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Is Skimming Cheaper Than Plastering

15 June 2023

If your interior walls are looking a bit tired and the plaster is damaged then it is probably time to freshen the place up by redoing the plaster. Or if you are in the process of building an extension, you will be thinking ahead to the plastering work that will have to be done. Depending on what you need, you could either opt for a full re-plastering job to replace all of the existing plaster or you could choose to have the walls skimmed. For new walls, you might be deciding between skimmed plasterboard or wet plaster.

Skimming is cheaper than plastering, for a variety of reasons, but it isn't always the best choice for every situation. Let's take an in-depth look into why a skim coat is cheaper than a full plaster and whether or not this option would work for you.

What Is The Difference Between Plastering And Skimming Walls?

The word "skimming" actually refers to the technique used to apply finishing plaster to a wall, which should give you an idea of where the difference lies between skimming and plastering. We'll take a closer look at the process behind the two techniques but, simply, plastering refers to the entire trade of plastering which can include constructing an entire plaster wall from the masonry outwards. Skimming is the technique used to create the final touch of a smooth surface. For more information, check out our post “Plastering Or Skimming What's The Difference".


Plastering is a skilled trade that encompasses a wide range of techniques. In terms of plastering a room, however, plastering generally involves creating a smooth wall by applying layers of different plaster from the masonry outwards.

If you're looking into getting a room fully plastered, then you either have a new construction or you want to completely remove and replace the existing plaster.

An undercoat plaster will first be applied. Different types of undercoat plaster work better for different wall materials. For example, you might use bonding plaster for concrete, browning plaster for stone, and hard wall plaster for brick. Other types of plaster are used for more specific situations, such as tough coat plaster.

Once the undercoat has fully set and cured, then the finishing plaster can be applied. Again, there are different types of finishing plaster available. But they are designed to create a completely smooth finish to which paint or wallpaper can be applied. Don't also miss our article "How To Paint New Plaster" - it offers valuable insights into this important topic.

Plastering Process

  • Step 1 - Prepare the wall. This will include retaining rough brickwork and roughening any joints to ensure proper bonding, cleaning the wall and joints with a wire brush, filling in any holes, washing the wall and joints, and keeping them wet.
  • Step 2 - Lay the groundwork for the plaster. This will include fixing dots onto the entire wall surface and forming screeds between the dots.
  • Step 3 - Apply the base coat or undercoat. The thickness will vary depending on the masonry material. The undercoat is applied between spaces created by the screeds using a trowel and then the surface is levelled using wooden floats and straight edges.
  • Step 4 - The first coat is left to set and then roughened in preparation for the next coat.
  • Step 5 - The finishing coat. The first coat is dampened and then the finishing coat is applied using wooden floats and/or a steel plasterer's trowel to give a smooth and durable finish.
  • Step 6 - Curing. Curing times can vary depending on the type of plaster and external factors such as air temperature and humidity but, on average, this will take one to two weeks.


Skimming cuts out the process of applying undercoat plaster and jumps straight to the finishing plaster. There are some situations where you might opt for this. If, for example, only the final layer of your old plaster needs to be re-done or if you are erecting plasterboards.

Plasterboards are a quick and easy way of creating interior walls. They have a thin layer of plaster sandwiched between two layers of paper. They can be attached to timber or metal studs and they only require a skim coat to give them a smooth and finished look.

Skimming Process

  • Step 1 - Prepare the wall. This will include scraping off loose plaster, sealing any cracks and filling any holes, removing nails and filling those holes, and then dusting and cleaning the entire wall. If a skim coat is being applied directly to the plasterboard then the joints need to be covered with scrim tape.
  • Step 2 - Priming. The entire surface of the wall should be covered in a water-based primer, applied using a roller.
  • Step 3 - Apply the skimming plaster. This is applied using wooden floats and/or a plasterer's trowel to achieve a smooth finish.
  • Step 4 - Curing. This usually takes around a week depending on the type of plaster and environmental factors.

Plastering Cost Versus Skimming Cost

A professional plasterer will give you a quote for skimming or plastering based on a variety of factors, which will dive into. Generally speaking, however, the average cost to plaster a medium-sized room will be around £900. In contrast, the average cost to apply skim plaster to a medium-sized room will be around £500. So it can be half the price.

It is easy to understand why skimming is so much cheaper than plastering because you are cutting out a lot of materials, labour costs, and time. Plastering involves adding layers of plaster and each layer will need extra materials. It will also take more time for your plasterer and will involve more work.

It is always a good idea to get in touch with some local plasterers to get an idea of their plastering prices. If you are unsure whether you need plastering or skimming, they will also be able to come in and help you make that judgment call.

Factors That Affect The Plastering Cost

There are a wide range of factors that can impact the cost of plastering and no two plastering jobs are the same. You can group these factors into those that increase the time of the job, the factors that increase the amount of materials needed, and factors that increase both.

