In early 2007, a customer invited me to a local one-day workshop offered by the manufacturer of American Clay Earth Plasters (americanclay.com). I attended, and I'm glad I did. I had been a residential and commercial repainting contractor since 2001 - one who used environmentally sensitive products whenever possible - and was looking for compatible ways to grow my business. I learned that the natural-clay veneer plasters are nontoxic and easier to work with than traditional cement, acrylic, and lime plasters, and that they can be applied to most substrates in a wide range of textures and colors. Waste is minimal, because leftover material can be rehydrated and used at another time.

Later that year I attended a three-day advanced applicator training class at the company's headquarters in Albuquerque, and today I'm a registered applicator. Plastering now accounts for about a third of my finishing business. I charge about $3.50 to $6 per square foot for walls and about $6 to $8 per square foot for ceilings, depending on the...

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