Renovating a cave - plaster (yeso)

If you plan on renovating your own Andalucian cave or even if you buy one already "reformed" I will guarantee you will need to buy yeso at some point. There are three main types and many derivatives but for the sake of simplicity I will talk about the two main types which you will no doubt be using.

Yeso Contralado

Yeso Rapido

One is "rapid" setting and the other more "controllable". When we first arrived in Spain on our initial viewing trip we were hearing yeso this, yeso that, yeso is wonderfull etc etc (which it is!) at first I had no idea what these people were talking about but yeso is plaster - and good plaster at that.

The phrase "Spain was built with yeso" may be a little optomistic but as far as caves go it is essential, in 18 months I have used 140 18kg bags - what that is when mixed and turned into litres is anyones guess. Our first experience of yeso rapido was quite amusing, we knew it set fast so went a little reserved with the quantity of water in the bucket and the mixture, we aquired the right consistency (like double cream) and literaly no longer than 20 seconds later it had set like a chuffin brick - couldnt believe it.

Yeso contralado on the other hand is the opposite, it will set of course but will take 15 minutes depending on your mix ratio so in this regard it is alot easier to work with. When you become a little more experienced in working with this fine Spanish mixture you can blend both contralado and rapido in the same bucket to get an "in between" plaster that wont set immediatly and is still managable depending on the job you are doing.

Yeso rapido is superb for "sticking" things, such as roof tiles which are commonly used as wall lights or conduit into channelled gaps in your cave wall for electrics. I have found (and this is only my opinion) that Yeso contralado cracks used on its own - it cracks less when mixed 4:1 with yeso rapido. Yeso rapido does not crack however due to its very fast setting qualities and when it sets it sets like rock.

When our local builders were working on our cave they showed us various tips on various jobs, one of which was yeso rapido - Here is the recipe....

*Fill a rubber mixing bucket with approx 4 inches of water
*Sprinkle in Yeso rapido until it begins to thicken slightly (mixing continuously)
*From another bucket of water "sprinkle" handfulls of water into your mix
*Repeat this process everytime the yeso starts to thicken (10 minutes)
*Continue mixing until your yeso aquires a creamy consistency
*Add more water if required

What you will end up with is a perfect plaster that will take around 2 hours to set and will produce the smoothest of finishes on walls and ceilings - superior to any contralado mix. Remember this is a Spanish technique and they know what they are doing.

Rustic plastering commonly found in caves and very traditional is very easy to achieve (in fact the more mistakes you can make the better) Plastering with your hands, just mix your yeso and slap it on filling in the gaps, you will soon have a very rustic cave interior ready to be painted. This technique goes back years in this part of Spain and is how we have done many rooms in our cave. Other finishes include using a sponge float to acheive a textured look which is also very effective.

There are no rights and wrongs when plastering a cave or doing anything in a cave for that matter such is the benefit of owning such a unique property, make it how YOU want it to be and if you change your mind later? no worries, caves are adaptable and flexible more than any traditional uk home - you wont be changing the wallpaper thats for sure.

Next...Local tradesmen and why you should use them + a Sunday morning with the Guardia Civil.


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