Room Size

The most obvious factor that can affect the plastering cost is the size of the room, but this isn't as simple as it first appears. You may notice that it is difficult to see plastering quotes that discuss the cost of plastering based on the square metre footage. This is because there is little difference between plastering an area that is a couple of square metres larger than another in terms of time or materials.

Instead, you will often see plastering jobs quoted in terms of small, medium, or large rooms. And this can give you a better idea of how much your professional plaster will charge for wet plastering your room.

A small room will cost between £600 and £700, a medium-sized room between £650 and £900, and a large room between £1,000 and £1,500. The price difference between all of these is based on both material and labour costs.

A small and medium room will both take between one and two days to plaster but, of course, a small room will require less material. A large room will take between three and four days to plaster and will also require more material than the others.

For skimming an entire room, you can expect a small room to cost between £400 and £550 and be finished in a day. A medium room will cost between £450 and £600 and take one to two days. And a large room will cost £500 to £700 and take two to three days.

All of these prices will depend on your specific room, walls, plastering method, and the type of plaster you are using so they are still very variable. Getting some advice from a professional plasterer will give you a better idea of what the plastering or skimming costs will be in your situation. We also recommend taking a look at our post "How Much To Plaster A Room" for valuable insights.

How Many Walls You Are Plastering

This is an obvious one but if you only need a wall or two done rather than an entire room, then this can reduce the plastering costs. If you think that you may need to get the rest of the room plastered at some point as well, however, it can be a good idea to get it all done at the same time. By completing an entire room, or an entire house, at the same time, you can actually reduce the overall cost of the job.

This is because you will need to account for factors such as:

  • hire costs for equipment such as skips, scaffolding, or scrabbler gun
  • call out costs, tool transportation, etc
  • time-saving techniques such as removing plaster from one wall while another is being plastered.

The Condition Of Your Walls

If you are applying wet plaster to a newly erected wall then the job is pretty straightforward. If, however, you have old plaster that needs removing before the new plaster can be applied then this can make the job more complicated (and more expensive).

If your existing plaster walls need removal before the fresh plaster can be applied, then this can involve some time-consuming tasks. It can take a long while and some specialist equipment to completely remove old plaster, including the undercoat bonding plaster or browning plaster.

Even if the entire plaster base coat doesn't need removal, any loose plaster will need to be removed. You, or your plasterer, will need to knock loose plaster lumps from the wall using a chisel and the holes will need to be filled in before plastering or skim-coating can start.

If the plaster doesn't need removal but the wall is painted, then the paint surface will need to be modified before applying plaster. The technique for this usually involves the use of a scabbling gun. A scabbling gun creates small nicks in the paintwork which allows the plaster to adhere to the surface. Without scabbling, the plaster skim coat may not bond properly with the surface and may come loose. Before the plaster is applied, the scabbled wall surface will need to be prepared, often using PVA.

If the brick or stone work itself is in poor condition and your plasterer thinks that it won't hold new plaster well, you can get around this by erecting plasterboard over the top of it and skimming that. This is also known as dry lining.

If this type of work needs to be completed, it will of course add to the cost of plastering. Professional plasterers will be able to give you a better idea of what your specific plastering project will entail based on the condition of your walls.

The Type Of Plaster

The type of plaster that you use will add to the room cost for plastering. A specialist plaster like lime plaster, which is often used in period homes, will be more expensive than gypsum or cement plaster. If your home is a listed building it may be a requirement for you to use lime plaster. It is always a good idea to determine this before you start planning your plastering job. Our post "How Much Does Lime Plastering Cost" maybe interest you. You can check it out.

Generally speaking, undercoat plaster such as browning, bonding, or hard wall plaster is more expensive than finishing plaster. This contributes to the increased cost of plastering over skimming alone.

One-coat plaster can be more expensive than undercoat plaster per gram but fewer coats mean that it can work out cheaper., It isn't suitable for all walls, however, and many people prefer the finish from traditional gypsum plaster.

Dri coat plaster is a specialist plaster developed for use on walls that have been affected by flooding or after a damp-proofing course. It is often around twice the price of normal undercoat plaster but it is often a necessary expense to protect your home. 

Whether You Are Plastering A Ceiling

If your ceiling is also looking a little tired, then it may also need plastering and this will add to the overall cost to plaster a room. A small ceiling will cost around £200 to £350 to plaster whereas a large ceiling can cost up to £700.

If Your Plasterer Needs To Work At A Height

In most cases, plastering a room in a house won't need any specialist equipment for your local plasterers to be able to finish the job. If, however, you are in a larger or older home that has remarkably high ceilings, or if you are having a stairwell plastered then they may need to bring out some scaffolding equipment. This will add to the overall cost of the plaster job, whether or not you are fully plastering or skimming.

