Monday, 22 August 2016

Brexit - what a load of limewash

Everyone knows what they were doing on the day they heard that Boris and Nigel and all those other loons guaranteed that Britain would get its bendy bananas back and that dirty rotten forriners would be surrounded by a huge brick wall and barbed wire. Or something. 

Boris arrives at the office for his first day
as Foreign Secretary
For us, we were in the badlands of Wales on a two-day practical course all about the joys of lime and where to stick it. You would have read a blog all about it by now if Dawn could be bothered to write it, but she can't. It's not even like she's got anything better to do, like earn a living. Sheesh. 

Anyway, one thing we learnt on the course at Ty-Mawr, which is one of just a few reputable lime product manufacturers and suppliers in the pre-anarchic UK, is something we'd been wondering ever since we first started on this magical journey of marvel and mishap - how to pronounce Ty-Mawr. The best way to write it is that it rhymes with See Flower or Flea Power or Tree Hour.

It's Ty (like 'tea') and Mawr (like 'sour' but with an M). It's Welsh, innit. 
So now you know. Accept no substitutes and feel free to correct people with confidence and authority. Tell them we told you so. 

One of the other things we touched on was limewashing.
Limewashing is like painting but much, much more annoying.

Remember the last time you decorated your bedroom with one or two coats of your favourite shade of matt avocado and lost the will to live as you glossed the skirting? It's nothing as joyful as that. Not even close. 

The original brown lime surfaces were a patchwork
of new and old repairs using regular filler or lime
Of course we only really learnt that lesson back at The Lodge when we tried it. Across at Ty-Mawr - staffed by very nice, knowledgeable, down-to-earth pro-lime nerds, essentially - we were told that although it's not a decorating finish that suits everyone it's authentic, environmentally-friendly and fully breathable, which is exactly what we're after. We saw lots of examples, all in limewashed rooms at the beautiful Ty-Mawr working family home (it's a funny old set-up in a beautiful part of the country), showed the experts some photos of our Living Room, asked some pertinent questions, got our hands dirty with some excellent practical experience and left assured that we'd get the uniform, level finish we were after on the ceiling and walls with just two or three coats even though the more traditional finish is somewhat patchier, which makes it an acquired taste. 

The olds.
Absolutely clueless.
We drafted in my folks and aunt for the inaugural first coat and bought five buckets, five brushes, five pairs of safety glasses, the same amount of gloves and some party sausage rolls, in addition to a Screwfix electric paddle mixer (which later exploded) for the white pre-mixed limewash which we brought back from Ty-Mawr. 

Now the thing about limewash, and where it differs significantly to regular paint, is that at 3:1 water to lime putty (we also added casein which is a natural product made from milk and helps the wash 'stick' a bit better), it's not only thin but it needs to be applied in very thin coats so that when the wash begins to dry it doesn't leave behind a thick layer of lime which will then crack as the water disappears. It's a bit of a faff but one we had steeled ourselves for. 

The other thing about limewash is that it's totally invisible for hours. 
Four coats in... grrr...
When you're painting under normal circumstances you get your brush, roller or pad, load it with the thick coloured gloop of your choice and smear it over the wall in areas you haven't done yet. With limewash, however, because you're wetting the surface with tap water (to arrest the drying process) before brushing on your equally-wet and barely-coloured limewash you can't see if you've already done that bit or you're missing great swathes as you go. The only time it begins to become apparent is when it starts to dry overnight and the coloured pigment begins to show itself (which is a very impressive reveal in the morning, by the way). But that's when you realise you need another coat all-round. Then another. Then another. Ad infinitum.

After four coats on the ceilings and walls over 10-or-so days - and with the unwanted 'traditional' patchy, rough limewash finish still very much in evidence - we gave up because we were getting nowhere. It just wasn't worth the effort and despair. Each coat went on just as infuriatingly-transparently as the last and the whole room was taking a day or more (with at least a day in between while it dried) in return for absolutely no progress whatsoever. 

The cavalry!
Not only were the walls patchy and uneven, even where they'd been limewashed earlier, but there was lots of deep yellow staining bleeding through on the ceiling, perhaps from the old original lime that was still up there or residue left over from the Artex. Either way we couldn't live in a room that looked as though it had been a gentleman's smoking parlour for the last century so we went with the alternative - also recommended by Ty-Mawr - clay paint.

Once we knew the fourth failed coat of limewash had dried the ceiling took one coat of Earthborn 'White' - eliminating the jaundiced patches; the walls took a single coat of magnolia 'Vanilla' and the two feature walls by the Pantry took two coats of 'Cat's Cradle' grey, with delicate cutting-in around the brick detail.
And the results are excellent. The coverage was great with a pad and because the 'paint' was pretty thick it covered the patchy white with ease - and you could see where you'd already been!
The only downside was that where old, original lime plaster had been limewashed, particularly on the ceiling, the wash came away in small areas where a roller took it off and reapplied it in lumps a few millimetres away (which we quite like, weirdly, because it goes with the lumpybumpy look). A brush didn't have so much trouble though, and there were no application problems when we clay painted over the limewash on new plaster.
So at least the limewashing made for a reasonable undercoat which also sealed small cracks in the plaster, and the whole lot is breathable, too.

Ignore the skirting - I haven't written about it yet


The lesson: one person's 'perfect' is another person's 'problem' and although I get where Ty-Mawr is coming from in terms of authenticity and tradition when it comes to the finish, it's not always going to be for us. The lessons in pointing, however, were right up our street and that'll be the subject of the next blog... whenever I get it written.

Must rush. I'm building a Post-Brexit Bomb Shelter and the excavator has just arrived...

The £50 Energer paddle mixer from Screwfix.
Only buy it if you enjoy seeing smoke coming out of your power tools before the job is finished.

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