All Natural 100% Non-Toxic Clay Plasters

Tue, Sep 2, 2014
All Natural 100% Non-Toxic Clay Plasters (© iStock)
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Walls that bring Earth, Life and Warmth to any room…toxic free, & naturally!
How my husband and I turned our white boring river cabin into a rustic, warm and “old world” healthy space!

After we bought our circa 1920 cabin located on the beautiful Russian River in Sonoma County California, the stark white walls screamed “Give me life!” every time we walked in. The poor walls were not only white but stained, dingy, and poorly textured. “The house seemed extremely neglected and poorly upgraded,” said my husband of the home the first time visiting it after becoming an owner. The only question was what we could possibly do to the walls and the environment of the home that would cover up any of the shoddy work and problem areas, as well as give it warmth and life while being conscious to the environment and keeping the indoor air quality free of allergens and gasses that come from many wall covering materials.

We decided to look for low to no-VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) materials that would work for the space. We had recently been to the Solar Living Institute (SLI) in Hopland California, where we had learned about Natural Plaster, which is plaster you can make for your walls made literally from clay found on one’s property. We fell in love with the product, but since our cabin is build on a cliff or sorts, we knew it would be next to impossible to harvest clay found from our own land. So we surfed the internet and asked our friends at SLI, and were turned on to the company American Clay that makes beautiful 100% natural “earth plaster” in an array of beautiful earthen colors. The company American Clay assures a durable, dust-free veneer plaster. What’s more, American Clay natural earth finishes do not provide a “home” for mold growth, nor do they emit potentially harmful gasses from petroleum-based additives or formaldehydes. Perfect, we thought!

We contacted a man named Rick Cantor, owner of Terrasanti, a showroom of American Clay products and services, who said, “If you’re looking for a product that will bring nature and harmony into your home, is easy to apply yourself, and will help bring balance to the space, American Clay is the stuff! The "earth plaster," made from pure clays and aggregates with coloring agents that come from natural, non-toxic oxides and ochre mineral pigments really appealed to me, and in addition Rick holds handy hands-on workshops to help you learn how to apply it yourself, making this wall covering affordable, practical, and an environmentally-friendly alternative to cement, gypsum, acrylic, and lime plasters.
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Our DIY American Clay Journey

Day One

After removing furniture, light plates, taping paper to the floors, and taping off our trim, we were ready to begin. Since the walls in our Living room were un-textured, Rick had suggested we add “mud glue” to our plaster mixture, a flour like natural substance that makes the clay a bit more adhesive. We had chosen the Loma finish, which is American Clays original smooth finish that leaves the walls with a more rustic finish (and is less expensive then the other two options, Porcelina and Marittimo). My husband mixed the plaster with the color (we chose Autumn) and mud glue with his Spade Handle Mixing Electric Drill and plaster paddle in a five gallon bucket. We had decided to purchase Japanese style stainless steel trowels as both Rick and Julie (American Clays marketing representative) had suggested, as well as a Lexan finishing trowel for the finishing compression. We began applying the clay. The first hour took a bit of getting used to, trying not to put too much clay on the trowel to apply because you would loose half of it to the floor, and holding the trowel at just the right angle (usually between 15 and 30 degree’s) in order to create the perfect texture and look. The nice thing was that since we were going to have to put on a second coat, the base coat did not have to look perfect. We completed the base coat of all the walls this first day, and were quite impressed with the already new look of our great room!

Day Two

When we finished Day One we had half a bucket full of clay, which we just left sitting overnight. The next morning all we had to do was add about a half cup of water to the clay, mix, and we were ready. We completed the ceiling, which was actually very easy as the clay stuck with out any problems and after just one coat, looked great. Our only complaints after these two days of plastering, was the large clay mess on our floor and tracked, now, over most of our house. But since we knew it would clean up easily, we weren’t too concerned.

Day Three

Now it was time for the Second coat. For the Second coat, we did not have to apply the mud glue as the clay now had something to hold on to. We wanted a very rustic look, so we chose a “skip trowel finish” where you lightly mist the base coat with a spray bottle and apply the second coat sporadically so that the first coat was still visible underneath. Because we chose this style the second coat was much easier, took half the time, and was actually a lot of fun. My husband and I decided to make it a race to see who could get a wall done the fastest. After we were done, we let it dry overnight.

Day Four

The final step to finish the plaster is what Rick called “Compressing”. “One of the biggest mistakes I see from people who apply the American Clay themselves is that they don’t compress and then they complain “it’s dusty and it comes off”. Compression is the way to avoid that, I always say, “in order to impress, you must compress!” Compression is the physical process of locking the material into place. First you lightly mist the area, but you have to be very careful because if it is too wet it will raise the cream and cause you to move around the pigment and material. Then you take your trowel (we used a plastic lexan trowel) and press down slowly rubbing down the entire area until it takes on a leather hard texture. Rick says, “When the material is in love, your job is done. Yes, it is a fair amount of work, but well worth it.”

Were Finished!

