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Avoiding lime failures
Lime mortar has been used in the construction of traditional buildings in Scotland for centuries. Its use began to diminish from the mid-19th century as mass-produced Portland cements became more widely available. A century later its use as the primary binder in mortar had all but ceased and, within a generation or two, most of the skills and knowledge needed to use lime successfully were lost. Since the lime revival of the late 20th century, and following much research, the benefits of using lime in traditional masonry are becoming increasingly understood. Lime, compared with modern materials such as cement, is much more compatible with the surrounding fabric, especially its ability to allow buildings to ‘breathe’. Despite this revival, however, there is still a belief held by many that lime mortars are difficult to use and susceptible to failure. This paper explains that ‘lime failures’ are much more likely to be caused by failures of workmanship, specification, building detailing and maintenance than the actual material itself, and argues that, provided these largely avoidable factors are considered, there is no reason why any appropriately specified and well-applied lime work should fail on a well-detailed and regularly maintained building.
The full article is available to institutions that have subscribed to the journal
William Napier is a Chartered Building Surveyor, Accredited in Conservation, with 30 years’ experience in applying, specifying and reporting on lime-based finishes. William began his career with a traditional decorative plastering apprenticeship with L. Grandison & Son in Peebles, before training as a building surveyor and completing a two-year postgraduate conservation fellowship with Historic Scotland. William worked at the Scottish Lime Centre Trust as a buildings adviser and lime plastering tutor for three years before taking the post of building surveyor at the National Trust for Scotland, where he worked for 15 years, latterly as lead surveyor, managing a team of surveyors responsible for the repair and maintenance of some of Scotland’s most significant buildings. He is now a director with Adams Napier Partnership, a chartered building surveying practice specialising in building conservation, research and training. William has contributed to the publication of several lime-related technical advice notes and short guides, including Historic Scotland’s Technical Advice Note 15: External Lime Coatings on Traditional Buildings, and regularly contributes at conferences and training events on the subject. In 2011 he completed a PhD entitled ‘Kinship and Politics in the Art of Decoration’, a study of Scottish Renaissance decorative plasterwork and interiors.