The end of the semester came as we lightened up the rooms, wall by wall, with finish plaster.
Each day we shuffled in, masked edges we wanted to keep nice, listened to words of wisdom from Kelly Ray on plastering technique, someone was mix master, cooking up the days plaster, Eric was always floating about, installing finish carpentry or oiling the cement floors in the bathrooms. Sometime in the late morning or early afternoon we would converge on a room. Getting the plaster up with Venetian trowels and hawks often required less than 2 hours in each room. Then we sponged and buffed the plaster with smaller Japanese trowels to lay down the sandy grain. Within just a few hours, each room was smoothed to an ideal texture. At the end of day, as we carried out our tools to clean them in the front yard, each finished room brought us startlingly close to completion of the house.
One day we broke into smaller groups and tackled finish projects like installing the doors in the kitchen, shelving in the pantry, and adjusting doors within their jambs.
Another day, was it another day? So many things could happen in a day. We plastered one master bedroom wall in a raisony-purple color. The base clay was on-site soil, giving it a darker color with a hint of brown. In the bathroom, the shower received a tadelakt treatment, a waterproof lime plaster developed in Morocco. Two different colored layers of plaster were applied in succession, then buffed with small round stones. We took turns hopping into the shower and rubbing the walls down. The last coat for the day was an olive oil rich soap, also applied with the smooth stones. The soap filled in the smallest pores to increase the water resistance. The finish result is a varied, slightly patterned, gorgeous and unique plaster. As the walls cure, the pattern will fade a little, then reappear when the homeowners use the shower. All these plasters take on new characteristics as they are lived in.
Another day we applied the exterior lime finish coat. When we were troweling the mix up, it had a bright lime color, which has since aired into a warm green. We finished the exterior lime coat in just a day. In the following days, we sprayed the exterior walls down so the lime would react and cure, a little harder each time.
On our final day, we got down on our hands and knees and thanked Community Rebuilds. Actually, we were troweling on the final coat of the adobe floor. The mix was on-site clay, reject sand, a small amount of very fine straw, and water. We all thanked Matt for easy-to-apply, highly consistent mix batches all day long. Each bedroom began with 3 to 4 people applying in a line along a wall. We pressed the mud into place with wood trowels, then smoothed it with poo; trowels, which have rounded ends.. By the time we would reach the door, each room was narrowed down to just one plasterer. Then we organized ourselves in the living room, trying to move at the same rate, backing ourselves around the island and kitchen cabinets, until we all converged at the back door tiling.
Then, suddenly there was a finished house standing beside our gravel piles, our washing station, putting the mixing machine out of work. It’s beautiful.