Plastering Without Mesh or Lath

Written by Andrew Morrison

Andrew Morrison Applying Earthen PlasterWhen using earth or lime plasters, it is not necessary to use any mesh or lath. There are advantages to using mesh nonetheless, and there are disadvantages as well. The biggest advantage of using the mesh is the ability to shape the walls and reinforce the plaster in the process. The biggest disadvantage is that more plaster must often be used to even out the walls, especially if the mesh is rigid like a welded wire mesh, for example.

The rigid mesh will hold an even plane even if the surface of the bales undulates beneath it. This leaves deep areas that need to be filled with mud in order to remain even with the swells. In such cases, it can actually be more frustrating to use the mesh than it would be to plaster directly onto the bales. If you plan to place your mud directly on the bales, be sure you do a good job of weed whacking. Any loose straw will make the process more difficult as large sections of plaster will get too heavy and simply peel away from the wall. That is a mess and very annoying.

So either way, you can end up frustrated! Plastering is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t. Once you get the skills from several projects, it gets easier, but it is nothing less than an art that must be learned and improved with time and practice.

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3 Responses

  1. I am looking for information on stacking bales on top of a wood floor and then earth/lime plastering them in a conventional home..I am wondering about potential problems with or how to find others who have done similar projects, such as earthen floors and strawbale interior walls in conventional homes..
    thank you,

  2. Can weed-whacking be avoided entirely on a meshless project using the French method of pre-dipping bales in clay slip before stacking, or is there still prep one would need to do? Have you used the clay slip dip method before? Thanks -Kev

  3. Hi Kev. The dip method can eliminate the need to weed whack depending on the bales that you use. If they are short straw, loose bales, have lots of loose ends sticking out of the bales, or are otherwise less than perfectly tight (long straw) bales, then the dip method will not work as well. Those loose ends can be an issue for plastering later on as the plaster will adhere to those loose bits and not the full strength of the bale itself. That said, with quality bales, the dipping of the bales can eliminate the need to weed whack. It does bring up other issues like working with heavy, wet bales which tend to stick together (a good thing as long as you place them in the right spot and don’t need to adjust them a ton). It is certainly a viable method; however, I would not say that it is something I would personally do as I don’t see the benefit matching the extra labor involved.

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