This month marks a great milestone in my life: Six years of writing this column. I must say that without you-the readers-I don't think it would have been possible.

Your questions, comments, input and letters of encouragement have been appreciated over the years and I look to continue writing about plastering in the future.

I've always thought it would be nice to look back and review some of the highlights of past columns and letters, but there just isn't space for that sort of thing. Instead, I thought I'd share some highlights from two trips I recently took out east-one to New York City and the other to Manchester Center, Vt. Both trips revolved around plaster, taking in a show, doing training, and visiting a very nice historical site. This column and October's will review some interesting people and places I visited along the way.

Back home again

Though I grew up in Illinois, I have always viewed New York City as home. I spent four years there, living in Brooklyn Heights. It's where I learned plastering, working on the brownstones right in the neighborhood. This past summer, I came back to attend a Building New York show at the Jacob K. Javits Center, in Manhattan. This show covered the commercial building end of things and I was curious to see what was new since last year. Last year, there was a huge push for lead abatement in the entire New York City area. I think they had a goal of getting rid of all lead paints from every building in the city.

This year, I could see that the goal was put on the back burner. Instead of removal, "containment" was the focus. And to me, that was great news! They had all kinds of paint containment products on display-for the walls and for the woodwork. Of course, the whole topic of containment could be used in a great way with the use of plaster. Resurfacing is one of the biggest things I promote and this is a much better way of containing lead than paint. I just thought I'd point this out, as it's a super marketing angle that can be used to good effect.

Photo 1: Destined for the landfill.

The great waste

I stayed up close to the Verazzano Bridge, in the Bay Ridge area of Brooklyn, and took the subway back and forth to the show each day. Photo #1 is just down the street from where I was staying. It was a huge pile of wood lath and debris that was destined for some landfill. It was kind of funny seeing this in a way, as this picture was one of the first to greet me when I first moved to the city. What upset me the most was that on further inspection of the building where they were tearing all this plaster and wood lath out, there was really no reason for it. Most of the walls and ceilings were sound and solid. There were a few cracks but nothing that resurfacing wouldn't take care of.

Photo 2: New York gets me thinking about plaster.

More opportunities

After attending the show, I stayed in town a few more days to do some plaster training. I walked down Central Park West, a street that borders Central Park.

It's a beautiful area and while walking, I took photo #2. As I walked along, I kept thinking about a comment I hear far too often: "Plastering is a dying trade. It's not done anymore." What people most often are referring to is the fact that the old time, three-coat, traditional-style plastering is not done anymore. Which is true.

But as I looked around the city, I couldn't help but go back to the thought of how much existing plaster there is to maintain and keep in good shape. A few more opportunities are apparent in photo #2.

That's a huge opportunity in many areas. But I was looking at the roofs of these buildings, I was wondering how many thousands of flat roofs there are throughout New York and many other cities for that matter. Which leads to leaky roofs, which leads to water-damaged ceilings especially. And something else: What about the aging plumbing in these buildings? I can't tell you how many calls I get from people who have had water damage caused by old leaking or burst pipes. We're surrounded by a veritable gold mine of opportunities.

Photo 3: The great Joey Gamache learning how to plaster.

Adventures in training

Joey Gamache (in photo #3) is a super guy who had me come in to train him for a few days. He is a boxing trainer but his real interest is in remodeling and doing plaster restoration and repair. He couldn't find a crew locally who would take him on and show him the ropes, so I spent two days with him plastering a kitchen area. I think one of the biggest tricks to learn in major cities is how to get in and get out of a project in the neatest way possible. Many guys can work outside just fine but when it comes to interior work, it's like my dad used to say of one of his brothers, "He's a bull in a china closet!"

After training with Joey, I took another walk down Park Avenue and Fifth Avenue, exclusive parts of Manhattan. The thing to keep in mind is that water damage, settling cracks and remodeling projects happen across the board, in poor areas and in very well-to-do areas. It's up to us to have the opportunities come our way. To have them call us when the time comes for the work to be done.

Next month, we'll look at a very exclusive home, one I got a chance to visit while on another visit out east, this time to the town of Manchester Center.

Remember that the contests will also continue in the column, and this month's winner of the Walls & Ceilings/Plaster Man T-shirt is Joel Widmer of Little Rock, Ark. Be sure to e-mail your name and address to me at or send it in care of this magazine. Bosch is providing a Roto-Zip for a prize in an upcoming column, so get your name in for this great tool.

Until next time, Plaster On!