Done at Last: American Clay Plaster Finish

by ziggy on June 7, 2017 -- 0 comments -- Follow

american clay forte plaster - big wall

Plaster complete!

The big stretch of my spring clay plastering job is over now. It comes with a huge sense of relief, some achey shoulders, and a definite sense of accomplishment. It’s hard to remember that when we showed up to this house site two months ago, it was bare block walls. Now the space has really come to life.

American Clay Finish Plaster

During this most recent trip, we did the finish clay plaster over the interior walls. We used a bagged clay plaster product from American Clay called Forte. We ended up using two coats of their so-called “Forte Base” over the base coat of clay that we applied in April. The Forte is a nice grayish white tone.

american clay corner

American Clay on the left, original site clay base coat on the right

I love the natural brown color of the local clay, but there’s no denying that the light quality of this finish coat is very appealing. The house is very deep so it benefits from any extra light reflectivity it can get.

American Clay is basically readymade plaster — all you do is add water and you’re ready to work. All of the labor of making your own plaster is basically done for you already.

american clay forte base plaster

Freshly mixed American Clay plaster

The particle sizes are super fine so the layers are similarly very thin. This plaster was applied at a thickness of about one or two credit cards. That meant our original base coat had to be perfect, because there’s no correction with such a thin plaster layer. We spent a couple days perfecting the brown clay coat before we opened the American Clay up.

american clay freshly sponged

These window curves take a lot of extra time and attention

Because the American Clay goes on so thin, the set up time is short, too. It firms up super quickly and can be a little hectic at times, especially when you’re working on a huge wall. The couple wanted a texture finish, so we used sponges to open up the plaster and expose some of the aggregate. The sponging had to happen before the plaster had enough time to set, which wasn’t very long at all. It was very helpful to have enough hands so that two people were troweling, and two were following closely behind with sponges.

sponge finish - american clay

Going over the freshly applied plaster with a sponge to enhance the texture

The finished effect looks beautiful. All of the edges where plaster meets wood is very clean. I can’t tell you how many times we touched these same edges over and over again throughout this entire plastering process… craziness.

After the finish clay plaster dried, we went back over it again with a slightly wet sponge to compress the walls. This helps remove stray aggregate and brings out the natural sparkle in the sand — an effect that’s really difficult to photograph. You can really see the difference in person.

american clay forte - north wall

Time to lay my weary head down now…

Frankly I’m relieved that the bulk of this project is over now. The plaster alone took hundreds of human hours to bring to completion. Building anything is so much darned work, but the extra effort when using natural materials is not to be underestimated. The reward is so great, so it’s worth it though. Part of me is already looking forward to doing this again…

p.s. Here’s my previous post about doing the original clay base coat with site soil.

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