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Vivid wall plasters.

Westerners have used white plaster since the mission era. But now homeowners are beginning to appreciate the spectrum of rich colors and subtle textures achieved with colored plaster - which usually starts as a pastelike mixture of portland cement, lime or gypsum, water, sand, and pigment.

Colored plaster can contribute a solid, timeless character to a room. Says San Francisco architect Bernardo Urquieta. "It gives depth and richness to a wall and captures and mottles the light. It doesn't just reflect light like paint. It tints it, colors it, and gives a solidity to the space." But before you introduce the richness of colored plaster into your own home, there are some things you should understand.

Colored plaster is not for do-it-yourselfers. Urquieta says, "It's a very temperamental, reactive material and has to be carefully applied. You'll get a different color tone, or even some cracking, depending on how fast it dries. And the drying rate is affected by heat and humidity."

Plastering a wall is a multiple-stage process. The first layer is troweled over gypsum board. Then a layer of bonding glue is applied. Next a "scratch coat" (a rough plaster with the texture of sandpaper) is applied, followed by a final coat of smooth plaster.

There are two basic types of plaster - gypsum-based and lime-based - each with its own characteristics. According to design consultant and plaster contractor Terry Bryant of St. Helena, California, lime-based plasters tend to be much smoother and hold color better: "They're meant to slick down in a refined way." The gypsum-based plaster usually has a somewhat rougher texture.

A relatively new plaster product from Italy uses lime mixed with marble dust, earth, and a small amount of resin - instead of cement to act as a binder. It comes prepackaged in 5-gallon containers. "This material doesn't set until it's mixed with air," says Michael Fay, owner of Area Code, a San Francisco business specializing in integrally colored plasters from Italy.

Colored plaster is not cheap, although historically it was considered an inexpensive way to mimic marble. Bryant estimates that a colored plaster wall costs 50 percent to 100 percent more than a conventional wood or gypsum board wall. But he points out that you'll get some of that money back because the wall will never need painting. Fay figures that walls plastered with the prepackaged Italian material cost $6 to $12 per square foot, including labor. To find a plasterer, get an architect's recommendation or look in the yellow pages under Plastering Contractors; make sure the one you choose specializes in colored plaster.
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Copyright 1995 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:using colored wall plaster
Author:Gregory, Daniel
Publication:Sunset
Date:Jul 1, 1995
Words:427
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