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The History of Plaster

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					Did you know that the concept of plastering has been around for hundreds of years?
In fact, there is evidence that even primitive man used plaster made from mud in order
to hold together their dwellings made from sticks. As time went on, the materials used
to make this plaster became increasingly more sophisticated until we ended up with
the type of plaster we use today.

Ancient Cultures and Plastering

Perhaps one of the earliest and most impressive uses of plaster that resembles what is
used in modern construction can be found in Egypt. Four hundred years ago, the
ancient Egyptians used a special form of plaster resembling today's plaster of Paris in
order to build their pyramids. They even applied the plaster to reeds, in much the
same way as modern plastering involves the use of laths.

Plaster made from a fine white lime stucco was also used within the ancient Greek
culture. Amazingly, the use of this plaster dates back to 500 BC and it was often used
when crafting buildings of marble.

Plaster Comes to England

Some of the earliest representations of plaster in England can be found in the large
mansions and houses dating back to the time of Henry VIII. During this time, it was
used for ornamentation and was often coloured. Over time, plaster became more
commonly used in small buildings and then in homes and cottages as well.

Before World War II, the average home was customarily plastered through a
meticulous process that required nailing thousands of feet of lath, wooden strips, to
the ceiling and walls of every single room in the home. Once the lath was in place, it
was then covered with a coarse layer of plaster. This first layer is referred to as the
scratch coat. When the scratch coat was applied, the wet plaster squeezed through the
gaps in the lath, securing it to the walls and ceiling. Several days later, when the first
layer was dry, a second coat called the brown coat was then applied to make all the
surfaces relatively flat. The brown coat had to then dry for several days as well. When
this coat was finally dry, the last layer, the skim coat, was applied. The skim coat is a
thin layer of white plaster that produces a smooth, finished surface.

So, the next time you think about taking a few plastering courses, remember the long
and proud history of this fine craft!

				
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