“Our home has taken on a whole new look and feeling. As soon as people walk in the door they exclaim “what a magical space!”, where as before people took note of the flaws like the uneven ancient floors. My husband says a week later. “Now we can enjoy the warmth and cozy feeling our home gives off, and it only took us a short week to create this amazing atmosphere!” We were so pleased with the finished product, that we bought more products to do our bathroom and master bedroom. This product is not only beautiful and fun to apply, but it is great for families with children. We were happy to know if a child were to write on the wall with a sharpie, you can just rub it off with a sponge and it is as good as new!

Tips for a first-time American Clay makeover

SEEK OUT A LOCAL HOW-TO CLASS
Find a local American Clay retailer that either offers how-to classes or knows of someone who you can chat with that has had experience applying it. It is key to actually go to a showroom that gives you ideas about color and texture as well as demonstrates the best way to achieve your desired effect. If you’re in Northern California, Terrasanti (707.795.5535 or info@terrasanti.com) is a great place to start.

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
Before starting your project, visit a American Clay retailer and purchase a sample pack and practice on a piece of sanded primered dry wall. This is the best way to find out if you like the color when it dries and to get used to working with the material before your begin the real thing.

PREPARATION IS KEY
How you prepare your walls depends on the surface you have, but it is very important to prepare correctly. Some walls will require the clay be mixed with a mud glue like ours, or be painted with a Clay sanded primer before beginning. Log on to AmericanClay.com for all the information you will need to prepare your substrate.

You will also want regulate the rooms temperature between 45 and 90 degrees, and bring all the materials into the room 24 hours before mixing. Remember to cover all our floors and surfaces with plastic, paper or drop cloths.

VISIT THE AMERICAN CLAY WEBSITE
American Clay offers an extensive website that has everything from Product Application, to Hands-on Workshops, to Common Questions. They also offer an American Clay DVD ($14.95) and a “Try-it” kit ($36), which provides you with:

-
Samples of each of their 3 premier finishes
- 1 bag of premixed Loma (in Tucson Gold)
- 1 bag of premixed Porcelina (in Jasper)
- 1 bag of premixed Marittimo (in Bluefield)
- 3 practice boards
- 1 sponge
- 1 plastic applicator

If you decide you don’t want to apply the Clay yourself, you can find a Certified American Clay Artisans in your area through their website.

Features of American Clay plaster
:

1. Can be painted, stained, or replastered
2. Absorbs sound and resists fading
3. Workable until sealed
4. “Breathes” with changes in temperature and humidity
5. Won’t dust
6. Non-toxic—no chemicals
7. Hypoallergenic—it’s easy on the hands
8. Easy to apply—just mix with water
9. Needs no special maintenance, repairs quickly
10. 100% natural—made from clays and recycled industrial waste aggregates
11. American clay plasters contain no imported ingredients -- clays are extracted from US soils 12. Unlimited design potential -- colors, textures, and finishes 13. Non flammable -- mold and pest resistant

American Clay offers Three different Plasters

American Clay Loma
:
Formerly called “Clayote,” American Clay Loma is our original formulation. Like traditional plasters, you can work American Clay Loma into a soft matte finish or you can vary its texture with different tools and techniques. A tile sponge will create a lightly ‘sanded’ texture. A plastic trowel will leave a smooth -- but slightly porous surface. Laying on the second coat in sections, leaving areas of the first coat exposed produces a ‘skip-trowel’ finish. Add colored sand to create a surface reminiscent of sandstone.

Available in 50 lb. bucket or bags.

Coverage
: 80 to 120 square feet in two coats per 50 lb. bucket or bag, depending on the substrate

Price: $52.00 per 50 lbs

American Porcelina:
Prized by artisans for centuries, this smooth surface can resemble fine marble. Worked in sections of several colors American Clay Porcelina will produce the mottled appearance of the Venetian plasters of Mediterranean and Italian villas. Burnishing with fine sandpaper is not required to achieve the “honed marble” appearance associated with Venetian finishes. Just smooth the Porcelina with a plastic trowel.

Available in 50 lb. bucket or bags

Coverage
: 250 to 300 square feet per 50 lb. bucket or bag in one coat over a base coat of American clay Loma.

Price: $95.00 per 50 lbs

American Marittimo

The strongest of our three plasters, MARITTIMO™ draws its’ beauty and charm from the Mediterranean villages of Morocco and the playfulness and color of the Caribbean islands. Crushed shell aggregates give it strength. It is the shell itself that provides the speckle that adds depth and subtle sheen to any interior environment. Somewhat reminiscent of the ancient shell terrazzo floors of Italy and Egypt, MARITTIMO™ brings a soft patina that envelops a room with exquisite beauty. When reworked with a Lexan trowel, MARITTIMO™ imparts a glow unequaled in the world of plaster.

Prices Vary

Available colors
:
Their are 32 hues currently available in American Clay Color Packs. They do not, however, begin to illustrate all the possible tints you can achieve with American Clay Natural Earth Plasters. In addition to the 32 hues offered, American Clay can create custom colors to match almost any sample you provide.
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