The Plaster Man: The Trip Out West, Part I
April 26, 2007
I had been planning a trip out to California for quite some time, but for one reason or another I had been postponing it. After the type of winter we just endured, I thought it was high time to enjoy some warm weather out West! I had a whole list of people and companies to meet with and visit, and so the next two columns will be about two of the companies I was able to visit. They, of course, have a direct connection to the plastering trade. As you’ll see, they both deal with interior finishes for walls and ceilings, but each of the products they produce are quite unique. In July’s column I’ll talk about Vella Venetian, a company based in Orange, Calif., where the product is manufactured. This time around I want to tell you about a product that comes from a little farther away, Japan!
AN INTERNATIONAL ARTAs most of us know, plaster is truly an international trade and art. It’s a trade that is practiced around the world, not just here in the United States. And over the years I have received letters and e-mails from manufacturers of products from many countries. For quite some time I’ve been focusing and working with products that come from Italy – many marble-based products. I was hooked on them from the very first time I saw them and was able to work with them.
One of the drawbacks that I have found is that many of the high-end finishes are difficult – if not impossible – to patch or repair. If something happens to the surface, you’re in real trouble. The only options are to sand down the wall and start over, an expensive and time-consuming situation, to say the least. So, I have been keeping my eyes open for new products that are easy to apply and also easy to repair or touch up.
EcoDeVitaA few months back Regina Hoffman contacted me. She runs Eco Balanced Materials, which is based in Southern California. The company distributes a line of plasters, EcoDeVita, which immediately caught my interest. Hoffman was bothered by the “Sick House Syndrome” that seemed to be plaguing many parts of the country. She felt that healthier finishes for walls and ceilings would help solve this problem. About two years ago, she teamed up with Hiro Ide, who runs the U.S. branch of Shokoku International, importers of this line of plaster.
I was sent samples of EcoDeVita and Myron Ferguson, That Drywall Guy, flew in to help me test this and a few more plasters. We were impressed enough with its potential that I arranged a face-to-face meeting in California.
THE MATERIALSLet me tell you a little about the materials and the tools. EcoDeVita is formulated of sand and other natural ingredients including clay, straw chips, silk fibers, metallic powder or glitter and pigments. A wide variety of colors and finishes can be accomplished with this type of material. There are basically two types of plasters: modern and traditional. One type is made of sand and straw chips and creates a rustic wall finish. The other contains natural pigments and pre-sifted sand granules. I also tried a type that had extremely small glass beads in it, which made the walls glisten. To me, it has the look of the stucco that had glass dashed into it years ago on the exteriors of homes, though the glass pieces are much smaller and finer in the EcoDeVita product. The effect is really stunning and pleasing to the eye. Another type that I saw at their offices had silk fibers added to the plaster, which made the surface take on the appearance of a shimmering cloth – really a great look.
Mixing the product is very easy. The base material comes pre-tinted in 11-pound plastic pouches and is mixed with water and a small bonder packet. It goes on easily and covers about 35 square feet per bag. The cost is $20 - $50 per bag, depending on the finish you’re going for and how many additives you use in it. The plaster is put over new or existing walls. Priming the walls with a latex primer is all that’s needed before applying the material. I found that it can be applied in one coat and is pretty much self-leveling when it’s being applied. Unlike Italian plasters, where short strokes are used to apply the marble, this is applied much like traditional plaster with long, even strokes. As it sets hard, you simply trowel it smooth with a clean trowel, and no water toweling or mop toweling is necessary. It’s complete in about a half hour.
THE TOOLSThe tools are somewhat different than ones we traditionally use here in the United States. Although they are smaller in size, I personally liked the flexibility of the trowels and their shape. They remind me a lot of Italian trowels, making work easy on your wrist and arm. The handles feel good in your hand and the materials are easy to spread with them.
EASY TO REPAIROne of the biggest advantages I found in this type of product is that it’s extremely easy to repair. If it gets gouged or damaged in any way, all that’s needed is to re-coat the affected area. To me, this is a huge selling point. So many of the plasters I’ve worked with have one drawback: When even the smallest area is damaged, a complete re-coating of the wall is needed. Because this material is pre-tinted in small units of product, it’s only a matter of mixing up a small amount of the same color and applying it over the area. It blends in great.
OTHER ADVANTAGESAs you are probably becoming more and more aware of, the word ‘green’ in building is the hot button today. And it will continue to grow in importance. The main reason this product was developed was to help solve the Sick Building Syndrome, which is often caused by walls and ceilings that are either completely sealed and don’t allow the building to ‘breathe,’ or they actually add to the problem by out-gassing vapors that make people sick.
This type of plaster allows the walls and ceilings to breathe because no sealer is put over the finished plaster, so it absorbs moisture and releases it back into the room. I foresee great potential for this plaster in both residential and commercial projects. It’s a look and feel that is quite unique. Every interior plaster that I test and look closely at has its own look. It sets a tone or mood, which is what many clients are looking for. The more complicated life gets, the more harried and rushed people become, the more they value their private time at home. They want to be surrounded by an environment that brings them peace, a place that calms their nerves and provides them with a haven, a sanctuary. That’s the sense I get from this product. It’s not the shiny, highly polished look of marble. It’s more stately, which I think is something many clients will find appealing and inviting. If you want to learn more about it, you can visit www.shikoku.co.jp .
The web site for the the United States firm is or more information about Shikoku and the company’s products, check out it’s web site: Shikoku email@example.com.
We’ll be drawing for the Marshalltown Skywalker Stilts in the July column, so get your entries in. E-mail your name and address to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or in care of this magazine. The winner of the Walls & Ceilings/Plaster Man T-shirt this month is Michael Kelly of Tradewind Plastering.
Until next time, Plaster On!