by Sarah Marie Jackson, Tye Botting, and Mary Striegel
The National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT) recently completed a study of the durability of traditional and modified limewash formulations. The study tested a variety of limewash recipes for possible use on historic structures located in the Cane River Creole National Historical Park, located in central Louisiana.
Limewashes have long been used as surface finishes on buildings and other structures, on both the interior and the exterior. As limewash slowly dries, it reacts with the carbon dioxide in the air, carbonating and creating a tough finish. During the height of limewash’s popularity, prior to the industrial age, the knowledge and skills needed for effective application were passed on from craftsman to craftsman. The basic ingredients, lime and water, were readily available in every community. Additives used were commonly available and often varied from place to place.
As the popularity of limewash waned in the U.S. and modern paints began to be used widely, experience with limewash recipes and their application began to fade. Today, instead of every community having someone knowledgeable in limewash, experienced craftsmen are spread thinly across the country. The waning popularity of limewash did not result solely from the rise in popularity of modern paints; other factors were the increased cost of labor and creation of more durable, inexpensive materials that did not need a finish for protection.
Originally published in
APT BULLETIN: JOURNAL OF PRESERVATION TECHNOLOGY (link no longer available)/ 38:2-3, 2007
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SARAH MARIE JACKSON joined NCPTT in 2005 as a graduate intern to continue the testing for the limewash study. In 2006 she accepted a permanent position with the Architecture and Engineering Program at NCPTT. She received a master’s degree in historic preservation from the Savannah College of Art and Design.
TYE BOTTING is a research staff member at the Institute for Defense Analyses. He served as the NCPTT/NSU joint faculty researcher for three years. He holds a PhD in nuclear chemistry from Texas A&M University, where he did post-doctoral work in nuclear engineering.
MARY STRIEGEL is responsible for NCPTT’s Materials Research Program, focusing on evaluation of preservation treatments for preventing damage to cultural resources. She also directs investigation of preservation treatments geared towards cemeteries and develops seminars and workshops nationwide. She holds a PhD in inorganic chemistry from Washington University in St. Louis.