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Re: GSBN:Re: Lime plaster problems

I think a major plus in your area is the calcium component in the caliche soils. So therefore we have a chemical connection going on beside the mechanical. And that is what is basically lacking with most soils. One way to increase the possibility of a better chemical bond is to use marble aggregate instead of quartz sand.

On Oct 7, 2007, at 2:50 PM, thangmaker@...:

Thank you, Bill. I have had good results and no problems to date putting lime over earthen plaster made with our native caliche clay. We have done what Bill

suggests: scratching the surface well and letting the earthen plaster dry completely. For those unfamiliar with caliche it occurs in the same soil as limestone.

It is the same basic material as lime (calcium carbonate) but less dense and not well bonded to itself...flakey if you will. Occasionally clay is found with this

material and is the best clay I have seen in terms of PI index (low expansion and contraction). This is the clay I wanted to use for the fire test last year in San Antonio but as Matts pointed out it would not perform well in a hot fire. I am guessing the material is similar enough to lime plaster that it both bonds well to it and their rate of movment and reaction to moisture is similar.


Frank Meyer

PS we are hosting a Natural Building Colloquim later this month www.naturalbuildingtexas.org and have a great caliche clay pit on site.

-----Original Message-----

From: Athena & Bill Steen


Sent: Sun, Oct 7 12:11 PM

Subject: Re: GSBN:Re: Lime plaster problems

I'll plead busy as well and before I made any comments I wanted to make sure they would be somewhat thorough. There are a few things that have become evident to me over the years when it comes to lime over clay plaster. In mho I would have to say that results are unpredictable and undependable. I'm not saying it can't or doesn't work, but rather that outcomes vary widely. David Bainbridge mentioned in his earlier post the Getty people in Los Angeles as a resource. I've made it a point to talk with them every few years about lime plaster and in particular their work with prickly pear cactus gel. Anyhow in one of the last conversations we had they told me that there was a growing sentiment amidst the conservation community that the use of lime plaster over earth surfaces was not such a good idea. They mentioned that although lime had better permeability than cement and allowed the earth to dry better when wet, it was still too different from an earthen substrate for it to work dependably.

My experience basically says the same thing. For me the whole issue comes down to what type of earth plaster is underneath. Apparently some are much better than others and just what all the variables are I can't say. I think it will take some time to get a better grasp on it. Clearly I would suggest that if the substrate has a lot of clay there is a likely possibility that if water is absorbed through the lime plaster and passed on to the earth substrate then obviously the clay will expand and have a tendency to push the lime plaster away therefore causing the two to separate. If the earth plaster is weak then the connection will break down over time. So in short I guess what I'm saying is that the earth plaster has to be of a really good quality for any chance of success. It needs to be strong and not have an overly high content of expansive clay. Another very important piece is that the earthen plaster substrate must be thoroughly dry as earth plasters shrink when drying. If that process is not complete the earth will pull away from the lime plaster and leave it hanging in the air. And as others have pointed out the surface needs to be extremely well keyed for the lime to adhere. I don't think you can under-do that aspect. Additional measures like that of placing sharp jagged stones in the plaster would also help such as the practice of "rahuela" used in Mexico where stones are placed in the mortar joint between adobes.

I think it was David that also mentioned the Japanesete We have worked closely with a pair of Japanese plasterers over recent years and it is important to note that the Japanese approach relies heavily on use of a glue when mixing what they call "Shikkui." Traditionally rice flour was used but was replaced with seaweed gel during a time of food shortages. In general I would say that their plastering practices are far more meticulous than anything I've seen in this part of the world and in the words of the best plasterer from there that I can think of, "there is great difficulty in the connection between the two coats and at best it does not last for a very long time."

Having said all this I will say that my comments apply primarily to exterior finishes and I've not yet experienced any problems with interior or protected locations. But I should add that we also typically include a percentage of some glue material in the lime plaster.

