J.C. Gibson Adopts Innovations That Make Its Projects Safer and Efficient
QUIKRETE, along with the use of a cement silo on its projects, allows J.C. Gibson to eliminate inconsistent or contaminated mix.
When J.C. Gibson Plastering Co. Inc. takes on a project for a client, it not only gives them a final product that can last decades, but also has the exact appearance that they look for. “We have a huge variety of finish coats, different looks and different textures,” owner John Gibson says.
Having a wide range of offerings has been an important best practice for the Orlando, Fla.-based company, which specializes in plastering, stucco, lath, and gypsum and ornamental plaster services. A longtime veteran of the industry, Gibson started at the age of 19 when he joined an apprenticeship program in 1972, Wood Wire and Metal Lathers Local Union No. 234 in Atlanta.
“I came up as a commercial lather in the plastering industry,” he recalls, adding that he worked for six years at an hourly rate before being paid by the piece. After the Right-to-Work Law came into effect in 1980, the construction industry changed dramatically.
When Gibson started the company in 1982, “I had a gang of old lathers and plasterers I knew during the union days who raised me to come work with me,” he continues. While J.C. Gibson originally focused on small commercial and residential projects, it worked its way up the ladder to the largest plastering projects.
This included $1 million of gypsum plaster work on the home of Arthur Blank, co-founder of The Home Depot, and projects for Marriott, Hilton Head Island and Atlantis on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. “We also traveled to Grand Cayman Island and did the Ritz-Carlton on Seven Mile Beach,” Gibson adds.
The Tommy Gun plaster pump, which was developed in California after World War II, helped stucco contractors during the building boom.
“They started using these pumps for high production and it just became the norm,” Gibson says. His mentor, Larry Kissinger, from Los Angeles, introduced him to pumping in 1980 and it went on to become a permanent fixture at J.C. Gibson.
The Tommy Gun, Gibson says, has the ability to deliver plaster from ground level to the 20th floor of a building. “Trying to do that by hand would take a lot longer,” he says.
With the pump, workers can save hours of crucial time. “It’s not unusual to pump a thousand yards of plaster on a wall in one day,” he states. “They’re highly productive.”
But recently, the industry has started phasing the Tommy Gun out. “It’s almost non-existent,” he says, explaining that many contractors that had used pumps regularly on their jobs have retired and some manufacturers have stopped producing them.
However, J.C. Gibson plans to continue using the pump and sources the Tommy Gun from Western, a company based in California. “We just bought our 10th pump last year,” Gibson declares. “Over the years, I’ve purchased 10 plaster pumps.”
In fact, J.C. Gibson recently used it on a $5 million project in Orlando that required 40,000 square yards of stucco. “We were putting one-and-a-half truckloads of cement plaster on the wall every day for four months on this project,” he recalls.
The company also used the Tommy Gun to reach heights of 16 stories on three projects and hopes to continue working with the machine. “We ran two pumps simultaneously on our last job and pretty much knocked it out in six months,” Gibson adds.
Mixing it Up
J.C. Gibson has changed the way it mixes plaster. For many years, the company packed as much sand as a dump truck could carry, which was then delivered to a job site.
Once it arrived, a worker had to empty heavy cement bags into a mixer, followed by the sand. “It was very physical,” Gibson says, noting that the task of mixing the sand with the cement made that person the most important worker on the site.
“If the plaster is not mixed consistently, it will cause problems,” Gibson says, explaining that the incorrect mix could even be a danger to workers. “Sand packing a pump hose could be deadly.”
This requires workers to be highly trained, and now with the use of factory-blended cement plaster from QUIKRETE, it has become easier to mix the plaster consistently.
QUIKRETE, Gibson explains, provides a mix that incorporates the right amount of sand, cement and additives for workability. “You just put the mix into the mixer and add water,” he says. “A lot of the physicality is gone because you don’t have to shovel the sand and handle the bags.”
QUIKRETE, along with the use of a cement silo on its projects, also allows J.C. Gibson to eliminate its worries about an inconsistent or contaminated mix. In the old days, when the sand was transported via dump truck, the company needed to take caution in case of possible contamination.
Now, “We don’t have to worry about the ratio of the sand to the cement, which is all done for us,” he says, noting that the silo also can provide more efficiency by storing approximately 30,000 pounds of plaster in one silo.
