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Expert Advice: 9 Ways to Use Lime Plaster (Hint: It’s Not Just for Walls)

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Expert Advice: 9 Ways to Use Lime Plaster (Hint: It’s Not Just for Walls)

October 27, 2022

“Lime plaster is as old as time—think Roman and earlier—and perfect for our times,” says Domingue Architectural Finishes, a Houston-based company started by Eddy Dankers (a master painter and Axel Vervoodt’s plasterer), color expert Eve Ashcraft, and Ruth Gay, owner of antiques house Chateau Domingue.

The company specializes in lime plasters and washes (depending on the amount of water added), which have long been used to add depth and character to walls with relative ease. In addition to being texturally intriguing, lime plaster and limewash keep buildings cool in summer and warm in winter—and they have anti-fungal and antibacterial properties, too. The reason behind the white exteriors of iconic Greek architecture? Buildings were painted with lime plaster to ward off infection during a cholera outbreak.

But lime plasters and washes can add character almost anywhere—well beyond walls. “It’s a material that is not only natural and beautiful but incredibly flexible,” the Domingue team says. Here are seven ways to add intrigue with lime finishes.

Photography courtesy of Domingue Architectural Finishes.

1. Instantly upgrade stairs.

one place lime plaster can be used? on architectural details—including s 12
Above: One place lime plaster can be used? On architectural details—including staircases. Using lime on the stairs makes them look more sculptural and of a piece with limewashed walls.
a room fully done in plaster. 13
Above: A room fully done in plaster.

2. Think small.

no need to commit to a full project with lime plaster. &#8\2\20;experiment  14
Above: No need to commit to a full project with lime plaster. “Experiment with and experience lime plaster on a minor project first,” Domingue says. Choose something unexpected: a stove hood, for example. “The original intention was to paint this stove hood,” the company says. “But lime plaster seemed more substantive, hardwearing, and appropriate for an element in the kitchen subjected to heat and moisture. The plywood outer shell of the hood was primed, plastered, and then, to lighten the color somewhat from the natural gray plaster, limewashed in two light coats.”

3. Apply over brick.

want to use lime plaster but don&#8\2\17;t have a plain wall to use it on?  15
Above: Want to use lime plaster but don’t have a plain wall to use it on? No problem: a slurry (“simply a mix that contains more water, enough that the mixture, the consistency of pancake batter, can be applied with a brush instead of a trowel,” the Domingue team says) can be applied over bricks and other uneven surfaces. “Here, in a modern renovation of an antique brick warehouse, a lime plaster slurry was brushed horizontally over old brick walls,” Domingue tells us.

4. Camouflage stone.

the same applies to stone walls, fireplaces, or detailing. &#8\2\20;because 16
Above: The same applies to stone walls, fireplaces, or detailing. “Because lime plaster and stone are both mineral-based, they bond naturally and thoroughly,” the team says.

5. Play with texture.

 when applying lime plaster or wash, embrace imperfection—and wield 17
Above: When applying lime plaster or wash, embrace imperfection—and wield tools differently for a wide variety of effects. “The most common technique of applying plaster, with a trowel, renders a surface that can be rough or smooth, porous or closed, depending on the plaster used and the pressure applied,” says the Domingue team. “The finish varies by the tool used and the hand of the applicator, making it as individual as a fingerprint.”

6. For a lighter effect, try limewash.

&#8\2\20;plaster lends gravitas to a wall, along with texture—from s 18
Above: “Plaster lends gravitas to a wall, along with texture—from subtle to dramatic,” the Domingue team says. But add more water and you have a wash, which “allows for further customization,” they say. Here, they added a thin limewash in vertical strokes to get more control over the surface: It alters the color and softens the intensity of the plaster below.

7. Create a backdrop for a wood stove.

lime wash makes a textural backdrop to a wood stove, as seen in a tale of two s 19
Above: Lime wash makes a textural backdrop to a wood stove, as seen in A Tale of Two Styles: Proper Victorian on the Outside, Modern Zen on the Inside. (It’s also a natural fire retardant, according to the National Park Service.) Photograph courtesy of The Modern House.

8. Or a fireplace surround.

lime makes a textural finish for the fireplace. this one is done in tadelakt, a 20
Above: Lime makes a textural finish for the fireplace. This one is done in tadelakt, a Moroccan wall finish made of lime plaster and black olive soap, but plain lime plaster or lime wash would work just as well. Photography by Dustin Aksland, courtesy of Elizabeth Roberts, from A Warm, Minimalist Duplex in Brooklyn by Architect Elizabeth Roberts.

9. Take it outside.

the material can be used to add character to exteriors and facades, too. here,  21
Above: The material can be used to add character to exteriors and facades, too. Here, Domingue says, “lime plaster slurry utterly altered the look and feel of a formerly red-brick house. The exterior coloration shifted from high contrast to far more subtle, with the lime plaster slurry dressing the house in an elegant coat that suits its formal architecture.”
for more on how to apply limewash at home, see diy project: limewashed walls fo 22
Above: For more on how to apply limewash at home, see DIY Project: Limewashed Walls for Modern Times. Photograph by Justine Hand for Remodelista.

And for more expert color insight from Remodelista favorite Eve Ashcraft, see Gio Ponti–Inspired Color Palette from Eve Ashcraft and Expert Advice: Eve Ashcraft’s Indigo Palette.

And for more on limewash and plaster finishes, might we suggest:

N.B. This post has been updated with new images, information, and ideas; the original story ran on August 3, 2018.

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Frequently asked questions

What is lime plaster?

Lime plaster is a mixture of lime, sand, and water that is used to create a durable and breathable finish for walls and ceilings.

What are the benefits of using lime plaster?

Lime plaster is a natural material that allows walls to breathe and prevents moisture buildup. It is also durable, fire-resistant, and has a unique texture that adds character to a space.

How is lime plaster applied?

Lime plaster is typically applied in multiple coats with a trowel. The first coat, called the scratch coat, is applied directly to the wall or ceiling and allowed to dry before subsequent coats are added.

How long does lime plaster take to dry?

Lime plaster can take several weeks to fully dry and cure. It is important to keep the room well-ventilated during this time to allow for proper drying.

Can lime plaster be painted?

Yes, once lime plaster is fully dry it can be painted with a lime-based paint or a breathable mineral paint. Avoid using regular, synthetic paint on lime plaster as it can trap moisture and lead to damage over time.

Is lime plaster suitable for all types of walls and ceilings?

Lime plaster is ideal for walls and ceilings made of brick, stone, or other porous materials that require breathability. It may not be suitable for non-porous surfaces like concrete or drywall.

How can I maintain lime plaster?

Lime plaster should be dusted or vacuumed regularly to prevent the buildup of dirt and debris. Avoid using harsh cleaning solutions or abrasive materials that can damage the surface. If necessary, lime plaster can be resealed with a breathable mineral sealer.

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