A Hybrid Approach to Lime Plaster
Drywall backing speeds the way to a textured, durable, old-world finish
Synopsis: While drywall has replaced plaster as the go-to material for walls and ceilings, it does not replace the look, feel, and durability of hand-applied plaster. Ace McArleton describes his approach to plastering, which involves using drywall as a base (primed with sand and glue) for lime plaster. The article describes the proportions of lime, sand, and water used to achieve a durable plaster that will trowel on easily, and then walks through the process of taping the walls followed by different techniques for using trowels to apply plaster to the field, around trim, and over outside corners.
Traditional plastering is a slow, laborious process, so it’s no wonder that when drywall came on the scene, it quickly replaced plaster as the go-to material for walls and ceilings in American homes.
But while drywall replaced plaster in function, it doesn’t replicate the look, feel, and durability of hand-applied plaster. Unlike drywall, plaster is a truly custom finish that can be sculpted and troweled to any number of desired shapes and textures. One of my favorite types is lime plaster—a strong, environmentally friendly, beautiful finish that has been around for millennia.
Made of a mix of sand, lime, and water, lime plaster has a high index of refraction, giving surfaces a warm glow that subtly changes color and tone as the sun shifts. The textures created by the sand and the plasterer’s trowel work can add even more dimensions of interest.
By contrast, the flat, smooth finish that drywall is meant to achieve in much of the United States is, by design, one-dimensional. When texture is added, it often just mimics traditional plasters.
Still, we like drywall. It’s a key component of our hybrid plastering approach, which takes advantage of some of drywall’s efficiency, availability, and strength,…