Are you confused about plaster finishes? Understandable. I’ve been doing plasterwork for half of my life now and I still have trouble explaining what plaster wall finishes are. We are used to painting our walls. When someone says, “I just had my house painted”, we all know what it means. However, a “plaster wall finish” is a little more slippery. It’s such a catch-all term that we aren’t all speaking the same language.
Don’t worry, this article is not about how the ancient Romans used plaster on their walls and I am certainly not going to talk about the chemical makeup of different plasters. It is not necessary for you to understand the minerals of traditional plaster to notice a beautiful wall finish. In other words, you don’t need to know how to build a TV to enjoy Netflix. Ozark, am I right? Good stuff.
Ok, off we go. Plaster finishes goes on the wall, and they can be used to create an endless number of beautiful effects. So far, so good? But did you know that plaster can be used to create a beautiful ceiling? Maybe you did know that. How about the floor? Yes. You can use it on the floor and walk on it. Your shower? Many plasters are waterproof by nature. Waterproof and gorgeous! If that didn’t blow your mind, wait for it…wait for it. A sink. You can make a sink out of plaster. I don’t just mean the area around the sink, the actual sink, where you spit out your toothpaste and it goes down the drain. Don’t spit on other plaster, just the sink. That would be weird. It will ruin your dinner party.
In recent years, Tadelakt has gained popularity all over the world. It’s a Moroccan Plaster that has been used for hundreds of years.
I know what you’re thinking, “You said that you weren’t going to talk about the history of plaster.” I said that about the ancient Romans, but I made no promises about the Moroccans. So, as I was saying before you interrupted me. Let’s not have any more outbursts like that, huh? Where was I? Oh yes. Tadelakt. It’s amazingly beautiful! But one main reason designers have been asking for it is because it’s waterproof. While this plaster has always had that “old world” charm, it is being used to create a minimalistic design. Tadelakt plaster finishes are safe to use in a shower, so there is no need for a tiled area or a tub surround. You can create a cleaner look by having all your walls and ceiling match. It can be burnished with a highly polished river stone to close the pores of the plaster for waterproofing purposes, and it makes the plaster so hard and durable that it has been used on steps and other areas that require a durable surface. It’s labor-intensive but totally worth it.
Venetian plaster finishes are a difficult plaster to discuss, primarily because we have all seen it done badly. Without proper installation, it is quite easy to mess up your home. There are so many knock-off plasters that claim to be Venetian, so be careful.
It shouldn’t be acrylic-based. This type of plaster finish should contain a high percentage of lime. The final look of Venetian plaster is typically very glossy. It is highly polished using a trowel to create a smooth surface. But don’t make the mistake of thinking it can only have one look to it. Personally, I prefer Venetian plaster with a matte finish. There are several waxes and topcoats that can heighten or lower the sheen. And of course, there are color glazing techniques that can enrich the color and create depth.
As an alternative, there is Marmorino. This plaster finish has a very natural feeling. Marmorino is frequently used to create a cement appearance which has made it extremely popular with designers who like a more industrial look. It’s all in how you decide to trowel it up. It is a very versatile plaster.
It’s one of my favorite plasters for that very reason. Marmorino is applied with a trowel and can create a perfectly flat wall. What makes it different than Venetian plaster is that it has a more subtle movement. It isn’t inherently glossy, which makes a nice quiet atmosphere, and it doesn’t take center stage all the time. Even when Marmorino is highly polished, the visual activity is gentle. It’s elegant and easy to live with. Don’t spit on this one either. Or do. It’s waterproof.
Gypsum plaster finishes are what I use most frequently. This one is not waterproof. So, try to control yourself. Unlike the other plasters we have discussed, there is not a high percentage of lime in it. This gives it a few benefits. It is applied thicker than the others, so it is great for creating texture too, just about any texture.
With a smooth application, you can surround yourself with it by doing a whole room. It can be made to have a romantic “old world” look, and it is great as an accent wall too. It has just the right amount of visual interest to warm up otherwise minimal space. I’ve seen this plaster used in just about any setting. It’s great for residential. It’s also used in retail stores, art museums, galleries. If it is installed properly, it never disappoints.
It’s not as hard as it sounds. Find a good designer or find an expert installer. Let them do the legwork, that’s why you are hiring them. If you want to bring your own ideas to the table, you can simply do an image search on any of these plasters. You will find an amazing number of photos that will inspire you. So, choose the plaster that’s right for you. Don’t install it yourself. Find a pro.
And if you are thinking about trying to build a TV yourself, call your therapist. You might be bipolar.