Natural Building Basics – Part II: Natural Finishes

Create and apply natural wall finishes weaving nature into your living space.


Length: 2 hours

Instructor: Bryce Ehrecke


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Who is this course for?
Course length (start & watch when you want)
2 hours of video content
Course credits
2 CEUs / PDAs

*Please note that many of the associations listed under ‘CEUs/PDAs’ do not formally pre-approve online courses for credits, and thus require the student to track their own online course hours to submit for approval for their annual CEU/PDA requirements.

Lifetime access · Certificate of completion

Meet your course instructor

Bryce Ehrecke

Bryce Ehrecke comes from a line of weavers, builders, and explorers. His ancestors created textiles in Ireland, farmed in Normandie, and constructed in Germany, before coming to Canada to lead a different life. From his mother's side he has gained creativity and ingenuity, and from his father's side, he has gained craftsmanship and skill. He now weaves his heritage with place, and natural buildings with natural landscapes, honouring the relationship between human beings and all other beings. His education in natural building began by connecting and paying attention to the world around him and expanded while apprenticing with Pat Hennebery of CobWorks. He has spent the past decade working, living, learning, teaching and exploring with many different natural builders and natural structures. He now runs a Natural Building and renovation company based out of Victoria through Dreamweavers Collective. He specializes in rock work, earthen and lime plasters, roundwood, and using whatever design and materials best suit the environment and whom the structure is for. Bryce is a faculty member of the School of Permaculture Design at Pacific Rim College.

Course description

Get dirty and use your hands to create comfort, warmth, and connection with the natural beauty of clay finishes.

In this course you will learn about:

  • Preparing and apply primers, basecoats, and finishes
  • Setting up your natural wall for different applications
  • Site safety
  • Applying earthen paints of various colours to suit your preferences

While many continue to look to new technologies to improve our environment, we must also remember to look to our past. Ancestral homes made hundreds of years ago from light clay and cob continue to stand today. These natural materials are sustainable, long-lasting, breathable, and waste-free.

Natural builder Bryce Ehrecke leads this video-based workshop through step-by-step visual instruction. With a decade of building and design experience, Bryce and his partner are behind CRÉ Natural Building, a natural renovation, landscaping, gardening, and design firm.

Lesson plan


If you haven’t taken Part I: Wall Systems in this series, we highly recommend it. In part I, you’ll learn to create and build breathable walls to apply these natural finishes to.

Course Guidebook
Download and print your course guidebook so that you can write notes and have it with you when you’re building.

Course Outline
An overview of the techniques and skills you’ll learn as you move through this course.

Section I: Tools and Materials

What Tools Do I Need?
Learn what a hawk and trowel are used for and the other materials you’ll need to get started.

Learn common materials used for earthen finishes.

The Jar Test
The jar test will help you determine the sand, silt, and clay content of the soil you’re using—whether it’s outsourced, or from your own backyard.

Additional Materials
Learn the many things you can add to a basic earthen finish to help improve its properties or even to create something artistic.

Newspaper Pulp
Learn how shredded newspaper pulp can be added to plaster mixtures to give it a greater shrink/crack resistance.

Section II: Wall Preparation

Wall Preparation and Safety
Review safety precautions during wall preparation.

Site Flow and Preparation
Learn the importance of comfort and ease of movement while working, which can help with consistency in your finish.

Misting Your Wall
Learn how and when to mist the wall for better adhesion between coats.

Cutting Burlap
Learn how to properly apply burlap to keep the plaster from shrinking and causing gaps.

Applying Burlap to a Wall
Learn how to properly apply burlap to keep the plaster from shrinking and causing gaps.

Mixing Flour
Learn how wheat paste can be used as an additive in earthen finishes to create hardness and act like glue.

Wheat Paste Primer
Sand/wheat paste primer is great for bridging the gap between earthen finishes and conventional wall systems. Learn how to work with both.

Wheat Paste Primer Application
Now you can apply wheat paste primer (or other primers) to all kinds of surfaces to prep them for earthen finishes. Expand your application to conventional surfaces.

Section III: Base Coats

Mixing Base Coats
This is basically the same as mixing cob. Learn about different mixing methods and the components of clay, sand, and straw.

Base Coats
The base coat is used to cover a raw natural wall that may have loose straw or undulations. Learn how to seal the wall which prepares it for the levelling or finishing coat.

Base Coats With Light Clay
Light clay walls tend to have voids that need to be filled. Learn how to use a base coat to create a smooth, even surface on a light clay or straw bale wall.

Section IV: Finish Plaster Mixing & Application

Clay Finish Plaster
Clay-based plasters are great for both natural and conventional wall systems. Learn how they can be made with different natural additives and pigments, and how to start by making a simple sand clay plaster.

Lime Finish Plaster
Learn how lime creates a versatile finish that is great for interiors and exteriors alike. It can be white, colourful, and even waterproofed through a Moroccan technique known as tadelakt.

Clay Paint Application Preparation
Learn some tips for preparing to apply natural finishes.

Applying Colour Samples
Learn the importance of applying samples before plastering, applying a wash, or painting a wall.

Section V: Earthen Paints

Clay Paint Mixing
Clay paints are a great alternative to conventional paints and won’t ruin the breathability of a natural wall.

Lime Wash
Give walls a soft look with lime wash, a watered-down lime putty that paint can be added to and used to brighten plaster, brick, or other wall systems.

Applying Clay Paint and Lime Wash
Learn the different ways to apply clay paints and other ways to finish naturally.

A Few Final Words…
Bryce shares some parting thoughts for you and your future projects.

Lesson preview

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