By Eric Herman
Back in August 1989, I experienced my first day in a brand-new job covering pools and spas for one of the industry’s trade magazines. My first assignment: attend a meeting of a small group of subcontractors calling itself “The Plasterers Council.”
I didn’t know much about plaster and had absolutely no idea what to expect. I was, however, extremely curious to find out just what it was that these people had to talk about. After all, what was plaster beyond the white stuff on the inside of every pool ever built?
What I thought would be an exercise in staying awake turned out to be an evening bristling with anxiety, urgency – and even anger. At the time, the plastering trade in California was facing an epidemic of gray mottling. Many businesses had gone (or were going ) under in the face of lawsuits and an incredible demand for replastering of jobs just completed. The “survivors” were now banding to-gether in hopes of finding answers to a massive problem.
As time passed, I learned that plasterers across the country – and especially in Florida — were facing similar problems. Eventually, these initial gatherings of plasterers became a collective effort to solve far-flung problems. I had witnessed the birth of what was to become the “plaster movement.”
The bottom line was plain: Because customers cared enough about their finishes to sue pool builders and their subs when things didn’t look right, swimming pool plaster was (and still is) very, very important.
In the nearly ten years since that meeting, a great deal has happened in the plastering industry. Research projects both formal and informal have fueled debate, conjecture and more research. New products have come on the scene, each designed to provide options of form or appearance and/or greater resistance to staining, etching and mottling.
Most significant, companies that once considered themselves as “Plasterers” are now “Surface Specialists” offering an array of finish options. In short, common white plaster has changed a lot and come a long way in a fairly short time.
In this issue, we at WaterShapes commence our own coverage of interior surfaces with two features: In “Pebbles, Pozzolans and Polymers,” Greg Garrett looks at the evolution of pool plaster and tracks the onset of new admixtures designed to improve the product (see p. 48). In “A Classic Restored,” Steve Lucas expounds on the task of pulling off a massive resurfacing job using one of the industry’s newer surfacing technologies.
In this pair of features, we see how the materials science behind plaster is evolving; we also explore the application of cement-based interior surfaces at the highest performance levels. And these two stories are just the beginning of what will be an ongoing look at surface technology and applications.
Although many of the questions about white plaster and its offshoots remain, there is no doubt that the examination of these questions remains among the most fascinating journeys to be taken by those who build concrete structures designed to hold water.