Faux painting techniques can yield walls with the look of Venetian plaster, but for the same amount of effort you can have the real thing.
And you don't need a skilled artisan to apply it.
American Clay Earth Plaster is a veneer coat of all natural, environmentally friendly clay. It's applied with a trowel over a flat substrate and can be finished to a smooth Venetian plaster look, a more rustic stucco, or a shell- or mica-embedded texture.
Don't let working with a trowel intimidate you. Unlike lime plasters, earth plaster has a far longer set up time – up to several days. And there's virtually no waste. Excess plaster that's fallen to the floor can be broken up, rehydrated and reused, as long as it's free of other debris.
That can also be a drawback to earth plaster. Direct contact with water will turn dried walls into liquid clay, so the product is strictly for interior use. Ambient air moisture, however, is not a problem, nor are occasional splashes. In fact, the clay veneer does well in very humid environments, including bathroom (but not shower) walls and ceilings.
In sub-tropical environments, the clay will absorb moisture from the air in the humid morning and evening hours. During the day when the ambient air is less humid, the moisture absorbed by the clay will evaporate, resulting in a sort of free, natural air conditioning.
A penetrating spray-on sealer or troweled-on wax can be used to protect earth plaster used in such places as backsplashes and shower ceilings. Sealing is also a must if you wish to paint the clay plaster.
The manufacturer recommends against sealing unless absolutely necessary. Reason? Unsealed walls can easily be repaired many times over simply by wetting the clay and reworking it. Sealed walls can be repaired, but must be sanded first to remove the sealer.
The plaster can be applied over cement blocks, drywall or painted plaster and on walls and ceilings. In most cases, applying a sanded primer that bonds to the wall and gives the clay something to grab onto is the first step. The clay plaster is then applied in two very thin coats and compressed as a final step.
As in painting or wallpapering, the finished job is only as good as the wall beneath. That means wallpaper has to be removed, drywall seams have to be taped, cement has to be sealed and primed, and loose or broken plaster must be repaired. Any imperfection of more than an eighth of an inch will show.
The basic earth plaster, Loma, gives a rustic look. It is also used as the base coat for the satin-smooth Porcelina, which gives the look of Venetian plaster; and Mediterranean inspired Maritimo, with crushed shell aggregates. Also available are natural coloring pigments in 43 hues, sealers, tinted sealers and mica flakes to add in.
The clay is sold in 50 pound bags. Material cost including primer, two coats of clay and coloring pigments is 80 cents to $1.35 a square foot.
Then Loma covers 200 square feet/bag/coat, Porcelina covers 300/bag/top coat only, and Marittimo covers 160/bag/coat.