What Lies Beneath
of correspondence from readers on record-great letters and e-mails that clearly show the appreciation and interest in plastering in all its facets is increasing-and that many of you have had a busy year, as well. And from what I see coming up for 2005, there's no sign of things slowing down.
New products and techniques continue to flourish and that's a good thing. The only challenge that keeps coming up for me is the amount of places and events I'd like to cover and be at, and the places that I can actually, realistically get to. Having a twin would have its advantages.
This month, I want to talk about two recent projects I've worked on.
A SOUND FOUNDATIONI've mentioned a point some time ago but it bears repeating: Plaster is only as good as its foundation-the surface it's being applied over. Making sure the surface that's being worked on is solid and secure is a critical step in ending up with a quality job. Sometimes, things are not quite what they should be when you get to a project, however. In fact, quite a bit of work and effort must be put in before the plaster goes on. I am including some photos of two recent projects I was on to illustrate the point.
SUNSHINE ON MY SHOULDERSPhotos 1 through 3 show what I was up against with a room that was hung using 1/2-inch drywall. Let's take a closer look at what I was dealing with here: Photo 1 shows just one of the many gaps that were left by the hangers who considered the job "complete."
John Denver's song about sunshine came to my mind when I saw the light coming through these gaps. Ugh. This is a good example of what you can face when you are expecting to come in and do some "new" veneer coat plastering. It quickly becomes apparent that you're going to be slowed down considerably because quite a bit of repair work is needed to get things ready for a coat of basecoat. In photo 4 you'll see that I spiked up a batch of basecoat and filled these gaps in ahead of myself, filling and then embedding heavy fiberglass mesh into the plaster. Another option of course would be to use a strip of metal lath bent and set into the corner to cover this gap. It didn't take me long to call the homeowner into this room for a little pow-wow on what he wanted done. I explained clearly that the types of repairs that were needed here were above and beyond what is usually called for. He agreed and went along with a higher bill to take care of these areas.
Photo 2 gives another example of the type of work that was done in this room.
I ended up cutting my own piece of drywall and putting it in over the wood as best I could. This was way too big a hole to fill with plaster. Oh my. Photo 3 holds yet another image that brings tears to my eyes as I sit here writing about it. In several areas on the ceiling they had pieced in 3-inch strips of drywall. Now this was not a good idea from several different perspectives-it was 2-foot centers and they used 1/2-inch drywall on the ceilings. The pieces had one screw in them every 2 feet. It just was not a good situation but one I again had to deal with. Heavy mesh was put over all these areas along with accelerated basecoat to get it to set up to a hard finish quickly to help prevent sagging of the drywall.
There were a few more things that had to be set right: Several screw heads left up and ready to nick the trowels that would pass over them-and also a few sheets that had no screws whatsoever in the field. I made sure the homeowner noticed this as well, as I was not going to do this work for free either. It just shows why having screws and a screw gun on board at all times comes in handy-the show must go on.
WRONG SIDE OUTYou might have heard the old joke about the guy who keeps shouting to his landscape crew-"Green side up!"-making sure they were laying the sod properly
It may get a laugh, but something similar to this joke happens when it comes to board hanging. I had given a friend a quote over the phone-basically the per-square-foot price-and then I went to check it out before I started the job. What a surprise I found. Photos 5 and 6 tell the story. It just so happened that the contractor who was over this job stopped through. Before I could say much he said, "I'm sure you're glad I hung the sheets this way. I was told years ago that plasterers hated to work over drywall. They like it when the sheets are turned to have the backside out." He stood there smilingly proudly and I could hardly break the news to him.
I didn't want to rattle his cage too hard as he was an older guy and looked a little frail. Besides, I think we've all been told a story sometime in our lives that we believed, maybe believed for years-only to find out years later that it was not true. That can be hard to take. So, I broke it to him lightly but making sure he knew that this was not the way to hang board in the future.
I might have mentioned this point a long time ago but it bears repeating once again: This type of hanging, with the back of the board showing, is not good. It causes much extra work and always poses the threat of something going wrong.
I had to cut the paper off the butt joint areas, bond and seal every inch of the board, and then wait 24 hours before plastering. This causes a challenge when doing sand finish especially, as was the case with this project. It makes the surface extra slick it seems, so that moisture doesn't have anywhere to go except out. So, it has to surface dry, making it a bear to get a decent sand finish job out of it. The sand finish stays wet and "balding" occurs frequently in places you have to rub over more than once or twice. A fan helps but it's best if the word is given beforehand so that the board is not hung wrong side out.
David wraps up the 2004 season as the December T-shirt winner for the Walls & Ceilings/Plaster Man contest. For 2005, we're thinking about doing an "Ugliest Patch" contest: Either the worst repair you have run across, where someone tried to fix it and didn't do the greatest job or a "before-and-after" sequence where you came on a terrible situation and then made it good as new. Send in your photos to the magazine or e-mail them to me at email@example.com. We'll award prizes to the best photos. So, be on the lookout and keep your camera with you!
Your questions and comments are always welcome. If you've been in the plastering trade and would like to be interviewed, just let me know. Until next time, Plaster On!