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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

Notes

1. Laura Soulliere Gates, email to author, Aug. 17, 2006.

2. National Park Service Technical Information Center, ‘Class C’ Cost Estimating Guide: Historic Preservation and Stabilization (Denver: Denver Service Center, 1993), 18.

3. Colin Mitchell Rose, Traditional Paints, available from http://www.buildingconservation.com/articles/paint/paint.htm.

4. Abbott Lowell Cummings and Richard M. Candee, “Colonial and Federal America: Accounts of Early Painting Practices” in Paint in America: The Colors of Historic Buildings 14 (New York: Wiley, 1994), 14.

5. Scottish Lime Centre, Technical Advice Note 15: External Lime Coatings on Traditional Buildings (Edinburgh: Historic Scotland, 2001).

6. Ibid.

7. John Ashurst and Nicola Ashurst, Mortars, Plasters, and Renders, vol. 3 of English Heritage Technical Handbook (Great Britain: Gower, 1995), 47.

8. Roger W. Moss, “Nineteenth-Century Paints: A Documentary Approach” in Paint in America: The Colors of Historic Buildings (New York: Wiley, 1994), 55.

9. ASTM Subcommittee D01.24, Standard Test Methods for Viscosity by Ford Viscosity Cup, ASTM D 1200-94 (West Conshohocken, Pa.: ASTM, 1996).

10. Marcy Frantom, email to author, Sept. 12, 2005.

11. ASTM Subcommittee D01.23, Standard Test Methods for Abrasion Resistance of Organic Coatings by Falling Abrasive, ASTM D 968-93 (West Conshohocken, Pa.: ASTM, 1996).

12. ASTM Subcommittee D01.23, Standard Test Methods for Measuring Adhesion by Tape Test, ASTM D 3359-95 (West Conshohocken, Pa.: ASTM, 1996).

13. ASTM Subcommittee D01.27, Standard Practice for Conducting Tests on Paint and Related Coatings and Materials Using a Fluorescent UV-Condensation Light- and Water- Exposure Apparatus, ASTM D 4587-91 (West Conshohocken, Pa.: ASTM, 1996).

14. Pete Sotos, conversation with author, Nov. 15, 2006.

15. Ruth Johnston-Feller, Color Science in the Examination of Museum Objects: Nondestructive Procedures (Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 2001), 35.

16. L. Franke and I. Schumann, “Causes and Mechanisms of Decay of Historic Brick Buildings in Northern Germany,” in Conservation of Historic Brick Structures, ed. N. S. Baer, S. Fitz, and R. A. Livingston (Shaftsbury: Donhead, 1998), 26-34.


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.

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2 Responses to Durability of Traditional and Modified Limewashes

  1. How do i lime wash my brick to look like white wash says:

    my email is ceosconcreteandmasonry@yahoo.com

  2. […] No. 1 in New Orleans, La. The workshop included a review of the history of limewash, NCPTT’s Study on the Durability of Traditional and Modified Limewash, and preparation and application of limewash. Participants were given the opportunity to prepare a […]

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