This past weekend I had an opportunity to learn more about one of the most timeless interior finishes – plaster. Plaster with integral color is a sustainable way to finish the interior walls in your home. Read on to find out some of what I learned from the owner of the company called Limestrong.
Plaster as an interior finish.
Plaster as an interior wall finish is extremely versatile and has been around for a very long time. Plaster was so versatile and timeless that before the last 100 years it was nearly universal:
“…plaster is a versatile material and can be applied over brick, stone, half-timber or frame construction. It provided a durable surface that was easy to clean and that could be applied to flat or curved walls and ceilings. Plaster could be treated in any number of ways: it could receive stenciling, decorative painting, wallpaper or whitewash. This variety and adaptability of the material of nearly any building size, shape or configuration meant that plaster was the wall surface chosen for nearly all buildings until the 1930s or 1940s.” - Preservation Brief 21, nps.gov
One of the reasons I love plaster as an interior finish is that it allows for far more aesthetic options than a traditional drywall finish. It gives unique depth to a room. The applicator’s artisan hand can be seen through the built-up texture. A plaster surface finish can be anything from silky smooth to a courser finish similar to that of concrete. Wall color can be integral with the finish if desired.
Limestrong plaster difference.
The weekend applicator’s workshop was taught by Ryan Chivers, owner of the company Limestrong. It was held at Desert View Stucco in the Tucson area. I have provided links below to their websites for you to explore further. Don’t forget to check out Ryan’s story on the about page – truly interesting.
The workshop application covered interior veneer systems using lime plaster mixes developed by Limestrong. The ingredients for their mixes are sourced locally in the United States. Our workshop included applications for marble, stone, sand and tadelakt finishes. We treated the sand finish with a limewash. We applied the tadelakt as both wet (backsplash area behind a sink) and dry (interior wall without exposure to water) applications to understand the difference. It was also helpful to learn that tadelakt is both a type of plaster finish and an application technique. We mixed color into the mixes to begin to get a feel for the range of integral color tints available and their possibilities. We applied a final application of a soap finish on the tadelakt backsplash and had a discussion of a wax application.
Even though I am not training to become a plaster applicator in the near future, I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn the best practices for the application of Limestrong plaster. Understanding its application and aesthetic properties helps me to be a better designer. I am impressed by this product, the final finish that can be obtained using it and how it can contribute to the creation of a beautiful home. I look forward to using it and recommending to clients it in the future.
You can find Limestrong here: http://www.limestrongartisan.com/
Check out their website and instagram feed for additional images.
Interior finish selection process.
If you decide to use plaster on interior walls to create a beautiful, timeless home, it will be important to get samples of the finish to be applied to the walls from your installer. If you are creating an integral color for your walls, again, it is important to get a sample of the final finish and color (as close as possible given that plaster is an art and has greater variation than other finishes) so you can find other permanent finishes to complement your wall treatment.
Plaster is a very subtle finish unless it is highly smooth and polished like marble. Because plaster is hand troweled, the finish can have anything from subtle to pronounced mottling. Mottling is more pronounced with darker colors. Speak with your applicator and clarify if you want less mottling in the surface. This is achievable but the applicator must have years of experience.
Plaster will never be monolithic in its finish. It will have some movement, similar to stone, but it doesn’t need to be heavy and busy. Small cracking will develop in time, as all buildings move and settle. Too much cracking, however, is not a good thing and will reflect bad application techniques or improper mixing. Just as the surface of plaster will have variations, as that is what makes it beautiful, the color will also have variations. Plaster with integral color dries much lighter than when it is initially mixed. Obtaining samples from your applicator is the best way to understand your final finish.
Desert View Stucco in the Tucson Arizona area: http://desertviewstucco.com/
For information on plaster restoration for older homes: National Parks Service Preservation Briefs - https://www.nps.gov/tps/how-to-preserve/briefs/21-flat-plaster.htm:
If you are looking for a comprehensive package of hard finish suggestions, shop my various finish schemes for sale. The PDF download is a materials list of coordinated hard finishes and appropriate foundation whites for kitchens or baths. Be sure to get both corresponding rooms if you are planning a complete remodel.