Part 1 in Robin's take on resurfacing, with letter.

I want to give a brief summary of my visit to St. Louis, in February, then we’ll get straight into a letter that has been sent.

The Home Builders Association put on the Spring Home Show that took up the entire convention center and the St. Louis Rams Football stadium—a massive show! They say it’s the biggest home show now in North America. I believe it. I was able to share the stage with Dean and Robin from “Hometime.”

My reason for being at this show was to raise awareness of the options that are available to homeowners when it comes to remodeling and ways to do repair and restoration work. There is a huge “Rebuild St. Louis” campaign, and I found professionals and homeowners alike attending the 10 presentations I was able to do over the five days of the show. I went on television and radio to get the word out on plaster, and this brought a lot of people to the show. Believe me when I say there is a lot of interest in plaster and plastering in St. Louis.

An e-mail from Wallace

Wallace sent an e-mail and here’s what he had to say:

“I have been reading your articles for awhile in Walls & Ceilings and one was about young people in our trade. I have been plastering for 32 years. When I started, a plasterer was one of the highest paid trades in the Baltimore/Washington area. Today, we are one of the lowest paid. We are earning about as much now as we did in 1985. That year a plasterer’s hourly rate was $15.50—today, it is $19.95. We don’t have to talk about after taxes, union dues and working assessments—there isn’t much left. So a person sees that and the hard work, and they decide it’s not for them, and can you blame them?

I don’t think there is much more plastering work going on now than there was 20 years ago. There just seems to be fewer plasterers left. I tell my customers the only way to get plasterers is go to the graveyard and dig them up! But there is an upside to this. I own my own business. I do a lot of restoration and repair work, and there is not much competition in our trade, which means my prices are accepted about 85 percent of the time. So, I’m able to make a better-than-average living.

I’ve been using the mesh with the two-coat veneer system over sound but damaged plaster, such as cracked walls and ceilings. I was wondering if you use that system in your part of the woods and if so, how successful have you been with it?

Hey, if I can be of any help to you let me know. I have done all phases of plastering. I was very lucky when I started this trade: I was taught by some of the best in this area. So I might be able to pass on what I know to somebody who needs help.


Wallace Plastering”

I thank Wallace for his e-mail. It’s nice to have someone with his amount of experience willing to let others in on that knowledge. And again, I want to say that I appreciate all the e-mails and letters that have come in over the past few months. I am still able to answer them myself, so keep them coming.

In reply to Wallace’s question, my work is split up about half and half now: half repair work, half resurfacing using the mesh and two-coat veneer system.

Removing soffits in a kitchen is a trend in the Midwest.

A common project

Removing soffits from kitchens (photo #1) is something that’s becoming a pretty popular project in the Midwest area. A lot of people are either removing them to open up the kitchen space a little more, or to install cabinets clear up to the ceiling. In either case, it calls for some repair and often resurfacing to be done. And more and more people want to go back with what was originally used when the house was built, which means they want plaster.

The wall area is simple enough. I use a basecoat and then follow up smooth to blend into the existing areas around it. If the soffit were just running along the edge of the ceiling, I would probably go ahead and patch in this area. However, see in the photo that it extends out across the ceiling, as well. I’m not really looking to get a “hometown hero” award for trying to blend this area in, so I usually would suggest resurfacing the entire ceiling at this point. This also opens up the opportunity for the homeowner to change textures on the ceiling. In this case, we were able to go from a sand swirl textured ceiling to a smooth ceiling when completed.

One more thought on the soffit: It has to do with the board that you see exposed in the photo, after the soffits are removed. This board is old. And this applies to board that’s been hanging around a long time in garages, and even drywall and plaster board that is left exposed and ready to plaster after paneling is removed.

For some reason—and I’m not an expert by any means on the big “why” question here—but I can tell you what I’ve experienced: Whether it’s the sunlight or chemical reaction to car exhaust in a garage or to the paneling, there is a chance that the plaster put over these areas can delaminate. Even if a bonder is applied over the board first.

Use a sealer

Here’s the process I recommend: First, before using a bonder or plastering, apply a good sealer. What I’m talking about is a product that’s fairly new on the market but that’s worth its weight in gold in this situation. There are two that I have used and would recommend. The first is called Draw Tite and is made by Scotch Paint Co. The second is called Gardz and is made by Zinsser. They are both specifically made for treating damaged drywall—you know, like when wallpaper is removed from a wall that has not been sized properly and you get an ugly surprise when the paper comes off and also takes the top piece of paper off the drywall underneath, exposing a brown paper. These products are used to seal that type of paper so one can plaster right over it. But I’ve used it with excellent effect over the older board I’ve had to plaster, as well.

What I usually do is set up the job and just before I leave for the day I roll on a coat of sealer over all exposed board. Then I come back the next morning and roll on my bonder and let that dry for about an hour. Then I proceed with plastering and the use of mesh. It’s a little more time but well worth it. There’s nothing worse than having fresh work come peeling off from above while sitting there eating lunch. So, this is just a way to ensure everything goes well and there’s a happy ending to the project.

Next time, we’ll continue on the topic of resurfacing with another letter or two and some tips on going out on the edge with extreme plastering. Until next time, keep your letters coming and “Ride the White Wave!”