I know this title sounds at best confusing and at worst sinister but it happens all the time and in almost all industries. We know all industries have problems and issues to face. However, I get frustrated when I see products or services introduced that look on the surface as if they will fill a void.

The most notable in recent plastering history is the march of products to solve the problem of “porous” stucco. Novice envelope consultants and well intended designers concluded that because a stucco building had a leak, it must be due to the fact that the cement is porous. After all, who would doubt that statement? If you wet the cement stucco, it clearly and obviously absorbs the water quickly. The assumption is the water simply passes through the relatively thin cement membrane. However, this is not typically the case. Properly mixed and applied, cement plaster is highly water-resistant. Note I did not say waterproof-that would indicate that moisture in all its forms will not pass through the cement membrane. Fortunately, water as a vapor will pass through. Many tests have proven this statement again and again over the years.


The Northwest Wall and Ceiling Bureau conducted a series of tests with Federal Testing Labs back in 1996 and the Technical Service Information Bureau has completed similar tests to confirm this fact that properly mixed and applied cement plaster does not allow liquid moisture to pass through. Yet we still see designers and envelope consultants requiring a “waterproof” coating for plaster because it is assumed the cement plaster is too porous.

Last year, Los Angeles received the dubious honor of building the nation’s most expensive school, a whopping $458 million dollars for a single school. The news media had a field day, primarily because the state also announced it was broke at the same time. Like you, I shake my head in disgust and bewilderment. How could this happen? Why is it allowed? What can we do to prevent it in the future? Something is broken out there but are we fixing the wrong things?


I believe people will be looking for answers and scapegoats. Unfortunately, I also believe the wall and ceiling industry, primarily our contractors and workers, will suffer the ultimate brunt of the inevitable whiplash coming down the line. The over-design, extravagant finishes, overzealous inspections and mountain of red tape and regulations will be overshadowed by a much more politically soft and easy target, the contractor and his bid, or more appropriately his lowest bid possible. Politicians will pass over their fellow government employees and commissioned designers they appointed and go right to the private sector to save a few pennies while throwing away thousands. I also suspect the prevailing wage issue will be credited with running up the cost of construction to ridiculous levels.

Every part of the wall and ceiling industry has assemblies, systems or experts designed to solve your problem, even if the problem is unrelated or nonexistent. The sad truth is while they are selling you the solution to your problem, real or imagined, all the while they are more interested in lining their pockets with your cash. I know, there are honest salespeople and consultants with integrity but they seem to be harder and harder to find as we get more and more competitive.