Plaster Your Walls With Clay Instead Of Painting

  • 01 of 06

    Real Texture, Real Colors

    American Clay Plaster
    American Clay Plaster Product. Copyright Lee Wallender - Licensed to About.com

    Homeowners looking for a richer, earthier look for their walls often "texture" their paint with sponges. But my thought about this has always been: Isn't this just trompe l'oeil? It looks like texture, but isn't.

    Or, you can apprentice yourself to a plasterer for the next 6 years and learn the lost art of plastering. Building plaster, the type that a pre-WWII house might have, is likely a half-inch thick or thicker and is set on lath nailed straight onto the studs. Not fun to work with. No thanks.

    But there is a plaster product made by American Clay that seems designed exactly for the DIY home renovator. It comes pre-pigmented in (obviously) earthen tones. The distinguishing factor is that this plaster goes on top of your existing substrate (i.e., wall material). So, you can spread it over your current drywall, though American Clay does caution that some surfaces would need additional preparation.​​​

    Continue to 2 of 6 below.
  • 02 of 06

    Colors Are Already In The Dry Mix

    American Clay Plaster comes in dry, powdery form.
    American Clay Plaster comes in dry, powdery form. Copyright Lee Wallender - Licensed to About.com
    The plaster comes in dry, powdery form--as fine as ash. Be careful when sneezing! But you'll see the pigment already. Don't be worried that the pigment doesn't look very rich. The color will start to come out when you add water.
    Continue to 3 of 6 below.
  • 03 of 06

    Add Water To Mix To Make the Plaster

    Plaster turns into clay after water is added.
    Plaster turns into clay after water is added. Copyright Lee Wallender - Licensed to About.com

    Next step is to add a nominal amount of water to the dry plaster mixture, until it turns into a thick, heavy clay. While I did this on a small scale, and found it easy to do, I can imagine that it's a beast when you're dealing with fifty pound bags. My only parallel is concrete.

    It's difficult to mix up an entire bag of concrete at once. So, you need to halve the bag. I imagine you would need to do the same thing with these 50 lb. American Clay bags.

    Continue to 4 of 6 below.
  • 04 of 06

    Spread Plaster On Walls With Trowel

    Spread American Clay plaster at low angle with trowel.
    Spread American Clay plaster at low angle with trowel. Copyright Lee Wallender - Licensed to About.com

    Now, here's the fun part. With a trowel, you spread the plaster very thinly across the surface at a low angle. What this means is that you're not laying it down in thick, drywall compound-like sheets, but even thinner. The good thing about this is that it extends the product, so that a 50 lb. bag with the correct mixture of water is estimated to last an average of 160-180 square feet.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Lay Down a Smooth Plaster Wall? Easy Enough.

    Easy to get a smooth plaster finish, if desired.
    Easy to get a smooth plaster finish, if desired. Copyright Lee Wallender - Licensed to About.com

    Now, here's the interesting thing: I enjoyed working and reworking the plaster with the trowel until it was as smooth as possible. Why "interesting"? Because the very point of plaster is texture, right? If you're looking for completely smooth, you can get that with a roller and gallon of paint from your local Home Depot.

    Well, not so fast. Because even though it is smooth on the small scale (see photo), when you're dealing with many square feet it is impossible not to create subtle texture. If I were plastering a room with this type of plaster, this is how I would go about it. But that's just personal preference.

    Continue to 6 of 6 below.
  • 06 of 06

    Or, Get a Rougher Plaster Texture

    Achieve a rough look with American Clay plaster on your walls.
    Achieve a rough look with American Clay plaster on your walls. Copyright Lee Wallender - Licensed to About.com
    Still, you can easily add texture to your plaster by using the edge of your trowel or almost any kind of tool that can be pressed into plaster. In fact, you can even add minimal amounts of extra stuff (hay, seashells, sand, etc.) to create more texture.

    In summary: pick a special room that isn't too large and give this plaster product a try. Special? Well, how about a sewing room, child's room, study, or a home office? Not too large? The home office I am working in right now, which is your basic child-size bedroom, big enough for a twin size bed, has about 400 square feet of wallspace. So, I would be looking at about three 50-pound bags of American Clay.