Steel mesh is used as a passive skin confinement medium to supplement the active support provided by rock bolts for roof and rib control in underground coal mines. Thin spray-on liners (TSL) are believed to have the potential to take the place of steel mesh as the skin confinement medium in underground mines. To confirm this belief, large scale laboratory experiments were conducted to compare the behaviour of welded steel mesh and a TSL, when used in conjunction with rock bolts, in reinforcing strata with weak bedding planes and strata prone to guttering, two common rock conditions which exist in coal mines. It was found that while the peak load taken by the simulated rock mass with weak bedding planes acting as the control sample (no skin confinement) was 2494 kN, the corresponding value of the sample with 5 mm thick TSL reinforcement reached 2856 kN. The peak load of the steel mesh reinforced sample was only 2321 kN, but this was attributed to the fact that one of the rock bolts broke during the test. The TSL reinforced sample had a similar post-yield behaviour as the steel mesh reinforced one. The results of the large scale guttering test indicated that a TSL is better than steel mesh in restricting rock movement and thus inhibiting the formation of gutters in the roof. © 2014.