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Traditional Plaster



Traditional Plaster

What are the benefits of traditional plasters?

  • Timeless – Carefully crafted finishes will age gracefully and last for generations
  • Natural Materials – Completely non-toxic, can actually improve indoor air quality
  • Ecological & “Green” – Low embodied energy, locally available ingredients
  • Unique – Custom-blended and applied to achieve the color, texture, and shape you desire
  • Functional – Ability to regulate heat and moisture, applicable over different substrates

What colors are available?

We use natural, mineral-based pigments in our plasters, which tend to be earth-toned colors. The intensity of the color depends on the type of plaster and the application process, as well as the pigment. We have over 100 standard colors to choose from and can custom-blend our pigments to match others.

What are the ingredients?

The materials we use have been in use since antiquity in traditional plasters. We blend our plasters from scratch to meet the particular goals of each project. Lime, gypsum, sand, and earth represent the primary ingredients in most of our plasters. Additional ingredients may include specialty aggregates, pigments, fibers, and/or plant-based oils. We use natural materials to improve the air quality of the finished space, minimize environmental impact, and make our own working experience as healthy as possible.

Are the plasters “green”?

All of our plasters are made from natural, low-embodied energy materials. Wherever possible, we prefer to use locally sourced materials. Lime, gypsum, and earth require lower temperatures and less processing than drywall and cement. They are also breathable, mold-resistant, and add thermal mass and insulation to the building envelope.

Do the materials off-gas?

No. We use natural materials that ultimately improve the air quality of the finished space and make our own working experience as healthy as possible.

Are traditional plasters the same as American Clay?

Our earthen plasters can be similar to American Clay in appearance. We prefer to work with locally produced soils, however, in order to reduce our ecologic footprint. Because we prepare our own mixes, we can adjust the ingredients to obtain textures and finishes distinct from American Clay. The availability and minimal cost of local soils encourages thicker applications which add thermal mass and increase the potential for humidity and odor buffering.

Lime and gypsum plasters are fundamentally different from earthen plasters. Whereas earthen plasters cure only by drying, lime and gypsum have a chemical set. This additional complexity leads to a broader array of potential finishes and more durable applications.

What does Artesano add to their earthen plasters?

In most cases, they’re just dirt… really. We’ve found that locally obtained soils can be used to achieve a wonderful array of beautiful finishes using different application techniques. Straw fibers, mica flakes, pigments, and natural binders such as caseins can be included when desired to achieve a particular finish.

Where do the materials come from?

The dirt is right beneath our feet. Because we have good sources through local landscape suppliers as well, however, we generally find it more practical to draw from their stockpiles. In using these soils successfully for the past five years, we’ve learned how to get consistent results with less effort. As a result, the materials for our earthen plaster are literally “dirt-cheap” and as local it gets.

Colorado has the good fortune of containing some of the best gypsum deposits in the country, and we consider it to be a local product. Industry still favors convenience over closeness when it comes to shipping, however, so the actual origins of the gypsum products we use may vary. Gypsum is one of the earth’s most common minerals and is processed at relatively low temperatures (you could process gypsum in your oven).

The lime used to build many of Boulder’s historic buildings was actually produced just west of town. Unfortunately, industry’s preference for Portland cement led to the closure of most local lime sources. We currently use lime imported from the Midwest, but look forward to a re-birth of local sources as lime plasters and other uses regain popularity.

The aggregates we use are also sourced locally. In addition to locally quarried sands, we get crushed limestone from Fort Collins and marble sands from Colorado.

How durable are the finishes?

Our lime and gypsum plasters actually add to the durability of drywall. By comparison, earth plasters tend to be less durable than lime and gypsum but are easier to repair. In general, plastered walls will last longer than painted drywall and won’t fade over time. The longevity of plasters is aided in part by their ability to help regulate temperature and humidity in their environment.

Are the plasters easy to repair?

The ease of repair depends on the finish. Plaster repairs are generally more visible than with painted drywall, however. We typically discourage people from considering plaster if they are seeking a perfect, homogenous wall. In contrast, we believe that minor blemishes can ultimately add to the unique character of a finish by accenting the depth and texture of the surface.

How much does the plaster cost?

Traditional plasters represent the highest quality finish possible with natural materials and last longer than most conventional alternatives. As such, they are invariably more expensive than painted drywall. Costs depend on the material and application technique as well as the size and complexity of the wall. All things considered, our plasters are competitive with other custom finishes; most plasters range from $4 to $13 per square foot, while tadelakt is comparable to custom tile installations. We are happy to discuss your ideas over the phone or in person to provide free schedule and cost estimates. Please see our pricing sheet for further information.

Do the plasters come with a guarantee?

We guarantee our work knowing that the traditional materials on which our plasters are based have been successfully applied for centuries across the globe. Because we make our own plasters from scratch and apply them ourselves, we take full responsibility for the integrity and performance of our finishes. By placing particular emphasis on effective communication up front, we can insure that there are no surprises in the end.

Can I do it myself?

Only with enough homework, practice, and patience. Working with traditional materials requires more knowledge and skill than most conventional products, and making plasters from scratch is of course more demanding than working out of a bucket. While we are not in the business of providing materials, we do offer consulting services to help you on your way. We are also happy to collaborate when participation is one of your goals.


What is tadelakt?

Tadelakt is a waterproof lime plaster sealed with olive oil soap and burnished with a stone. Soft to the touch and warm to the eye, it can seamlessly cover walls, sinks, showers, and even bathtubs. One of few natural materials appropriate for wet areas, tadelakt is easy to clean and highly resistant to mildew. read more

Where does it come from?

Tadelakt is one of the oldest known means of waterproofing cisterns and baths. Originally from Marrakech, it has been applied in traditional hammams and royal palaces throughout North Africa. Artesano is proud to be one of the few plastering companies in the U.S. that have traveled to Morocco to learn this extraordinary technique.

The unique qualities of tadelakt are due in part to the particular qualities of Moroccan lime. Rather than import materials from overseas, we have developed our own equally effective mixes using domestic materials.

Is it difficult to clean?

Our customers have been pleasantly surprised by how easy tadelakt is to clean. The alkalinity of the lime means that it is naturally mold and mildew resistant. And because tadelakt is a seamless application without grout lines or joints, there are fewer places for dirt and grime to build up. An occasional wiping with the same olive oil soap used to create it is the only cleaning required.

How often does it need re-sealing?

The initial application of olive oil soap actually fuses with the lime plaster to create a breathable, waterproof surface (think gore-tex). Once the lime has cured, no further soaping is required. We typically apply a thin coat of wax to the finished tadelakt before use in order to provide an additional layer of protection and to obtain a more sensual surface. While it doesn’t hurt to wax the surface every year or so, it is not required.

Can I use it in my kitchen?

Kitchen installations tend to see more wear and tear than bathroom installations. While we don’t recommend tadelakt for kitchen countertops, it's a great surface for walls and backsplashes.

How much does it cost?

The cost of tadelakt is comparable to custom tile installations and depends on the size and complexity of the surface as well as the preparation of the initial substrate. We suggest $30 per square foot as an initial estimate for budgeting purposes. Typical showers range from $2,000 to $4,000 depending on the level of detail. As a general wall treatment, we can apply tadelakt for as little as $15 per square foot.

How long does an installation take?

Tadelakt application is a time-sensitive process that typically requires a three-day window for the finish, and 1 to 2 additional weeks for the base coats. Pans, liners, and framing may require longer schedules. Once the tadelakt is applied, we recommend allowing 1 month for the lime to cure before applying a final coat of wax, at which point it is ready for use.

more questions?     just ask us!