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Traditional mortars and renders have incorporated lime. There is now some clarity on the role
it plays, and why owners of Victorian and Edwardian houses should insist on its use in
restoring walls and avoid the indiscriminate use of cement.
What is Lime?
Lime is produced from limestone through these steps:
Limestone (calcium carbonate) is heated in a iln or iln pit until burnt, giving off
carbon dio!ide and leaving calcium o!ide ("uiclime).
#uiclime is mi!ed with water$ this produces heat. %f only a little water is added, the
result is a dry powder called hydrated lime or lime hydrate. %f a lot of water is added,
this &slaing& process forms calcium hydro!ide, usually called &slaed lime& or &lime
putty&. This is then left to mature for several wees. This process is called &hydration&.
'on(hydraulic lime (slaed lime) hardens by a slow process of drying and carbonation,
reacting with atmospheric carbon dio!ide to form calcium carbonate. This taes a period of
some wees.
)ydraulic lime, on the other hand, sets rapidly by reacting with water in a matter of hours.
* non(hydraulic lime can be made to set much more rapidly by the addition of an hydraulic
or &po++olanic& additive. This practice is nown as &gauging&. Typical additives are finely
crushed bric powder or cement. These contain highly reactive silica and,or alumina, which
give a rapid chemical set by reaction with water. -f these, cement is by far the most widely
used in the ./, and the cheapest. Typical proportions, commonly used, are 0:0:1 (cement:
lime: sand) and 0:2:3. .se sharp sand with lime.
4ortland cement was developed in 0526$ it was used in the role of a hydraulic binder, which
was very consistent and made the mi! set rapidly. This rapid set was an advantage in cold or
very wet conditions. 7uilders slowly abandoned lime mortar in favour of cement and sand
7y the 0589&s, the 0:0:1 mi!ture of cement, lime and sand ratio had been firmly established.
.se soft sand with cement.
)owever, cement and sand mortars proved too strong for some applications and laced some
of the worability of lime mortar. 7y the late 0599&s cement(lime mi!es were again widely
used where increased plasticity, worability and controlled strength was re"uired.
4ortland cement remained costly into the 29th century so a minimum was used. :or e!ample,
the main bric mortar was lime and sand, but pointing included a little cement. *gain, render
generally used some cement.
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Why Use Lime?
E!perts in the restoration of old buildings argue that mortar should be softer than the brics
they bind. 7ecause most Victorian and Edwardian brics are soft inside a thin, harder outer
shell, they are vulnerable to damage to the surface layer, such as that caused by hard cement
pointing resisting movement due to settlement or temperature changes.
%n the case of renders and plasters, lime has benefits because of its fle!ibility and its porosity$
it helps moisture that has penetrated a wall to evaporate.
Lime is also less prone to crac than cement. Lime is even self(healing$ fine cracs allow
carbon dio!ide to penetrate. This reacts with free lime to harden and close the crac.
There is an ongoing debate on the use of cement with lime, or lime in a secondary role to
Using Lime with Cement
;hen added to a normal cement and sand mi!, lime maes the mortar more cohesive and
adhesive, and it maes the mortar &fatty& and worable so that it spreads well.
;hen it has hardened, lime allows mortar to achieve optimum strength because it increases
the fle!ibility of the mortar. Lime will give improved bond strength with the bric.
Lime also reduces water penetration by &autogenous healing&. This is because there will be
some free lime in the set mortar. This will re(carbonate over time, sealing any hairline cracs.
This is particularly important with renders.
Using Cement with Lime
<ement can be used as a &po++olanic& additive$ you can gauge a non(hydraulic mortar with
cement to mae it hydraulic.
The advantages are:
%t imparts a chemical set which occurs before full shrinage occurs, thereby reducing
the ris of cracing.
Layers may be built up more rapidly, without the need to wait a long time for one to
set fully before applying the ne!t.
%t hardens rapidly, thereby providing protection from rain before carbonation has been
7eing an artificial substance manufactured under closely controlled conditions, it is
reliable and predictable in use.
%t is available in a choice of colours, useful when it is necessary to match the colour of
an e!isting mortar or render.
The disadvantages are:
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The rapid setting time limits the time available to the user in which to wor with the
gauged mortar.
=ome cements contain appreciable amounts of soluble salts, in particular potassium
sulphate, which may cause salt damage to stonewor.
The use of cement tends to lead to the user treating the gauged lime mortar as if it
were a fully hydraulic lime or cement. Too much reliance on the initial chemical set
leads to neglect of the importance of the longer term carbonation of the non hydraulic
component present.
&=egregation& may occur, whereby the cement separates from the lime as the mortar
dries and hardens, blocing the pores in the mortar, reducing the porosity and
weaening the mortar.
The =meaton 4ro>ect, a research programme commenced by English )eritage, concluded that
a 0:0:1 (cement:lime:sand) mi! is unliely to segregate, while a 0:2:3 mi! will almost
certainly fail. *s the cement proportion is reduced further, the mortar will certainly fail.
Lime in Brickwork
The conclusion is that the best option for mortar and pointing is an un(gauged non hydraulic
lime mortar using well(matured lime putty and sharp and well(graded aggregate. This does
not re"uire special sills. .se non(hydraulic lime and sand in a 0:? ratio.
Lime in Render
The choices here are either a hydraulic lime, or non(hydraulic lime with some cement.
%f you are patching render, you must use the same mi! to avoid cracing.
There is more detailed guidance here.
