How To Plaster Walls: Natural Clay Plaster Finishes

  • Published on November 19th, 2008 by

Earthen plasters provide a beautiful, soft, and an organic finishing touch to your home, whether they be a straw bale house, cob building, wood cabin, or even plain old sheetrock walls. A simple natural plaster can be mixed from ingredients straight from the earth, including sand, clay, and fibers such as straw, cattail fluff, or even cow manure.

It’s a simple process and a creative one, too: you can let your imagination shine through earthen plaster with its vast sculptability and its variety of application.

Read on to learn more about making and applying earthen plasters!

How to make clay plaster

A natural earth plaster is composed of three main elements, typically sand, clay, and fiber.

  • Sand provides structural strength and makes up the bulk of any earthen plaster mix. Fine, sifted sand is used to provide a smooth finish without small stones or pebbles to interfere in the application.
  • Clay is a binding agent which helps to make the earthen plaster sticky and adhesive. Clay is typically soaked and mixed to break up larger chunks before being mixed with the other ingredients. Your earthen plaster’s color may be determined largely by the color of your clay. Local clays come in a wide variety of colors.
  • Fibers such as short, chopped straw, cattail fluff, or even fresh cow manure are common and important additions to earthen plasters. Fibers help make the plaster strong and resistant to cracking. Manure is the fiber of choice of many traditional peoples (and many modern natural builders, too), and for good reason: the fiber content and enzymes make for a very strong and durable plaster mix. (And to set the record straight: once dried, earthen plaster containing manure does not have an odor. Also, it’s actually really fun collecting cow pies for plaster. Try it!)

Additional additives such as wheat paste help increase durability and stickiness. These ingredients can be mixed by foot on a tarp, or with a hoe in a wheelbarrow.

An earth plaster recipe

The ratio of these basic ingredients may differ depending on the quality or type of materials that you choose to use. I can provide at least one recipe that I have recently used that has worked well for my cob house.

  1. 3 parts (that’s three five gallon buckets) sifted sand (sand sifted through a 1/8″ screen)
  2. 1 part soaked clay
  3. 3/4 part cow manure
  4. cattail fluff (to taste)
  5. 8 cups wheat paste

Applying earthen plaster

Earthen plaster can be applied by hand or with a trowel. Depending on the evenness of your wall’s surface, you may choose to go either route. The final mix should be soft, sticky, and wet, and it should hold readily to your (pre-soaked) wall. Add small amounts of water if your plaster seems difficult to spread on your surface.

Take the opportunity to experiment with your plaster and try making different shapes and forms. You can even embed mosaics directly into your plaster using smooth, broken glass or ceramic bits. (Save those broken dinner plates!)

Once your plaster has had some time to dry (but has not dried completely), you can make an even smoother finish by buffing the surface with something like wet burlap or a small sheet of rubber. Go in circular motions to work out rougher areas. You’ll be amazed by how much smoother your wall is after this simple process.

A low impact finish for your home

Earth plasters are very beautiful, smooth, and soft, and can give your home a very warm and inviting ambiance. They are an obvious choice for straw bale houses or cob homes, but you can experiment with them on different wall surfaces, too.

Ultimately, they are a very low impact and environmentally safe way to make your natural building more attractive and to protect your walls.

For more information and natural plasters, check out the following websites:

Happy plastering!

(Image credit: flickr via neil-san, diocal, and Robbi Baba)

Expanding your professional network. (Careers).(Brief Article)

Strategic Finance September 1, 2002 | Messmer, Max Most accountants recognize that networking is a valuable way to build professional knowledge, gain assistance during a job search, and generate new business. Yet many don’t know how to get the most out of this process. Instead of expanding and maintaining their contacts on an ongoing basis, they pursue this activity only when needed. In the end, they greatly minimize the overall effectiveness of this important career strategy.

To be successful, networking must be a year-round priority. Your goal is to create long-term relationships that are mutually beneficial. This can’t be achieved if you call your contacts only when you need their assistance or if you try to make new connections quickly when urgent situations arise. Professionals should make a sincere investment in nurturing their networks every week. web site dish network careers

In addition to maintaining existing contacts, it’s critical to devote time to meeting new associates. Develop a strategy for expanding your network, and take advantage of opportunities as they arise. For instance, you may decide to get to know people outside your local business community. You may consider attending national conferences for accounting and finance professionals or register for relevant management seminars.

Get out there Professional associations, such as the Institute of Management Accountants, provide excellent opportunities to expand your circle of contacts. Most hold frequent meetings that include time to mingle and meet new people. Consider playing an active role in these groups by assuming a leadership position, joining a committee, or contributing newsletter articles. You’ll showcase your expertise while forming new relationships.

Keep business cards on hand for whenever you have a networking opportunity. If you’re searching for a job, create some that list your name, address, phone number, and specific area of expertise.

Refine your approach Before attending a formal gathering, practice how you’ll introduce yourself to others. To strike up a conversation with potential contacts, find out how they met the individual who introduced you or how they became involved in the group whose function you’re attending. Avoid talking about business at inappropriate times, such as at a wedding or sports event where the other person may be focused on family and personal interests.

