The craft of plastering with lime and sand goes back hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Plastering over rubblestone, wooden wattles, or clay bricks was a way to seal out the elements and create a flat interior surface.
In the years following the Second World War American building codes were rewritten to permit the substitution of sheetrock for plaster. Sheetrock is fast, cheap, and can be installed by unskilled labor.
To say these amended codes were the death of plastering is no exaggeration. When I was starting out I heard more than once, “If you want a good plasterer, you’ll have to go down to the graveyard and dig one up.” But somehow the trade has stayed alive, due to a few diehards, preservationists, and rare families who have plastered for generations, like the Mangiones. (Frank Mangione was my teacher). Recently plasterers have come over from Ireland, Russia, and other countries where apprenticeship programs have endured.
We do a traditional lime plaster, three coats over wood or wire lathe, or two coats over rock lathe. We do not do skimcoat or veneer plaster.
Plaster is still the real thing for its durability, its mass, and its acoustics. My daughter’s cello teacher says he can’t give lessons in a sheetrocked room.