Saturday 27 October 2012

The Yank's House - Lime Wash

The first job we had tackled way back at the start had been to strip all the old plaster off the basement walls. It was more like muck than plaster – it was so wet. Now a year on it had dried out incredibly well. We decided to leave the stone walls exposed to let them breath but to brighten the basement up we would lime wash in brilliant white. I had a vision in my head how this would look. When I was a little girl my Aunt Maggie lived in a whitewashed thatched cottage in Co Sligo. We spent several wonderful summer holidays there as children and I remembered the wonderful white walls so romantically well. However before we could whitewash our walls we had to clean them and to point all the stone with new limecrete.

We power-washed the basement walls before we put down our new floors and washed all the dirt off them. Then in summer 2007 my brother-in-law Martin and my sister Bridget came from Australia to stay with us. Martin had worked on restoration in Ireland before he left for Australia nearly twenty years ago and had continued this type of work there so I dragged him to Longford a couple of times to help and show me what do. He was so good at pointing, very fast and efficient – I wished I could hold onto him but alas he returned to Australia and left us to tackle the job alone. I think our Irish summer was far too cold and too wet for him.

My sister Bridget and husband Martin - starting the pointing
Before we could start pointing the stone walls we had to scrape out the joints between the stones removing any loose filling and leaving a gap for the new mortar. This was slow and dusty work. Then we would make up a mix of limecrete and together we would tackle a wall. Pat at one end, me at the other, our aim to meet in the middle. The joints had to be dampened and the mortar filled in with a small trowel. Then after a short period the joints were brushed, to give a smooth finish. Every so often you had to go back over what you had done and spray it with a soft mist of water to slow down drying and stop the moisture from getting sucked out of the limecreat mix too fast. Some days I would be left pointing on my own while Pat tackled other jobs. It was very slow, but I enjoyed it. At the end of the day I could admire what I had done. I found it very satisfying.

One Saturday we brought Daniel, our son with us to help. After about 30 minutes he turned to me and said ‘I’m glad you enjoy this Mam because you couldn’t pay any one to do it’. Another day David, our daughter’s boyfriend came down and cleaned off a whole wall for me, scraping out the spaces between the stones. I remember well one Saturday in April 2008 turning to Pat and saying it’s finished. It had taken nine months of Saturdays to complete.

Pat tackled several other jobs during this time also. He plastered the side walls of any windows where the brick was not good enough to leave exposed. These turned out really well. I love the way the light hits them. He also replaced rotted wooden heads over some of the windows and doors with new timer and rotted wooden windowsills were replaced with brick ones, built from old reclaimed bricks from our favorite salvage yard. Royal Meath Architectural Antiques & Salvage Company

During this time we had also started to first-fix the electrics and plumbing. These were jobs we couldn’t do ourselves but never the less made work for Pat. The plumber would ask for a hole here or there and the electrician looked for walls chased. All these jobs were very time consuming. But once they were done we were ready to lime wash the basement walls.

I ordered two buckets of lime putty from  Traditional Lime Company in Carlow. When I opened the buckets and saw the beautiful creamy buttery lime putty I knew I would enjoy working with this material.

We bought an attachment for the drill to mix the Lime putty with water and made buckets of lime wash. We could have added some colour to this mix but for the basement walls we decided to do them white as it would brighten up the space. You have to be careful applying the lime wash as a splash in the eye would be very painful. Also we found it a bit messy and would be covered in the stuff by the end of the day.  It took several days and several coats of lime wash to cover the stone and it is a continuous job to keep white but we love it and it has turned the basement into a bright cheerful place. I have since heard that woodworm don’t like lime wash much either – so two stones with one stroke. Great!  

Pat lime washes the timber also - we read it was good to kill woodworm

Lime wash isn’t like paint. It dries to a dull chalky finish. It is easy to apply with a soft brush. We love the result – but judge for yourself and let me know what you think.

We left the odd stone naked cause they look so lovely


  1. Love the lime wash finish too!

  2. Isn't it great - looks so organic! and I love the way the light catches the walls

  3. How did you find working with the lime putty. We'd to lime-wash exterior and interior walls and used NHL2 lime mixed with water, and some linseed for the finish coat (see This was applied onto walls that had just been rendered with lime mortars so the limewash cured with the mortar. Since we are going to have to apply a yearly finish of limewash I wondered if the putty was any easier to use.

    The blog is great by the way!