Monday, May 2, 2011

Gloves for working with lime

Just answering a query: what gloves to wear when working with lime? Gloves are part of your kit, and like any other tool should be appropriate to the work. I have no shame in wearing marigolds, rubber gloves for house work, when working with hemp-lime plaster ; ) Just make sure they fit well. There are 2 gauges available here, I use the heavier black ones for hemp and lime. But the lighter ones are useful too, if you like working with your hands. Many builders we have worked with prefer the kind of woven gloves that are rubberised on the fingers and palms. Josh likes using them for stone work. Make sure your hands stay dry though or you may need to see my post on lime burns. Much depends on how messy you are, if your tools stay nice and clean then your hand will too. Finally for pargetting and other fine work I like to use surgical gloves so that I can feel my small tool and sometimes use my fingers too. They do break easily, so I usually have a box full, and replace the pair I'm wearing often. Other types of gloves should last well if you wash them as you go. Another tip I'd recommend is applying a coat of vaseline in the morning before work, so that it has time to absorb into the skin. So to summarise, professional plasterers and builders will usually wear woven rubberised gloves. Beginners and artists may prefer lighter gloves. The most important thing is to have an adequate level of protection.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Have you seen this plant?

I am planning an experiment on the terrestrial algae known as Trentepohlia. I am looking for plasterers who have had experience of this rusty red plant material, which is very commonly seen growing on the outside of buildings in Galway and other parts of Ireland. If you have any thoughts on why and how it grows, particularly regarding the type of render, please get in touch. Thank you,

Save Irish Forests

A bit off topic, but we'll need all the signatures we can to stop the sale of Irish forests. Please sign the petition on the website This is a matter of urgency. Please pass it on

Friday, February 25, 2011

What aggregate to use in ecobuilding

I want to talk about the sand and other aggregates we use in hemp and lime plaster. This should apply to other mixes too. Firstly Sand: where does yours come from? A neighbour of mine told me that in the recent past people would collect sand from the river and wash it out in barrels. This seemed fairly low impact to me, so we gave it a go. The sand we collected had been dredged out of a harbour a mile or so from our house. So transport and environmental damage was low. If we had disturbed the delicate river bank this wouldn't have been such a good idea. The sand we collected was very fine. This led to some cracking of the plaster which had no hemp in it. But I would use it again. We have also used ground sandstone from the local quarry. (Commercial quarrying is not my favourite to be honest, which is something to bear in mind when deciding how much lime you want to use in your build. Making your own lime putty in the traditional way is preferable. And using as little as possible) A few weeks ago I attended a talk about eskers and their biodiversity. I didn't know an esker is a deposit of sand and gravel laid down by melt water rivers beneath glaciers. They look like low serpentine hills running across the landscape. Because of the relative high drainage compared to the surrounding fields they tend to have very interesting plant, insect and other species. They are also commonly excavated for building aggregates. This is usually small scale for local use (think less miles) however the mining can upset species populations. This is quite a problem, particularly in some areas. I won't go further into the politics! So what sand can be used? We know beach sand is a bad idea because of salt and also habitat destruction. A nice idea is to use recycled glass. Have a look if there is someone producing glass "sand" near you. Another thing to remember is that waste on your building site can often be ground up and used in a mix. We have been able to use our slate waste for a path. A couple of minutes in a cement mixer will knock off the sharp edges. Does anyone else have any ideas?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Hemp Event in Spain

This looks really great, I'd love to go!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cost of Hemp bales in Ireland

If you are about to mix your own hemp and lime plaster, you'll want to know how much hemp hurds cost. Things change depending on availability, and type of hemp you are choosing to use. Usually the transport is the most significant cost, since no one is producing hemp here on a large scale as far as I know. Hemp is fairly bulky so the cheapest way to buy is to buy from those who are importing large quantities on a regular basis. My advice is to order well in advance so that suppliers have an idea of quantities to get in each harvest. Each bale should be in the region of 12 euros. I also advise over ordering, there's always someone who has run out and needs an extra bag. Any spare is useful in the garden as a slug suppressing mulch (much cheaper than slug pellets), or use it as animal bedding!

Monday, November 29, 2010

What happens when you use cement on an old building?

