The most important tool is the plastering trowel and back in the day we only had one. You would use this trowel to apply, flatten and finish the plaster. However, now there are so many different plastering trowels but which ones do you use? And when?
In today’s article, we’re going to cover the different plasterer’s trowels on the market and discover there uses. With the ever-changing technology, there are so many trowels coming through into the plastering world. There’s flexible trowels, plastic trowels and even gold looking trowels now!
Is it all a bit much? Are we just buying these towels because they look good or are they actually useful? That’s the biggest question! Now, there’s a bigger problem in all of this.
These trowels can actually make your plastering worse if used at the wrong time. If you don’t know which towels to use at the right time then you can make a horrible mess. For that reason I’ll discuss the different plastering trowels and show you when and why you use them:
The different plastering trowels and there uses
We’re going to discuss each trowel type, provide a description, give an example of when to use it and finally give some examples of trowels for each type. Now, there’s a lot to cover here but if you read through this article then you’ll have a better understanding of the different trowels in the marker at the moment!
This is crucial!
You need to know what trowels to use at the correct time – if you misuse the trowels then your plastering will take a forfeit! So let’s start with the biggest mover and shaker, (and also the biggest problem maker), the flexi trowels.
These trowels are incredible! There light, easy to use and always provide a cracking finish! However, these trowels can also create the biggest problems because there are solely designed for finishing your plaster. Never use them for anything else. Ever!
The design and main purpose of the flexible trowels are to provide a finish without the stress and pain you would get from a standard trowel. Let me explain:
When you plaster with a solid, standard plastering trowel then you have the stiff blade which helps you flatten and apply the plaster. However, when it comes to the final trowels the thicker steel can create a lot of stress on your joints because there is no movement on the trowel. These particular trowels also take a long time to “break in”.
That’s when the flexible trowels were born. They are made with a much thinner blade which gives the trowel a huge amount of flexibility. This makes the final stages, the finishing stage of plastering, a lot easier and smoother. They also provide an amazing finish!
They are a game changer and if you haven’t used one yet then I’d definitely recommend you get onto it! They have taken the plastering world by storm because they are amazing!
The BIG Problem With Flexible Trowels
Never use these trowels to apply or flatten the plaster with! The flexible blades are not designed for that. If you apply or flatten the plaster then the flex trowels simply follow rather than flatten the plaster. What you end up with is a plastered wall that is full of ripples or “Zebra Stipes”.
You won’t see it until the light shines in from the side but when it hits the wall at the right angle, you’ll realise it. I’ve made this mistake and it’s not good! It totally ruins your plastering and the biggest problem is that so many people are doing it.
There’s not enough education on the issue.
Only use these flexible trowels for finishing. If you do that then you will have cracking results but don’t fall into the trap of using it throughout the whole process of plastering. So here are some examples of flexible trowels on the market at the moment from the biggest store in the world, Amazon:
- Refina Superflex
- Nela Flex (My favourite of the flexi trowels)
- Marshalltown Permaflex
Now there’s another batch of flexible trowels that are a bit more versatile:
Medium Flex Plastering Trowels
These are my prefered option for flexible trowels because they are a bit more usable. Unlike the ultra-flexible trowels like the ones above, these have a slightly stiffer blade. Now, this doesn’t sound like much but this makes a massive difference for your plastering.
Because it has a stiffer blade you can use it at the earlier stages of plastering. So, for example, I would apply my 1st & 2nd coat of plaster and do my 1st flatten and 1st trowel with my standard trowel. However, after that, I would use the medium flex trowels for the stages after.
They are designed to be used for flattening whilst still having the perks of the flexi trowels. They are extremely light and my personal favourites. I don’t use flexible trowels now because I just find that the medium (or Mediflex), trowels still provide an amazing finish with the versatility of a stiffer blade.
They are cracking and this is what I’d recommend you buy if you’re looking for a flexible trowel. Heres some examples:
- Refina Superflex 2 (my favourite).
- Nela Mediflex
- Refina Superflex 3 (even stiffer blade than the 2)
But what trowels do you use to apply and flatten your plaster with then?
Standard Plastering Trowel
The flexible trowels are beautiful to use and always provide a cracking finish. However, you need a stiff trowel to apply and flatten your plaster with. You need the good old trusty standard, old school trowel because without it you’d be ruined.
Now there’s no reason you can’t just buy this one trowel and use it for the whole process of plastering but it does have its drawback. Because the steel is made from a thicker alloy its heavier, has a longer breaking period (the time it takes for the blade to sharpen making the finishing period smoother), and doesn’t provide give the same results as a flexible trowel when it comes to finishing.
But these trowels are essential. Without these, you wouldn’t have flat walls because its this thicker, stronger, heavier trowel that gives you your flat walls in plastering. Heres some examples of your standard plastering trowels:
- Marshalltown Permashape (by far the best. If you only buy one trowel for plastering, this is it)
- Nela Premium trowel
So to summerise this section so far I would do this:
- Apply 1st & 2nd coat of plaster – Standard trowel
- First trowel over – Standard trowel
- 2nd Trowel over – Medium flex trowel
- Wet trowel – Medium flex trowel (or flexi trowel)
- Dry trowel – Refina Plaziflex trowel (talk about this one later).
This is the formula I follow for my plastering and the trowels I use for each section. By the way, if this all sound s a little bit confusing you can sign up to our video free course on plastering your first wall:
There’s one set of towels we’ve missed out. A bonus if you like:
These towels are very versatile and can be used in numerous stages of plastering. You can flatten and finish the plaster with these little bad boys. Gaz from the Youtube channel, Plastering Force, even uses the plastic trowels to apply his plaster with.
They are extremely light due to the plastic material and are lovely to use. However, the main function I use these plastic trowels are for the finish. I use the plastic trowel for the final stage of plastering, the Dry trowel.
They provide an unbelievable finish on your plastered wall.
I really mean that. These plastic trowels have revolutionised my plastering. My finish has never been as good and the biggest difference was by using the plastic trowels. They are definitely worth the buy and I’m sure that if you try this trowel then you will be pleasantly surprised as I was.
It’s definitely worth having in your arsenal of tools.
Heres some examples of plastic trowels:
- Refina Plaziflex (My personal favourite)
- Nela Max
- Nela PlasticFLEX
Thats the full list of the trowels you can use for plastering and their uses. If you try these trowels I’m sure you wont be disappointed because they are genuinely beneficial to your plastering.
Give it a go for your self and if you would like to find the best plastering trowel then read this article here.