Warm Up Your Plaster Walls With This DIY Faux Wood Finish Tutorial

Posted on: 21 October 2015

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Wood and plaster are both traditional, classic materials, especially when it comes to interior residential settings. While both have their place in the interior design world, plaster tends to be more budget-friendly and is often easier to install without experience. Unfortunately, plaster by itself can seem cold and plain. If you've recently installed plaster, but you love the warmth of wood, use this handy DIY faux wood finish tutorial to liven up your walls without breaking the bank.

What You'll Need

To create the look in this article, you'll need a few important tools:

  • A wood graining tool kit
  • Pre-plastered walls
  • Low-luster latex paint
  • Gel stain in your favorite wood color
  • One soft-bristle paintbrush
  • Two paint rollers

This process works best if you choose a low-luster paint in a shade similar to natural wood. Try rich, dark brown, reddish brown, or yellow ocher for best results.

Prelude: Pre-Plaster and Cure All Walls

If you haven't already done so, you'll need to start by doing any plastering and curing or plaster repair. Follow the directions on your chosen plaster formula to ensure that your chosen product cures properly, and then allow it to dry completely before proceeding.

Drying and curing takes several weeks, so don't rush this process. If you haven't plastered yet, consider waiting 30 days between processes. Never paint over plaster that hasn't fully dried.

Prime Your Surfaces

Start by priming your plaster walls with plain white primer. Depending on how translucent your primer is, you may need a second application--if so, allow for drying time between the first and second coat. Allow the primer to dry fully before you proceed.

Add Your Base Color

Apply your low-luster latex paint to all walls with a paint roller. Don't be afraid to make a mess or have imperfections at this step--you'll correct them later. The little imperfections in your surface are irrelevant right now, so just have fun with it!

Your main goal is to create a solid layer of wood-like color to support the grain you'll create in the coming steps.

Create the Grain Using Your Gel Stain and Wood Graining Tool

Next, using each of the tools in your wood graining kit, apply the gel stain. The easiest way to do this is by adding a light layer of gel stain over a section of wall, and then stroking downward through the paint from the ceiling all the way to the floor.

Experiment with your patterns a bit. Try turning each tool in a variety of directions, or try running it in gentle curves. When you are satisfied with the section of wall you're working on, move to the next one.

Allow Your Finish to Cure

Once you're satisfied with your walls, step back and allow the paint and glaze to dry completely. This process generally takes one to two days, but longer is often better in humid or wet weather. Fans will help to speed the process, but don't use a dehumidifier--it sucks the moisture out of the air too quickly, and may cause cracking or breaking.

Add a Finish Coat

Adding a finish coat isn't completely necessary, but it will give your walls a natural sheen that mimics varnished wood. This adds depth and warmth, and only requires a single step.

Caution: Before proceeding, you need to know that it is absolutely imperative that you do not start this step until the application from the previous step is completely dry. If you do, the graining texture will smudge and you may end up needing to start over from scratch. Whenever possible, give at least a few days of drying time before you add a finish glaze coat.

Using a very soft paintbrush--camel hair works best--apply a layer of clear, thin glaze to the entire wall. Work from the ceiling downward, brushing in long, gentle strokes. You don't need much--just enough to create a seal and lock in that beautiful shine.

Once it's applied, allow for more drying time. You're done! 

Customizing your plaster walls doesn't have to be an exercise in frustration. There are thousands of ways to decorate using this versatile material, many of which are easy enough to handle right at home on your own. For advice on this or any other plaster wall treatment, contact a local contractor today.