If the old building is built with lime (or any other breathable material) and the outside is covered in a non breathable material, water will tend to accumulate in the walls. This can cause structural damage,cracks, damaged stone and brick work and damp problems. If then the inside is treated to keep damp out, more water stays in the walls. Like a straw. Water moving upward through the building will try to escape any way it can, usually between floors into timber and ceilings and even roof spaces. Is the roofing felt breathable? Probably not. We have seen so many houses in a complete state of damp and rot that have breathed a sigh of relief when the cement is removed, and lime is used instead. They dry up and are much easier to heat. It's as simple as that. How much does it cost? Very little. The builders day rates should be the same as with cement renders. The materials are coming down in price all the time. And just imagine the savings in terms of not having to do structural work. Please look after your homes, and save them for generations to come.

Phoebe needs to vent!

Hi all, Some of you will know that the reason I haven't been blogging so much is that I am a student now. So I find myself in a rented house during term time, and guess what? Yes it's an old house, that has been covered in cement and is about to fall apart. Today I just met my land lady's trusted builder. Cue conversation along the lines of: no damp proof course, dry lining, the brick is the problem and those old chimneys shouldn't be in use, they let in all the water. (Incidently the fire is our only heating) It isn't in my nature to hold back, but my suggestion that the problem is caused by the cement just fell on deaf ears. Arrgh! Frustration! This old cottage which really should be listed is crumbling behind the facade. Thanks for listening. Stay warm, and keep spreading the word about lime!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hemp and Lime in Australia!

I'm so happy to hear from Paul, down in Oz. It cheers a girl up to hear of people doing sensible work to make the World a better place. Check it out at

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lime burns

Ouch! This happens to the best of us and they a usually more sore than you'd expect from their size. I had one last week which was like a tiny blister that is slow to heal. To avoid lime burns: wear gloves at all times, and keep your tools clean so they won't snag you gloves. My tip is to put on some vaseline half an hour before I work so that it absorbs into the skin. I don't like that dry feeling after a day's work. If however you find a piece of sand has been rubbing away in side your glove, and a little tear has happened wash your hand really well. Josh swears by a vinegar water rinse. I take some homeopathic hypericum and leave the blister open to the air. It should be gone in a few days. If you are reading this because you just spent all day working with lime with no gloves on and your skin looks red, go to hospital before it all starts coming off! However I've only ever seen that with cement, which is just as alkali. Likewise if its quick lime you just got covered in, oh my goodness you must be crazy!!! When you mix wear a mask and goggles. I find the powder builders lime can give me a sore nose. Washing out lime from the eyes be careful not to scrub around too much. The sand particles could cause more damage that way. It makes you wonder how the Romans managed!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Questions about Lime plastering

I'd love to help those of you who find yourselves here looking for some basic information about lime plastering. First of all I'd advise that a course where you actually see and feel the material is much better. A good supplier is a must. They can often help with advice and run courses too. Material on line can be confusing as I've found each country has different names for things, particularly in referring to which layer. I stick to first and second coat, but you may of course apply more. The first coat usually has plenty of coarse sand, or other material such as hair or hemp, to stop the (top) second layer from cracking, and to even out the wall a little. It is applied to a damp- wetted down wall. You could use a ready mixed "coarse stuff" for this. See other entries for information about Hydraulic lime or lime putty. The drying time is slowed down by misting or creating a humid atmosphere close to the wall by hanging dampened hessian cloth a few inches away form the plaster in such a way that it won't blow and bump your work. This is removed! The second coat, some may call skim, will have a more finished look. This is achieved by the work, but also the mix may be heavier on lime, and the sand finer. Ready mix "fine stuff" is lovely to work with. This layer will be fairly thin. Watch out for cracks by the same methods of misting and damp cloth. Don't forget to use lime wash or lime based paint or the whole thing will be a waste of time. Lime plaster mixes are typically 1 part lime or to 2 or more parts sand.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

French Lime Advice

Just came across this little forum which may be of help to those of you in France

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hemp and Lime course 2010

Tuesday June 8th Training in hemp and lime with Henry Thompson This is sure to be a very good course for anyone wanting to learn about hemp and lime. An Gairdin, Portumna. €5 For further information and booking forms for the course please contact Sue Clarke, Galway Rural Development on 091 844335, email:

