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Lime Plaster, a Green Alternative to Plaster

written by: Lara Stewart•edited by: Tania Cowling•updated: 1/11/2011

Lime plaster is a green alternative to traditional concrete plaster. Read on to find out about lime plaster application and the environmental benefits of making the switch!

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    Lime plaster is becoming more and more popular as a green building alternative. This mortar provides many of the same benefits of regular mortars but also provides some environmental benefits that make it a more feasible choice for environmentalists.

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    What is Lime Plaster?

    Lime plaster is a bit of a misnomer because traditional plaster contains lime, also known as calcium hydroxide. However, traditional plaster, or stucco, is a mix of lime, cement and sand. Lime plaster removes the cement from the mix, making it a pure combination of lime and sand. This changes the way that the plaster reacts with both the environment and the building it is attached to. The look of lime plaster, however, is largely the same as traditional stucco, allowing it to easily replace it without sacrificing the cosmetic appeal.

    Lime plaster is traditionally used as a wall covering, providing a variety of textures for both indoor and outdoor home use. It can also be used to create architectural details and frescoes, depending on the construction use.

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    How is Lime Plaster Eco-Friendly?

    Lime plaster cuts carbon footprint in a variety of ways. First and foremost, the longevity of lime plaster makes it an excellent green building choice because it will not need to be replaced or maintained regularly like other building methods. It can also be removed from bricks once it is applied, allowing the lime plaster to be recycled and the bricks to be reused, if needed. Cement cannot be removed and renders the bricks unusable after application, making it a less sustainable method.

    In the construction process, lime behaves very differently than cement. Cement requires a higher temperature to produce, increasing the need for fossil fuels. By choosing lime plaster, you can cut back on your carbon footprint.

    Lime plaster also provides moderate insular properties. By choosing lime plaster, you can cut back on heating and cooling costs. It is also resistant to mold and fungus, increasing the quality of the air when used indoors.

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    Other Reasons to Choose Lime Plaster

    Apart from its environmental benefits, lime plaster is incredibly durable. It is fire, weather, and salt resistant as well as strong. Whereas cement can crack due to weather conditions and moisture, lime plaster is able to absorb and expel water without damaging the structural integrity of the material. This material was used in ancient times and some buildings still stand, showing the longevity of lime plaster as a construction choice. It can even be tinted in a color of your choice and it will withstand UV exposure in a way that traditional paints cannot.

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    Steps to Application

    Since lime plaster takes time to sit before it is applied, you want to start this step first. Follow the directions on the plaster to mix in an aggregate in order to properly prepare it for application. It should be a thick consistency (like cream cheese) when it is ready for application.

    It is important to start with a clean surface for application. Make sure the wall is free of any old lime plaster and dust. If you are working with wood laths, make sure they are in good condition and not bumpy or damaged. Metal laths tend to last longer, but can be hard to plaster because they are slippery. Spray down the wall with water until it is damp, but not dripping.

    It can be tricky to apply plaster if you are not experienced. Take time to apply it carefully between laths and create a flush surface with the wall. The initial coat is called the scratch coat. Once it is applied, let it dry until it is resistant to pressure but still able to be scratched. Scratch the surface using a lathe scratcher and moisten the layer before applying another coat. Then apply additional coats, each with less aggregate, until the wall takes on the look you want.

    Lime plaster takes significant time to harden, or cure. If possible, give it several weeks to harden before using the room.

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    Lime plaster can be a practical and eco-friendly choice when looking for a stucco-like finish inside or outside the home. With time tested strength and durability, it could provide a green, low maintenance, beautiful look without breaking the bank.

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    Resources

    "Lime Plaster | DoItYourself.com." DIY Home Improvement Information | DoItYourself.com. Web. 12 Aug. 2010. <http://www.doityourself.com/stry/lime-plaster>.

    "How To Do Lime Plastering | DoItYourself.com." DIY Home Improvement Information | DoItYourself.com. Web. 12 Aug. 2010. <http://www.doityourself.com/stry/how-to-do-lime-plastering>.

    "St. Astier Natural Hydraulic Lime Plaster." Organic Grace. Web. 11 Aug. 2010. <http://organicgrace.com/node/682>.

    "What Is Lime Plaster? | Building Green TV." Home | Building Green TV. Web. 12 Aug. 2010. <http://www.buildinggreentv.com/node/171>