Lime is one of the most underused, useful and beautiful building materials out there. It's amazing stuff, and does nearly everything Portland cement does but better. Lime allows structures to breathe in a way Portland cement never can, significantly reducing the opportunities for mildew or damp in your building. It's softer and more malleable, and cures more slowly giving you time to work it beautifully before it sets. This softness is important in mortar work - especially in old buildings. Portland cement is too hard and non-porous, so it ultimately begins to 'eat away' at the stones. It's been banned by the English Heritage society for this very reason. Lime is a fungicide and an insecticide, and in many places very inexpensive. Unless you're building a multistory car park or swimming pool, lime is a superb option.
Still doubting? Scroll down to the curriculum and watch the video tour of my lime-filled kitchen.
The 17th century Garrison House, Wivenhoe. Still in great shape because it's been properly maintained with lime.
So What Can You Actually Do With Lime?
Lime is extremely versatile. There's a lot you can create. You can use it as render:
Or as a mortar:
Or as a 'crete:
Limecrete window sill by Sophie Hunter
You can make lime paint:
You can grout flagstones or tiles with it:
Or make floors:
Lime generates roughly 25% of the carbon that Portland cement does in production,and then slowly reabsorbs that carbon as it cures. Limestone (what lime is made of) is also extremely abundant on Earth. Seeing as Portland cement is currently the second largest emitter of CO2 into the atmosphere after fossil fuels, we could do with using a lot more lime and a lot less Portland.
If you want to learn how to use lime in a host of different ways, the All About Lime Course will show you the way.
What Will This Course Teach You?
- Which kind of lime you should use for which job and in which climate
- How to slake quicklime
- How to mix and apply lime render
- How to apply lime mortar and some tricks for a clean finish
- How to deal with mortar guns when using lime
- How to mix limecrete
- How to make a limecrete floor
- How to use limecrete with tiles
- How to create lime paint or lime wash with and without colours
I update all my courses with extra sections when I master new techniques. Once you've enrolled in the course you have access to all future updates.
When Might Lime Not Be Suitable?
1. Applications where the lime spends a lot of time submerged in, or being hit by water: Shower floors, water tanks, swimming pools etc may well fail. I have seen lime work for a shower floor with tiles and grout, and a water tank, but it's a bit hit and miss. If you need a waterproof crete, this is the one time I'd say Portland cement is more appropriate.
2. Lime renders, mortars and cretes are always softer than Portland cement, so any application where you definitely need a rock solid, tough as nails, impermeable surface, lime may not be suitable for.
Hi! I'm Atulya. I've been living off-grid and building with mud for nearly ten years now. My love of natural building arose from nowhere. Back in 2011 I was living in a field in Turkey. Bit by bit, out of necessity I taught myself to build with mud. It became a creative passion. Within a year I had constructed a house. A year later I installed solar power. I have been in nature, mud building and writing about it ever since.
Today I am founder and author of The Mud Home natural building and off-grid freedom website. I also write about natural building for publications such as Mother Earth News and the Owner Builder Magazine.