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How to Avoid Cracks in Plaster?

(Plastic & Drying Shrinkage Cracks)

Early Cracks in Plasters aren’t just unpleasant but they are indicative to something wrong in material
selection or the procedure used for application. The most Common defects observed in Plasters are
Plastic shrinkage cracks & drying shrinkage cracks. Let us now understand the reasons of occurrence
of these cracks in Plaster and steps to be taken to minimise them.

Plastic Shrinkage Cracks:

Plastic Shrinkage crack (Fig 1 & 2) results when an excessive amount of water is lost from the plaster
in the first few hours after its application. When the cracks are noticed while the plaster is still plastic
(yet to harden), they are often floated (finished to make it look like smooth) and closed at site. But its
not a good practise as these cracks reappear some time in near future.

Plastic Shrinkage

Fig. 1

You can avoid plastic shrinkage cracks by using Gypsum Plaster for Internal Plastering works. Read
more On: Gypsum Plaster Advantage and Disadvantage?

Guidelines to Avoid Plastic Shrinkage Cracks:

Protect the plaster from sun & wind to avoid drying too quickly, initiate plastering timing to avoid
direct sunlight and strong wind on plastering surface

Saturate the masonry wall adequately with water before plastering. This will avoid the brick work from
absorbing the water in plaster

Start curing as early as possible if the weather is hot, windy and dry (less humid)

Do not use sand which lacks fine material (less than 15% by mass passing 0.150mm sieve or use Sand
of Fineness modulus between 2.4 to 2.6)

If sand lacks fine material then add some lime into cement plaster
Drying Shrinkage Cracks:

Drying shrinkage result (fig 3 & 4) due to moisture loss after the plaster has hardened. Plaster is bound
to shrink and crack. Usually, Plaster applied in layers that are too thick (i.e., >20mm) will tend to crack
in this way. These cracks are normally stable and can be filled with crack repair mortar and painted

It is possible to reduce drying shrinkage and hence the resultant cracks.

Drying Shrinkage cracks 1

Fig. 3

Drying Shrinkage Cracks

Fig. 4: Drying Shrinkage Cracks

Guidelines to Avoid Drying Shrinkage Cracks:

Do not use very fine sand requiring more water (Don’t use sand with Fineness modulus < 2.2). We
recommend usage of plaster Sand for Plastering Purposes.

Do not use rich plaster mix (with High Cement Content). Use cement mortar mix of 1:4 or below
depending on the quality of Sand

Avoid OPC preferably used flash blended cement (PPC). PPC has less heat of hydration so will results
in lesser cracks as compared to OPC
Use water reducing admixture in plaster mix

Avoid very thick plaster layers (i.e., thickness more than 15mm). If you need more thickness, then
build plaster in layers of 12-15 mm with a gap of 3 days

Do the curing immediately after the setting time of plaster mortar for a period of minimum of 07 days

How to Repair Shrinkage Cracks

Shrinkage cracks are small (up to 2mm) taking random directions appearing in plaster walls and
ceilings, usually these are nothing to worry about as the main structure is still sound , these are
basically classified as non-structural cracks. If paint are applied on it, without attending the cracks, the
cracks shall be visible on painted surface, an eyesore for all.

Shrinkage cracks in plaster should first be widened so that filler can be pushed right in and has
something to key on to. The corner of a scraper or filling/putty knife is ideal for removing any loose
plaster and for opening up and deepening the crack. Dry paint brush can be used along the line of the
crack to remove any loose dust and dirt.

Mix a quantity of filler as per the manufacturer’s instructions and before applying it, dampen (but
don’t soak) the inside of the crack using a small paint brush dipped in clean water.

Dampen the inside of the crack using a small paint brush dipped in clean water, apply crack filler paste
,a polymer modified ready to use paste into cracks in plaster

Use a filling/putty knife to apply the filler along the line of the crack and press the filler into it – leave
the filler proud of the surrounding surface.

Dip a clean filling/putty knife in clean water and run it along the line of the crack to level the filler to
the surface around it.

The treated surface can now be taken up for Painting.