your room back in order, hang any photos or paintings, and enjoy your refreshed space!

Related Questions

How can I tell if my wall has been waxed?

To find out if wax has been applied to your wall, start by running a nail or putty knife along the surface. If there is wax on the wall you should be able to notice a build up on your finger nail or knife.

Is Venetian plaster good for my house?

Venetian plaster is naturally hypoallergenic and breaths well. This means it naturally regulates humidity in the house, thereby maintaining temperature and discouraging mold growth.

Does Venetian plaster contain lead?

While true Venetian plaster contains only limestone and water, there are modern variations that contain lead. If you live in an older home, you might want to have a professional inspect for lead and other toxic compounds.

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