Your Location

One factor that many people don't consider is how their location can impact the cost of plastering. For example, your plasterer will need to have a space where they can park their van with easy access to your home. If you don't have off-road parking and there are charges for street parking, then you will need to cover them.

Plastering Method

We have discussed how wet plastering of an entire wall will be more expensive than skimming over old plaster or plasterboard. But other plastering methods can affect the cost. Decorative mouldings can be created out of plaster and can help to create a unique look for your room but they will be more expensive than simply creating a smooth surface.

External Walls

The plastering of external walls is called rendering. It uses very similar materials, although the composition is slightly different, and it is generally more expensive than plastering an internal wall. This is due to a variety of factors, including the materials used, the much larger wall space, and the necessity of specialist equipment.

Which Method Is Right For Me?

Is skimming cheaper than plastering? Yes, it is but that doesn't always mean that it's the best option for you. Skimming works well when your existing plaster is in good condition and you just need the finishing plaster to create a smooth surface for a better finish. It also works well if you are erecting some plasterboard.

If you try to just apply a skim coat over some underlying plaster that is in bad condition, for example, if there is blown plaster, you are likely to find that the finish won't last very long. Any movement, cracks, or flaking in the undercoat plaster will inevitably affect the look of the finishing plaster. In this case, the cost of fully re-plastering will end up being less than applying a plaster skim and then having to re-do it all again not long after anyway.

Is Plastering Better Than Skimming?

One type of plasterwork isn't better than the other. Plastering is a more thorough job that builds up the plaster wall but it isn't always necessary to do that. If the underlying plaster is in good condition then it is pointless to rip it out and start again from scratch. In those circumstances, skimming makes the most sense.

How Can I Reduce The Cost Of A Plastering Job?

Applying new plaster is something that almost always requires a professional because of the skill involved, so there will be a minimum cost involved in the work. With that being said, you can reduce it somewhat by being aware of the cost factors and working within them.

Do Some Of The Work Before Your Plasterer Gets There

Most plasterers are happy to get stuck in and do any necessary prep work but this will increase the time it takes for them to complete the job and add to the overall cost.

You don't have to do any of the prep work yourself but if you do want to reduce the cost then getting the room ready can help.

  • Remove the furniture
  • Strip the wallpaper or the paint (taking safety precautions)
  • Remove all the old plaster or blown plaster if you feel confident doing so
  • Remove the radiators
  • Fill any cracks with plaster filler and sand them down
  • Cover the utility outlets and skirting boards

Get All Of Your Plastering Done In One Go

As we have discussed, the cost to plaster a room in one go can be cheaper than the cost of creating new plaster walls one at a time. If you think that all of the room will need doing at some point, or even if you think multiple rooms may need plastering or skimming, it can be better to wait a while and save up to get it all done at the same time.

Can I Skim Or Plaster Myself?

Some home projects can definitely be done as a DIY job but plastering a room is one project that almost always shouldn't be. Plastering is a skilled job that requires a two-year apprenticeship to be trained to an intermediate level. Some plasterers also complete further training to reach the advanced NVQ level.

Attempting to fully plaster a room yourself can result in an uneven finish and sometimes plaster that doesn't adhere to the wall properly which can result in damage and falling plaster. So you will often need to bring in a professional to re-do the job anyway.

Some people are comfortable skimming as a DIY project but, again, it is difficult to achieve the smooth finish that you want without the proper training.

If you are truly committed to plastering a room (or entire house!) yourself then you could always attend an adult education class to gain the qualifications and hands-on experience to do the job right.

Hiring A Professional Plasterer

A professional plastering company will almost always be your best bet. They will come out and take a look at the work that needs doing before giving you a written quote for how much the job will cost. Importantly, they will have the experience and training to determine whether you can get away with a fresh coat of skimming plaster or if you need a full re-plaster completed.

Included in this quote will be the plaster costs that are specific to your wall type and needs, as well as labour costs based on a determination of how long the work is likely to take.

You will also have the opportunity to discuss with your plasterer the outcome that you want and the best way to achieve that.


So is skimming cheaper than plastering? Yes, skimming a room will cost less than fully plastering it. This is because skimming is the final coat on a plastered wall whereas plastering a room involves adding layers of plaster before the final coat.

If your plaster walls need refreshing or you need brand new plaster walls constructed, don't hesitate to get in touch. Our experienced team of professional plasterers is on hand to help you achieve the perfect plaster finish. We will give you expert advice on the type of plastering required and will take on board your ideas and needs to develop a plan for approaching your plastering project in a way that suits you.

We can also examine the condition of your walls to help determine whether a full plaster, skimming, or erection of plasterboards would work best for your situation. And we will provide you with a free quote so that the likely cost of the work is clear from the very beginning.

And, perhaps more importantly, we will be totally committed to ensuring that you get the absolute best result from your plastering or skimming work so that your walls will look great and the finish will last for as long as possible.

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