By Darren Lum
Published Aug. 4 2020
Beyond Plasters a relatively new business offering customers an opportunity to use natural plasters is embracing the past towards a new way of thinking.
Minden Hills resident and graduate of Fleming College’s Sustainable Building Design and Construction program Sebastian Renel started Beyond Plasters in 2018.
With 13 years of experience in plaster work he isn’t new to the practices and application of using plasters with lime and clay as the basic binders which can also include natural fibres such as locally sourced cattails.
“The 17th century artisans introduced natural plaster to create beautiful interior and exterior finishes for homes and buildings of all sorts” reads Renel’s website “This unique art form was mostly forgotten in Canada after the introduction of commercial drywall in the 1950s. Today natural plaster provides infinite design opportunities. From restorations to simple accent walls entire spaces kitchen back-splashes shower surrounds earthen floors and fireplaces natural plasters are an excellent choice to complete your vision.”
Although he has years of experience in timber framing he said he started Beyond Plastering because of his passion for the work.
“I still love timber framing. I still have my timber framing tools and if I have a chance I’ll lend a hand to whoever needs a hand for that kind of stuff but this is more of a passion than timber framing. Again as much as I love timber framing … you get to play with so much more colour so much more texture and that fact that you’re mixing these ingredients that you bring from nature” he said.
He decided to base his business in the Highlands because it offered an ideal location for his family with a rural property allowing them to grow some of their own food with areas close by to swim and fish.
Renel said people are becoming more interested in where things come from and what they’re about. The materials used in natural plasters which can be used on walls or floors have their own meaning.
“Clay has its meaning in the dirt. The sand as well. It filtrates … and then cattails are part of it – the seeds really. The roots filter the water right? You take those elements which already have cleansing properties right? And you put them together … I’ve always thought of it like if you look at the meaning of things and where things come from and what was their purpose and how you’re repurposing things it really shows the value the end product ends up being. This is what it’s all about. For me more than the environmental impact that it has on everything it’s really about the health benefits. Health … to me is more [important] than anything. Health encompasses environment too and by that I mean you have these kind of finishes in your home. Well it’s going to be the healthiest home – you’ll want to stay there forever” he said.
Renel said that natural plaster of clay and lime provides for a healthy environment.
“Lime is antiseptic by nature so there’s no mould build up” he said
“These materials really work with moisture by absorbing it releasing by creating that balance. Clay does that amazingly” he said. He adds the breathability and the neutral acidity level of lime plasters is another reason mould growth is suppressed.
All of his plasters are custom mixed using natural organic ingredients found in the area.
Among the natural plasters he can make is Moroccan plaster of Tadelakt capable of producing highly polished and smooth finish surfaces that boast water resistance suitable for a bathroom or a back splash.
Some of his education on natural plasters includes trips to Japan where he acquired a different approach to plastering.
“Plastering happens in layers. The one thing is that [you need] to give all the attention you can to each layer. Make every layer look beautiful even if it’s not the finished layer and keep the work environment clean” he said. “And just keep practising all the time.”
Renel admits his work does have a greater financial cost but said the added expense of custom mixed plaster and the labour of sourcing materials is returned in the final product.
“The overall well being in your home. The harmony it creates. The colours. The vibrancy. Everything you call it. You’re going to just feel more inspired in your everyday life. I think it has the potential to heal” he said.
Renel said he named his business Beyond Plasters not only because he does more than plastering.
“Also partly it’s the wave of the future. And also [these are] natural finishes for an evolving world. I think we’re at a point in history and humankind where there’s … a major awareness shift happening. I think this ties so much with what we’re going through” he said
For Renel he said there is a shift in the public’s mindset happening now.
“It’s a shift in the way we think about longevity sustainability. These are vague terms to be honest. I think you have to approach everything in terms of simply understanding what it is and what benefits you get from it” he said.