Why Lime?

Lime mortar, traditionally used by our ancestors to bind stone to stone in the building of bridges, lighthouses, homes and monasteries, was suddenly displaced by the arrival of cement in the early 1900’s.

On the face of it, cement had much to offer with its quickly hardening properties. Lime was cast aside.

Seventy years later and with the benefit of hindsight we see what a mistake this was, with the demise of our vernacular architecture speeded not least by the unsuitability of cement to our stone buildings.

Stone needs to move and settle within a structure. Cement once dried is too brittle to allow movement; hence cracks appear to accommodate expansion. Once cracked, moisture gets trapped within the wall and even within the stone.

However Lime is flexible so reduces serious cracking in stone from expansion.

Also Lime is permeable – it allows stone to breathe, so that water that gets into the wall doesn’t get locked inside but can get back out again through evaporation.

Up and down the length of Ireland we see cottages that have fallen to rack and ruin. Many have been rendered in cement.

Had we known the drawbacks and stuck with lime, many of these buildings would still be serviceable homes today. As it stands our cottages are dwindling at a frightening rate.

We need to restore and preserve as a matter of urgency, using Lime to breathe life back into our lovely traditional buildings.

11 thoughts on “Why Lime?

  1. Hi,
    Thank you for visiting my blog, Wildlife on Wheels.
    I used to live in a small cottage like yours. (assuming the one in the title picture is yours)
    Unfortunately its uniqueness became a big hurdle when I needed to start using a wheelchair. The cramped layout meant we had to move into council house. And 10 years on, there are lots of those cracks in the walls, although subsiding might be partly to blame for that.
    The council has yet to answer my calls. Probably paranoid about the work and subsequent bill.
    Lovely blog.

    1. Yoke: thanks for dropping by and sorry to hear about the cracks in your walls & the council taking its typical attitude towards upkeep of its poor quality buildings – good luck with that!
      It is true the proportions of old dwellings are much smaller compared to modern houses, not wheelchair friendly without expensive conversion.
      Keep up the good work with your macro photography: inspirational.

      1. Dear LimeWindow,

        Are you able to act as a consultant to advise on material selection to assist with a renovation of the below property located in Donegal, Ireland which requires

        1) new ground floor (glassfoam+limecrete top layer or similar)

        2) internal re-plastering

        3) external hot lime rendering and crack repair at gable ends where a cement render has partially fallen off the wall.

        The builiding is built from water impermeable Mountcharles stones and soft/crumbly lime mortar (good water permeability).

        I need to select new replacement materials, where necessary, which will not compromise the original high water permeability materials currently in use. Cement as a external render has been used on the gable ends but has not been used elsewhere.

        I think most modern sand-hydrualic lime mixes will be incompatible with original materials, they being are too brittle and too low water permeability.

        These guys do a haired chalk lime mortar which may be better ???


        The chimney breast is soot contaminated so cow manure treatment needed ??

        Request your contact details and Eoin’s contact details. My email is jfallon334@gmail.com

        Rgds Jason Fallon

  2. Can you give some hints and guidelines on lime rendering, we are in the process of building a straw bale quail house and will be lime rendering it, we did it many years ago but it was all hit and miss, would like to do it right this time. many thanks for a great blog. Anne.

  3. Is lime the same everywhere? In the USA, lime is used for other things but I’m not sure it is the same stuff.

  4. Brilliant blog! I’m looking at a semi derelict cottage in Connemara at the moment, with a view to doing what you have done. Are you speaking at any events any time soon? I’d love to read a full case study of the works you did. the house I’m looking at is the twin of your roofless stone walls, but it’s calling me!

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s