First I want to say that I am thrilled to have been invited to participate on TurningHoustonGreen.com. I only hope that I can live up to the expectation that all of the readers expect out of the site as created by Stephanie. She has done a great job, thank you for providing this forum for us all!
My topic of choice is American Clay Earth Plasters. I was introduced to this plaster over a year ago by a builder who thought it had some great potential. At the time, I was not convinced as it seemed just a little too “easy”. Now, a year later, I am a convert.
Now, you may be asking; “What is American Clay”? Is it Native American Indian clay pottery? Is it a new product line launched by American Idol and Clay Aiken? No, and most assuredly, NO!
American Clay Earth Plaster is a fairly new product to the Houston market, and while it is fairly new, it is wholly Green! It is one of a few products that almost totally addresses not just one, not two, but possibly three or more tenants of Green Building. (Depending on whose tenants you are considering).
American Clay Earth Plaster is a wall plaster that combines the great qualities of natural earth materials, near limitless color variations of natural pigments, and depth and individuality of texture while having some pretty amazing qualities. American Clay marketing materials list that the product is Fire-resistant, non-toxic (no VOCs), fade resistant, mold resistant, dust resistant, non-dusting, temperature and humidity controlling, and more. The clay plaster is a finish coat to many possible substrates, commonly, new drywall, concrete walls, brick, and others. It is both a new construction product as well as a great remodeling product.
The clay plaster is the finish coat, the texture and the color all in one. It has qualities that paint does not have; clay plaster “breathes” – it takes in and gives off moisture, so walls in a steamy bathroom do not sweat and the room de-humidifies faster; clay plaster has a negative ionic charge, which reportedly makes people feel better, and it also repels dust and fingerprints/oils; the mass of the plaster and the moisture absorption qualities have a moderating effect on temperature in the room, called “latent heat flux”.
Now, the “latent heat flux” can be a little complicated, and a flash back to high school science, but the thing to remember, is that the plaster “breathes” moisture in humidity control, and that “breathing”, or evaporation, along with the qualities of stone/sand to moderate temperature changes makes for an extremely comfortable living environment. These “breathing” qualities also absorbs odors from the living space. Many a decorator familiar with American Clay will specify its use in a home with pets or previously occupied by smokers! Phew, now a solution for “fluffy” and “puffy”!
Now, a quality above, not as easy to explain is the “negative ionic charge”. Here is what the manufacture publishes on their website. “Natural clay maintains an incredibly dense molecular structure and shape, giving it the capacity to produce a self-generated negative charge upon hydration. Even the simple evaporation of water from clay has the capacity to produce negatively charged particles in the air. This means that when your walls breathe, or hydrate slightly with changes in humidity and slowly dry out, your interior space is being steeped in negative ions. The capacity of clay plaster to “breathe” and release negative ions is unique and not found in any other wall covering on the market today. Concrete, Gypsum, Marble, Lime, and decorative acrylic plasters do not release negative ions, breathe with changes in humidity, or resist dust. American Clay is unique in its ability to literally alter a space for the benefit of those inhabiting it!”
So, given all these great qualities, of no steamy bathrooms, no grungy fingerprints around light switches, absorbed pet odors, and absolutely beautiful walls, what is the next step? Figuring out how to get that stuff on our walls! The clay plaster is, well, a plaster. Most applicators trowel it on using a bucket and a plastic or steel trowel. It’s applied in two coats and then finished with a final compression step. The applicator, or do-it-yourselfer, can select a texture, a color, and an application technique that will offer limitless options. The clay plaster can also be applied using a spray technique, but this requires a thinner, pourable consistency, and then will be a smoother, less textured surface. If a commercial level of durability and speed in application is desired, a sister product to American Clay, called Enjarre is available. This too is sprayed on and back-troweled for texture. Many large commercial applications are using a combination of Enjarre for larger surfaces, with an American Clay color pallet selection for an accent wall.
The clay comes in three textures, a glassy smooth Porcelina, a molted crushed-sea shell Marittimo, and a very popular Loma. The applicator selects one of the 40 colors for the clay plaster, or two or more colors, depending on the look desired. The applicator then can apply the plaster with a super smooth finish, with a rough textured finish, or even add additional texture with additives like straw or more.
The colors range in depth from warm taupe, tans, golds and red, through cool greens and blues. Like many paint companies, American Clay too has fun with their color names like Tucson Gold, Austin Blush, Chocolatta, Painted Desert and Napa Olive. Just reading the color chart is like the blend of a map and a visit to the spa. Striking rich colors are available in the Natural Depths series. And, surprisingly, the clay plaster itself is a great fresh white color without any added pigment, great for contemporary looks or traditional white ceilings. Of course, one can pick from the 40 colors available. If a custom color is desired, the company has a color creation service for matching unique and custom colors for clients. They have already reported matching several Sherwin Williams paint colors for clients who want to maintain a specific pallet but want the qualities of the clay.
One question that I frequently get is: “Where should I start? The bathroom? Dining? Which room should I do first?”. This question is easy, it depends on YOU! The bedroom is great as it helps with temperature, dust and those awesome negative ions at work during the whole time you are asleep. The bath is great too! No foggy mirrors, no steamy clingy clothes! And the dining room? What better way to show off your great taste in food and décor! The reality is, many people start as do-it-yourselfers in powder baths, and quickly graduate to “whole house” American Clay converts
So, I think that pretty much “covers it” (opps, sorry another pun) We’ve covered the properties, the colors, the application, and the commercial Enjarre. Additionally, for those needing to know, American Clay qualifies for up to 5 LEED points for recycled content, construction waste, and low emitting content. Price points depend on color selection, application technique, and qualifications of applicator. American Clay publishes an “average application cost nationally of “$3 – $7 a square foot for American Clay and $2 a Square Foot for Enjarre”
I hope you’ve enjoyed this product post and I look forward to sharing some information that I’ve learned on the next product… hmmm… should it be paint, insulation, house wrap, or something really off-the-wall.
Green Builders Source
References for above article and more photos: www.americanclay.com