John Glassford suggested the use of lime/clay as an alternative and I think that it can be a very good one. Much here depends upon the reaction between the clay soil and the lime. Over the years I've watched varying reactions, some soils produce exceptional results, others marginal. I recently cornered Harry Francis who once worked for the American Lime Association while we happened to be together recently in Washington DC. I told him that the using pH as an indicator of the right type of mix was not proving true all of the time. Like he always does Harry went home and searched his extensive resources and just emailed me a paper that addresses some of those variables particularly soils with high levels of potassium and sodium carbonates. I haven't had time to really absorb the content, but if any of you want a copy I would be happy to forward it.

I've already said more than I had intended, but to sum it up I would not suggest that we recommend the use of lime plaster over earthen substrates as a general practice. I would suggest that it be adopted only after some testing and experimentation has been done and with a warning that the results are always guaranteed.


On Oct 7, 2007, at 7:10 AM, Rikki Nitzkin wrote:

Sorry to chime in so late...been busy. Its just that I haven't seen > anywhere

that in the responses to remind Andy that it is very important to > wet down

as well as scratch the base layer of plaster before applying a new > coat, and

if the material is different (lime on clay in this case) really rub > the

first bit in so it binds well.

Hope your problem has been solved.

Rikki Nitzkin

Aul?s, Lleida, Espa?a


(0034)657 33 51 62

www.casasdepaja.com (Red de Construcci?n con Balas de Paja)

-----Mensaje original-----

De: GSBN [<a target="_blank" href="mailto:GSBN@...";>mailto:GSBN@...] En nombre de Brian >> Hodge -


Enviado el: jueves, 27 de septiembre de 2007 22:20

Para: 'GSBN'

Asunto: RE: GSBN:Re: Lime plaster problems

Hi Andy,

I agree with John. We have been doing a very similar thing for >> about 5

years and have not found it necessary to add the lime putty top >> coat. We

have even done it without chaff with a great deal of success.



Anvil Straw

-----Original Message-----

From: GSBN [<a  target="_blank" href="mailto:GSBN@...";>mailto:GSBN@...] On Behalf Of John


Sent: Thursday, 27 September 2007 7:53 AM


Cc: Andy Horn

Subject: Re: GSBN:Re: Lime plaster problems

G ' day Andy

My two rands worth mate.

You will need to remove the lime coat and scratch up the earth as >> others

have said.

I would then apply a mix of earth/lime/sand and chaff or chopped >> straw.

All depends on the clay content of your earth but I would look at

something like this 3 parts soil 2 parts lime 3 parts sand 1 part >> chaff.

I use buckets for this mix. It works well and binds well with the

earthen render. Then if you want you can apply a finish coat of lime

render however I have not found that necessary in most cases >> except for


You can see a house we renedered with earth, then earth/lime/sand/ >> chaff,

then lime/sand, here:

<a  target="_blank" href="http://glassford.com.au/Jumbo.htm";>http://glassford.com.au/Jumbo.htm</a>

No delamination no cracks and it is nearly 6 years since we finished


Was in Cape Town a few weeks ago but did not have time to see much it

was a Rotary trip with Hout Bay. We will be back next year for an

extended visit, see you then.

Kind regards

The Straw Wolf

Huff 'n' Puff Constructions

<a  target="_blank" href="http://www.glassford.com.au/";>http://www.glassford.com.au/</a>

61 2 6927 6027

Mount Kilimanjaro Climb 28/8/07 <a  target="_blank" href="http://www.coolamonrotary.com/kili/";>http://www.coolamonrotary.com/kili/</a>


For instructions on joining, leaving, or otherwise using the GSBN >> list,

send email to GSBN@...HELP in the SUBJECT >> line.



For instructions on joining, leaving, or otherwise using the GSBN >> list,

send email to GSBN@...HELP in the SUBJECT >> line.



For instructions on joining, leaving, or otherwise using the GSBN > list, send email to GSBN@...HELP in the > SUBJECT line.


Athena &amp; Bill Steen

The Canelo Project

HC1 Box 324

Canelo/Elgin, AZ 85611




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Athena &amp; Bill Steen
The Canelo Project
HC1 Box 324
Canelo/Elgin, AZ 85611