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How To Use Lime Wash – The Eco-Friendly Classic Finish

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by Fran Connors
(Detroit, USA)

Lime wash has been used for thousands of years across the globe for the interiors and exteriors of homes and barns. If you are trying to duplicate the look of an old world European villa, consider lime wash as your wall finish. Aside from lending authenticity that flat latex can never achieve, lime wash has many appealing properties that will make It popular for years to come. Learn more about lime wash, itsadvantages and disadvantages, and where you can use it best.

Traditional whitewash -(a la Huckleberry Finn and his Aunt Polly’s picket fence), now more commonly referred to as lime wash, has similarities to plaster, paint, and stains, but is unique from all three. The base recipe is hydrated lime and water, although various ingredients can be added to improve adherence and durability, depending on where it will be used. The recipes, both old and new, are seemingly endless

The original purpose for lime wash was never for effect, that semi-transparent quality that is valued today, but for practicality. Lime wash can only reach its practical purpose when applied in many thin layers, which results in a hardened, opaque covering. After a singleapplication, a lime washed surface looks blotchy.

After drying, the wash “blooms” into its characteristic finish. Carbon dioxide in the air produces a chemical reaction in the lime wash as it dries, causing it to crystallize as it hardens. These calcite crystals sink into a porous surface, creating a tight bond between the initial coatand additional layers of lime wash.

Each tiny crystal refracts light not one but two ways, deflecting heat away from the surface. This explains the unmatched brilliance of the lime washed villas along the coasts of the Mediterranean. Compared to a coat of flat white latex paint, fresh lime wash is more visually appealing because it has the depth of an aged, stone-like surface.

Lime wash is a versatile medium, and is used today to create artistic wall finishes Many pre-tinted colors are available, or the applicator can layer washes of different colors to achieve another hue. Although there is a slight learning curve in perfecting techniques, the average DIY’er can become competent.

Lime Wash Advantages:

* Lime wash is a sustainable, environmentally-friendly product. It does not emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

* Lime wash is naturally antibacterial, anti fungal, and insecticidal. Many farms still spend a day in spring to recoat the lime wash in barns and chicken coops for this reason.

* Lime wash allows walls to breathe, an important factor for homesmade of certain substrates in damp climates

* When painted on an outside structure it deflects heat away from the building.

* A basic lime wash recipe is very affordable. A 50-pound bag is about $20 at the hardware store. To this you will add 30-40 gallons of water (more or less until you reach the desired consistency). Even with three coats of lime wash, it yields a lot of square footage for the money. Unused hydrated lime powder can be used in the garden, or saved for future touch-ups.

* A slightly easier option is lime putty, which is more expensive but is available pre-tinted. Lime putty is a 50/50 lime and water material, to which the applicator adds enough water to make the right consistency for painting.

* Lime wash lends instant aging properties to a room, highly sought after in rustic, cottage, and French country decor.

* Most people also admire the subtle changes lime washed surfaces undergo as they age.

* Lime washed surfaces can be incorporated into any decor. Lime Wash Disadvantages:

* The best method of application is with a whitewash brush, so the process can be time-consuming, especially with several coats

* Lime wash is not a scrubbable surface, so it’s not recommended for kitchens or children’s rooms.

* The finished surface is chalky and will rub off when touched. To remedy this one can scrub the dried surface with steel wool or fine sandpaper. The finished surface can also be sealed or waxed.

* The surface must be compatible to lime to adhere well: earthen walls, adobe, brick, stone, unfinished timber, lime-compatible stucco and plaster, and some types of concrete.

Updated: November 10, 2012 — 3:56 am

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