“Once you start at 7 o’clock in the morning, that 30,000 pounds will be on the wall by 11 o’clock,” he describes. “The rest of the day is spent straightening up the plaster, shingle floating and curing the plaster.”
Like the Tommy Gun, J.C. Gibson used the silo on its project in Orlando, which gave it an advantage. “The silo is the future and without a doubt, it’s here to stay,” Gibson says. “We’re definitely sold on it. Also, it’s cleaner and safer.”
Brothers in Plaster
J.C. Gibson is adjusting to a slowdown in its industry, as many contractors have moved to offering EIFS, brick, precast or different types of wall cladding as opposed to cement plaster. “As far as other companies machine-applying plaster, there’s not much competition,” Gibson admits.
But Gibson himself is taking steps to prevent machine applications from becoming obsolete. Currently, “I’m trying to promote more of this work and get more people into it so it doesn’t die completely,” he says.
J.C. Gibson is sharing its means and methods of this part of the trade with other plastering contractors. Recently, Gibson says, the company met with a firm located in South Carolina to share its knowledge.
“We bring them to our jobsite and show them everything we know,” he describes. “If they have any questions, we tell them the right answer. It’s one brother plasterer to another, and they take the knowledge, go back to South Carolina knowing we have their back.”
However, the machine application is still being used considerably in California. “That’s the biggest area where it’s being practiced,” he says. “Over here on this side of the Mississippi, there’s only a few companies pumping stucco anymore.”
Gibson takes pride in his staff at J.C. Gibson, which includes many who have passion for their work. After 38 years, the company still employs people who take pride in their work. “They love it,” he says.
“I’m proud of them and the type of work that they turn out,” he says, noting that his employees are dedicated to their trade, which has roots that go back to early man. “Cavemen were taking mud and plugging holes in caves to keep the weather out,” Gibson says.
But when it comes to the future of the company, Gibson is uncertain. “I think that most people don’t want to work hard anymore,” he says. “I see that especially when it’s 95 degrees out there and you’re pumping cement on a wall.” Although plasterers can make a decent living doing this type of work, Gibson says that EIFS systems will someday take over the industry. “It’s not physically as hard as working on a pump crew,” he says.
Gibson, however, has yet to give up on his company’s methods. “There’s going to be people pumping stucco 10 years from now,” he predicts, noting that the proliferation of the trade in California keeps him confident about this. “There’s a huge tradition over there, where it all started, and I still see it happening.”
Sidebar — An Experienced Leader
J.C. Gibson’s experienced team includes Vice President and Project Manager Troy Torman, who started his career with a plastering apprenticeship in 1983 at the age of 19. Nine years later, he joined the company and took the roles of foreman and superintendent in 1997.
In 1999, Torman volunteered with John Gibson to teach residents of the Dominican Republic how to operate a plaster pump and apply plaster. Today, Torman oversees J.C. Gibson’s Lath and Plaster projects from beginning to end and has completed more than 10 million square feet of stucco and EIFS applications. “If it wasn’t for Troy loving this trade as he does, I would have totally retired 20 years ago,” John Gibson says.
“He leads the other dedicated people who make Gibson Plastering exist,” he says, noting that these include Susie Gibson Kerr and Patty Torman in the corporate office, along with Willie Bowens, Tim Warren, Chris Williams, Don Page, Grasso Fraser, Louis Gonzalez and “all the great people who make it happen.”
“Also, all the great lathers and plasterers who came before them have passed away or retired,” Gibson notes. “They were truly the best mechanics to ever have practiced this trade in the history of the trade, my mentors. Even Michelangelo could not hang with these men. The real plastering trade is not long for this world. I have had the privileged of spending my career and life work, practicing this trade. I have met a lot of great people, traveled to many places and would very much like to see the plastering trade continue into the future.
“If you have any questions regarding machine applications of plaster whatsoever contact Troy Torman because he is the future.”
Sidebar — Lighter and Stronger
QUIKRETE asked John Gibson to try one of its new products called lightweight stucco. “It works well,” he says, noting that the product will reduce labor for plasterers by lowering the weight of the average bag from 80 to 50 pounds. J. C. Gibson recently used the product on a small project in the Florida Keys. “I plastered a 50-yard ceiling over metal lath of 3/4 inches. I could scratch and brown it right away.” This reflects a trend that J.C. Gibson has noticed throughout the years in the industry. “Companies are always trying to come up with different ways to make stucco,” Gibson says.