Lime events in Portumna

TRADITIONAL BUILDINGS – INFORMATION EVENING Monday, May 31st at 7pm., Shannon Oaks, Portumna. A panel of speakers will talk about traditional buildings and traditional building methods. Máirín Doddy, Conservation Officer, Galway Co.Council Edward Byrne, Traditional Lime Company Christy Cunniffe, Fields and Monuments Adviser, Galway Co.Council Ursula Marmion, South East Galway IRD After this public lecture Galway Rural Development are running a practical course for people in the building trades to introduce them to the use of lime. This will be run on four separate days in June, in An Gairdin, Portumna. Days can be booked individually at €5 per session or as a series for €20. TRADITIONAL SKILLS TRAINING – USES OF LIME Tuesday June 1st Training in lime rendering and mixing with Ed Byrne Tuesday June 8th Training in hemp and lime with Henry Thompson Tuesday June 22nd Decorative Plasterwork with Seamus O Heocha and site visit to Portumna Castle Tuesday June 29th Stonewall building using lime mortar with Philip Quinn and Damien Conlon. There will also be site visits to buildings in Meelick and Laurencetown that have used traditional techniques. For further information and booking forms for the course please contact Sue Clarke, Galway Rural Development on 091 844335, email:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hemp building products Dublin

Just came across this nice place. They sell hemp bedding, and insulation too

Friday, March 12, 2010

When your lime plaster cracks

Hi some one was asking about cracks, so I'll have a go at trying to explain. Without getting too scientific about it, cracking is due to the plaster loosing water in the first step of curing. You want to aim for it to slowly loose water, in order to minimise shrinkage. So the first step is thoughly wetting the background. This is best achieved with a mister type spray. You spray repeatedly until the background can absorb no more water and the spray just begins to flow down the wall. If its a dry or windy day, or the background is very porous, such as old bricks or cob, this will have to be done again and again. The plaster can pull moisture from the wall as it dries, and that will result in delamination. Secondly the plaster should go on as evenly as possible, so that thin areas dry at the same speed as thicker areas. If the plaster is made from lime putty as opposed to hydrated powered limes, the plaster will have to loose a lot of water and will shrink. This is why plaster with lime putty is made up months before it is used, and also why traditionally some type of fibre is added to resist shrinking and cracking. Thirdly, it is important to keep an eye on the plaster after it is applied. It helps to protect it against wind and sun, (and rain!) Again to slow down the drying. It's a good idea to very carefully mist the plaster when you finish and possibly again if you see tiny cracks appearing. Finally tiny cracks aren't the end of the world, lime is somewhat self healing, and a second coat will help.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

New hemp building site

Steve Allin has set up this new site after the success of Septembers symposium

Friday, November 27, 2009

What happens if you don't use lime on your stonework

Here are some pictures I took in France of the damage that can happen if your pointing mixture is much harder than the soft stone of your wall. This shouldn't happen if you use lime. Lime pointing and plaster should be thought of as sacrificial, in order to save the structure.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Types of hemp for building

Thanks to Deb and Pili for drawing my attention to the need for some basic info. And thanks to all the readers of this blog, which has had over 10000 hits now. The hemp we use for builiding is the centre part of the stem, after the fibres are removed. They're called the hurds. There are three types of hemp for building that I know of. Building type such as St Astier sells, which looks like wood chips, the particles are clean and pretty uniform, and around 1cm. The Horse bedding type is rougher say up to 3cm, but varied and may contain bits of fibre, and the odd seed or leaf. As I understand, this is what's left from a high quality fibre extraction. I use this for building. It binds together nicely, goes on thickly, and gives a prety good insulation. You can work it very smooth, see Neil's work on these pages. alternatively if it looks too bumpy, pop a smooth lime and sand coat over the top. The third type of hemp is a 2mm screened fibre, left over from cloth making I suppose. This is whats in Hempire skim coat. You can use anything in lime plaster that will resist cracking, in the past people mostly used horse hair, but occasionally straw, or jute. Goat and human hair are ok too. Someone tried nettle fibres, with an ok result. Hemp is just todays waste, so this is a handy use for it! Good luck

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hemp and lime plaster with leaves

Here are some photos forwarded from that talented sculptor Neil. He has added various leaves and bracken to his hemp and lime mix. Hope to be linking to his blog soon!