Let’s start off with pretty pictures, shall we? Say you’re coming down the stairs into the basement, and ta da! A nicely plastered and painted fieldstone wall, with bronzed plastic pipe and some art hung up with fishing line. And yes, it’s a bit crowded with chicken coop supplies…loppers to cut raspberry cane, epoxy shield, gravity feeder, feed scoops, a stray CO detector… Moving on… How did we get here?
The fun, easy part was spray painting the pipe. Rustoleum is your friend. They make an antique bronze finish that is just lovely. Although possibly I should have dusted the tops of the pipes first…
The wall was a slog! First the research. I can’t even begin to recreate the rabbit hole of finding out that field stone basements should be coated with lime plaster and how to make it. I think the reasoning had something to do with drawing the moisture through the wall to react with the lime instead of decomposing the stones? And most of the formulas are proprietary. Looking back, though, I can crib from Wikipedia for the basics:
Lime plaster is a type of plaster composed of sand, water, and lime, usually non-hydraulic hydrated lime (also known as slaked lime, high calcium lime or air lime).
I can also tell you that I ended up working with a proportion of 3 parts sand to 1 part lime (by volume), and then adding enough water to make a nice slurry. You have to be careful both sourcing the lime (you want something like this product, not the type of lime used to fertilize lawns – it’s a different chemical compound) and mixing it (powdered lime is hazardous, so you should wear a breath mask until it has reacted with the water).
I used a big plastic tote to mix my plaster in – and with a lid, it stays usable for over a year! I started out using an extra garden stake to do the stirring which was both very silly and very hard. My uncle recommended a power driven mixer attachment, which was a godsend. You just stick it into your screw gun like any other bit, and use it like you would use an automatic mixer for batter in the kitchen.
Given my general impatience and penchant for skipping steps, it may astonish you to know that I did indeed scrape the old plaster before apply new, and waited several days for the plaster to dry before painting the wall (with one of several cans of antique white I picked up on sale years ago. Yes, there’s a hardware/home goods stash, too).
Oh, and in case you’re curious about the art: the piece on the left was a framed-tile thrift store find, and the banner (supposedly a scarf?) was a present from my dad – it commemorates the new Japanese garden at the local botanical institute/sculpture park.