Lime Plaster
Lime 4laster is the ideal finish for walls built using lime mortar$ because it is fle!ible it will
tolerate movement in the wall. *gain, lime plaster is best painted with lime wash, rather than
wallpaper or modern paints. Lime wash or distemper can be applied over lime plaster after a
few days but any impermeable coating must not be used for several months as lime plaster
needs air before it can harden.
Lime Wash
*s with other lime products, lime wash is porous and therefore e!cellent for surfaces where
the evaporation of moisture is important.
Limewash is a paint made from lime putty which has been matured for several months and
then thinned with water to mae limewash. Limewash is naturally white, matt, and slightly
chaly but can be coloured with pigments.
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Lime wash can be used internally or e!ternally. 7ecause it wors by absorbtion into the
surface so it is best used on porous surfaces such as sandstone, lime plaster, lime render and
soft brics.
;hen lime wash is used e!ternally, raw linseed oil or tallow mi!ed into the lime wash help
shed rainwater.
-n materials including cement or modern plaster, casein should be added to the lime wash to
help it bond.
Colouring !ortar
To colour lime mortar, made from a mi! of lime and sand, we can use traditional methods.
These mi!es were used for &stopping&, the outer layer of the mortar between the >oints.
These recipes are:
@ed .sed for red stocs. Aae a dry mi! of one part grey lime to three parts of fine
washed sand, ideally red in colour. Venetian red and a little vegetable blac can be
used to tint the mi!ture. *fter the stopping is applied, it can be washed with more red
Bellow Bellow stopping is made with one part grey lime putty and to three parts fine washed
sand. These ingredients are mi!ed together dry and then sifted before being added to
water with yellow ochre as a colouring. Bellow stopping does not need subse"uent
colouring with a wash.
7lac Less common, blac stopping can be made from grey lime, slaed and mi!ed with
foundry sand, and sieved. This is added to water and coloured with a little lamp or
vegetable blac if needed.
;hite %n this case, use chal lime, and either silver sand or marble dust. <hal lime dries
much whiter than grey lime. Aarble dust gives a better colour than silver sand.

@ender is an all(over coating on an e!ternal wall. )ere we discuss the options for patching or
the complete rendering of a wall.
%f a wall is being completely rendered, the best option is an un(gauged non(hydraulic lime
mortar using well(matured lime putty and sharp and well(graded aggregate. This does not
re"uire special sills. .se non(hydraulic lime and sand in a 0:? ratio.
-therwise, in ine!perienced hands, 0:0:1 is a good standard mi! for render, ie including some
cement. %ncreasing the cement content will mae the mortar too hard and remove the benefits
of using lime, but any less than 0:2:3 must be avoided.
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%f applying more than one coat, always apply the stronger coat on the wall ( otherwise you
prevent air accessing it and carbonating the lime.
%f a chemical set is re"uired, perhaps because of low temperatures or high moisture levels, it
is best to use an hydraulic lime.
Patching Lime Render
To patch e!ist lime render, you must use a similar lime render to do the repair. %f the mi! is
very different, cracs will occur at the >oin between the old and the new material.
:ind out if the render was done with hydraulic lime which sets with water, is non(hydraulic ie
sets in air. %f it is hydraulic lime, this is easier, as it is mi!ed with sand and water and applied
lie a cement render.
%f the render is non(hydraulic then you need to mae the correct choice. Lime mortar, render
and plaster is the same. %t comes in two grades$ coarse &stuff& is a 0:8 mi! of lime and well(
graded sharp sand. :ine stuff is a 0:2 mi! of lime and a fine sand. %f the e!isting render has a
fairly rough te!ture then you can >ust use coarse stuff on its own. %f the te!ture is very
smooth, then you will probably need to fill the larger holes with coarse stuff leaving a
depression of 2(8mm for a top coat of fine stuff.
*s with all patching, ensure that the area to patch is clean of dust and that the edges are neat.
Aae the area to be rendered very wet, especially in warm weather. *pply the lime as you
would any normal plaster. .se a wooden float for fine stuff, as metal trowels and floats tend
to bring the lime fat to the surface and mae it difficult to wor.
Bou must stop non(hydraulic lime mi!es from drying out too "uicly$ if it dries too "uicly
then it will crac. 4rotect the wor from direct sunlight. %deally cover it with some damp
hessian and spray it with water regularly. *im to prolong the drying time for one to two
wees to avoid cracs.
%f cracs do start to appear then you can deal with them while the lime render is still wet by
scouring over the surface with a wooden float to consolidate it and close up the cracs. Bou
can also rub in some additional mortar.
:or guidance on plaster, please see the %nternal ;alls
Internal Walls
This section e!plains how to repair and care for different types of internal wall in the period
house of the Ceorgian, Victorian and Edwardian eras in particular.
)ouses since 0599 have normally had walls of three types:
solid bric (or stone)
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studwor with lathes or plasterboard
studwor with bric in(fill
The e!ternal and loadbearing walls are in solid bric or stone, and internal and non(
loadbearing walls are made from wooden studwor. =ometimes studwor walls with a bric
in(fill are semi(loadbearing in that such a wall on the ground floor can carry the weight of a
similar wall upstairs.
=tudwor is a wooden frame$ &plates& go on the floor and ceiling, &studs& are the vertical
supports between the two plates, and &noggins& are hori+ontal pieces of timber nailed between
the studs.
Laths or &lathes& are strips of wood nailed to studs and noggins. Caps are left between the
laths$ when plastering, the plaster oo+es between and behind the laths locing the plaster to
the wall.
7ric in(fill is simply courses of bric laid with mortar, on and between the plates, studs and
Aost internal walls are then plastered.
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