Earthen Plasters: The healthiest and most beautiful way to finish your home

Carole Crews teaching students how to apply a clay based plaster at a workshop in New Mexico
Carole Crews teaching students how to apply a clay based plaster at a workshop in New Mexico

“No matter what material you build your house with, the finishes will always be the most visible part both inside and out. For thousands of years people have used natural materials to improve the appearance of their buildings, to protect their buildings from the elements, and to hide the rougher qualities of their walls. Despite advances in technology and industrial methods of production, most houses are still finished with natural plasters and renders. In this article we’ll explore the three most common types of plaster, discuss their benefits and limitations, and talk about why they’re the best option for home finishings, not only in natural homes, but in conventional homes too.

Natural earthen plasters fall into three main categories, clay, lime, and gypsum. Clay plasters are the most versatile of the three because its wide range of applications and the ubiquity of the material which makes it affordable and easy to obtain. Clay sub-soils can be found almost everywhere in the world, and are often free to excavate yourself. They can be used in indoor and outdoor settings, to make sculptures and relief carvings, and are easy to maintain. Clay based plasters can be made with clay rich subsoil or purchased clay that has been refined. It doesn’t require any heating or processing and can be mixed with other binders, fibers, and pigments to enhance its inherent durability and aesthetic qualities. It is also fire proof, mold resistant, and visually pleasing.

There are tons of reasons why natural plasters are the best choice for building finishes. To begin with, earthen plasters can actually improve your health. They are entirely non-toxic, contain no VOC’s (volatile organic compounds), and clay and lime even resist mold growth. An often overlooked and subtle benefit of clay is that when it comes into contact with water it emits a negative charge. These negative ions which are released into the air help humans to absorb oxygen which increases energy. This also helps to counteract the positive charges and ions that are emitted by home electronics and certain plastics which have a damaging effect on our bodies. Because all of these varieties of plaster are porous, which allows the plasters to “breath” by absorbing moisture and humidity, they help to control the interior climate and air quality of a building. This helps to regulate temperature and to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria in the home. Especially in the case of clay, this respiration can absorb and dissipate odors and even filter toxins in the air. On top of the health benefits natural plasters are inherently environmentally friendly and have a low embodied energy in their production. Natural plasters are also affordable, durable and easy to repair. Anyone can learn to mix and apply them. Lastly, all earthen plasters are fire retardant which helps to improve the safety of the home.”

More at the source: Abundant

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