Limewashing the west facing wall

Limewash picture from Heritage Directory

I have spent a lovely few hours yesterday painting the rear of my house using some limewash. I made the limewash using some mature lime putty mixed up with water. The mix is around 60:40 water to putty. I used a plaster whisk to mix up the solution (a very quick job) and then up the ladder.

The first job was to get the masking equipment out. Dust sheets over the ground and windows all taped up and covered with some protective sheeting (old compost bags). If you have never attempted lime washing before it is a splashy business. Limewash has no binders in it like normal paint, so it doesn’t really hold together when being applied. This issue was also made the more extreme as my walled are rough cast (so quite textured). The limewash was more slopped on using a large brush than any more glamorous process. Many professional limewashers use large soft floor brushes to apply it as it really is a case of just getting it onto the wall. 

When using lime you should also be careful with your skins and eyes as lime is caustic. I had a small cut on my hand and this ‘burned’ when limewash got onto it. So, don’t do as I do and just get on with it, you should wear goggles and gloves and appropriate clothing.

The process was to start from the top of the wall and work down. The limewash can form quite thick patches due to the roughness of the wall. These will crack as they dry out to form the characteristic limewash finish. These are not a problem at all as they will effectively just create thicker pieces of limestone on the wall, however it is better to apply two thinner coats rather than one thick one. As this was just a quick top up I only did the one coat, but it is possible to apply two in one day and in total many people might find that they have to put on 3 or 4 coats to give them a good period of maintenance free finish.

I am always amazed by limewash and how durable it is. Some old splashes on the ground are still there (from being painted last year) and looking really fresh. So don’t think that it is a job that you need to do every year.

The limewash is quite translucent when it is applied and with our lime render being quite red underneath the render does show through when wet. However, as the limewash dries and carbonates it turns much more opaque. So when I looked out this morning it was looking lovely and matt.

In all I did two fairly small walls and I needed one 20 litre pot of lime putty (thus using around 50 litres of limewash). A 20 litre pot of putty costs around £15. So it is really cheap (if you have white walls!) but expect to pay more for made up limewash or for colours / pigments. Even so, it is a really cheap way of painting your house.

So that is the house protected for the next few years, so feeling OK about life at the moment.