Think carefully before asking for someone’s help. You’ll have a better chance for success if your request isn’t too complex or time consuming. Before meeting with someone, make sure you have a solid understanding of your primary goal and how the contact can support it. For example, if you’re looking for a new controller position, how exactly might your connection provide assistance? Do you want an introduction to a key financial executive who’s filling this role? Or do you just need advice on how to get your foot in the door with a particular company? web site dish network careers

Show professional courtesy when working with those in your network. Be straightforward, stay focused on the topic at hand, and don’t go beyond the time allotted. When someone isn’t able to provide the support you need, respect his or her decision and move on. Always send a thank-you note following the discussion, regardless of the meeting’s outcome.

Create a tracking system As your network expands, develop a system for managing your list of contacts. A simple database application can track key information such as the name, address, preferred methods of communication, his or her job title and responsibilities, associations to which the individual belongs, and any pertinent interests. This will allow you to better determine which people in your circle might be able to provide appropriate advice and guidance. For example, you may be thinking of pursuing the certified management accountant (CMA) designation. By searching your records, you can easily identify individuals with a CMA who can provide you with more information.

Offer support to others Invest time in sustaining your relationships. For example, send relevant newspaper clippings or online articles that may interest a colleague. Also, offer your congratulations on career achievements, such as promotions and awards.

There’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction. Even a quick meeting over lunch to catch up on recent career news will demonstrate that you have a sincere interest in staying in touch. You’ll also ensure that your base of contacts is active should you need it.

Be attentive when people in your network or their friends request your assistance. If someone is referred to you, make time to speak with the person. Try to find some way to help the individual, even if you can only give recommendations of useful resources. Then check in a week or two to see if the information you provided was sufficient and whether you can provide additional guidance.

As networking becomes an ongoing part of your daily business life and you perfect your strategy, you’ll find that it becomes second nature. Take advantage of new opportunities to broaden your base of contacts, and then invest the time in fostering these relationships. You’ll create valuable connections that will provide support throughout your career.

Max Messmer is chairman and CEO of Robert Half International Inc. (RHI), parent company of Robert Half [R], Accountemps [R], and RHI Management Resources [R]. RHI is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm placing accounting and finance professionals on a full-time, temporary, and project basis. Messmer’s most recent books are Motivating Employees For Dummies [R], Managing Your Career For Dummies [R], Job Hunting For Dummies [R], 2nd Edition, Human Resources Kit For Dummies [R] (Hungry Minds, Inc.), and The Fast Forward MBA in Hiring (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.).

Messmer, Max

About the Author

I'm a 26-year-old currently living at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in northeast Missouri, an intentional community devoted to sustainable living and culture change. Things you might find me doing here (other than blogging) are building with natural materials, gardening, beekeeping, making cheese, candlemaking, and above all else, living simply. You can read about my on-going natural building projects at:
  • Pingback: Making and applying an earthen plaster exterior finish | The Year of Mud: Building a cob house()

  • chris

    how this materials were made and how did you apply it as interior and exterior finish.

  • chris

    how this materials were made and how did you apply it as interior and exterior finish.

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  • please, kindly send me news letters on your products . they are very encouraging and good advice too.

  • this is the safest way of making plaster finishes.

  • ioana i

    am o constructie mica din caramida porotherm 30 izolata la exterior cu polistiren de 10 pe care vreau s-o tencuiesc in interior traditional cu lut .Ma poate ajuta cineva cu retete, pentru ca nu stiu exact nici materialele nici proportiile?alta problema este daca munca asta o pot face cu prietenii/familia?

  • ioana i

    am o constructie mica din caramida porotherm 30 izolata la exterior cu polistiren de 10 pe care vreau s-o tencuiesc in interior traditional cu lut .Ma poate ajuta cineva cu retete, pentru ca nu stiu exact nici materialele nici proportiile?alta problema este daca munca asta o pot face cu prietenii/familia?

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  • Hi thanks for this information.
    I am restoring an unfired brick house.The plaster is falling off, it looks as if someone put cement on parts of it at sometime. I am going to remove all the plaster, could this plaster mix be used for this and how many coats would be necessary, or is there a different receipt’s for the second coat (if required).
    Many Thanks

  • I live in Northeastern Ohio….it rains….a lot. Would it be silly to build a home with earthen plaster in my area? I can’t seem to find out how it holds up to lots and lots of rain. i don’t want to put all that work into something that will just melt after one spring

  • The last picture is really cute ! Great idea!

  • Kesia Nagata

    Hello!  I’m trying to make my little dark basement suite into an earthy cave! Any tips for plastering over drywall? I’ve read that I should chicken-wire first, or that I should skip the chicken wire but apply a wheat-and-sand paste before I go ahead with the plaster.  I’m lazy and have a short attention span so what I’m hoping to hear is that your magnificent recipe won’t require me to prep my drywall first…. but that might be a pie-in-sky hope (?)

    Also… does horse poop work?

  • christos

    In the recipie you ive you have to define how much wheat paste you use in “parts” not in cups.
    Odviously if somebody uses 3 barrels of sand, then needs much more than 8 caps of wheat paste..

  • rocketman

    How does the plaster hold up to rain?

  • i want to know about what are the wanted goods and how to mix?,

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