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Lime plaster: Wikis


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Non-hydraulic lime can only set through carbonation (re-absorption of CO2). It is often sold in builder's merchants as 'bagged' or hydrated lime or is available as lime putty (or as quicklime to be made into lime putty), lime putty generally being considered more suitable for pure lime application. Non-hydraulic lime is the most commonly used and known lime, also called (high) calcium lime or air lime, as it sets only by reaction with CO2 in the air and will not set until dry. This causes limitations in construction use as the lime can remain soft for months or years.

Hydraulic and hydrated limes must not be confused. Hydrated lime is merely a form that lime can be supplied in (as opposed to quicklime or lime putty) while 'hydraulic' refers to a characteristic of the lime.


Safety issues

Lime is an extremely caustic material when wet, with a pH of 12. (Lime becomes pH neutral when carbonated). Protective goggles and gloves should be worn at all times. Additionally, protective clothing should be worn where risk of splatter on to bare skin is present.

Clean water should always be at arms length in case lime gets in someone’s eyes or on their skin. Skin can be neutralized with a very mild acid such as vinegar or lemon juice. Repeatedly flush eyes with fresh water for several minutes and consult medical advice. [1]

Use in the arts

One of the earliest examples of lime plaster dates back to the end of the eighth millennium BC. Three statues were discovered in a buried pit at 'Ain Ghazal in Jordan that were sculpted with lime plaster over armatures of reeds and twine. They were made in the pre-pottery neolithic period, around 7200 BC. The fact that these sculptures have lasted so long is a testament to the durability of lime plaster.[2]

Use in architecture

Some of the earliest known examples of lime use for building purposes are in early Egyptian buildings (primarily monuments). Some of these examples in the chambers of the pyramids, which date back to around 2000 B.C., are still hard and intact. Archaeological digs carried out on the island of Malta have shown that in places like Tarxien and Hagar, lime stucco was also used as a binder to hold stone together as well as for decoration at sites dating back as far as 3000-2500 B.C. At el-Amarna, a large pavement on brick was discovered that dates back to 1400 B.C. It was apparently the floor of part of the harem of King Amenhotep IV.[3] Ancient Chinese used Suk-wui (the Chinese word for slaked lime) in the construction of The Great Wall of China.

The Aztec Empire and other Mesoamerican civilizations used lime plaster to pave streets in their cities. [4] It was also used to coat the walls and floors of buildings.

See also


  1. ^ Hagsten, Ellen. General Guidelines for Working with Lime Mortar and Limewash, Traditional & Sustainable Building, March 2007
  2. ^ J.N. Tubb, Canaanites, London, The British Museum Press, 1998
  3. ^ Cowper, Ad. Lime and Lime Mortars, first published for the Building Research Station by HM Stationery Office, London, 1927
  4. ^ ISBN 978-0-500-28714-9

Further reading

Cedar Rose Guelberth and Dan Chiras, The Natural Plaster Book: earth, lime and gypsum plasters for natural homes'

J.N. Tubb, Canaanites, London, The British Museum Press, 1998

Stafford Holmes, Michael Wingate, Building With Lime: A Practical Introduction, Intermediate Technology Publications Ltd,

External links

General Guidelines for Working with Lime Mortar and Limewash, Ellen Hagsten,Traditional & Sustainable Building, March 2007

British Museum: Lime Plaster Statues

[ Yuval Goren, Paul Goldberg, Peter W. Stahl and Udo H. Brinker Journal of Field Archaeology, Vol. 18, No. 1 (Spring, 1991), pp. 131-140, Published by: Boston University]



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