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How Much Does Lime Plastering Cost

15 June 2023

Lime plaster has been used for at least nine thousand years to protect and beautify our dwellings, and when you see a perfectly-plastered building, it's easy to understand why this is. The master craftsmen at Top Notch Walls know exactly how much skill it takes to achieve this, and they never take this amazing material for granted.

Although this traditional method was largely overtaken in the 1800s when Portland cement plaster became popular, followed by the introduction of gypsum plaster in the early 1900s, you can still see older houses (and even some new ones!) coated in lime plaster, both inside and out, and they're a pleasure to behold.

Lime plaster is still the best option for older buildings with solid walls - replacing it with modern plaster would be a disaster, as it isn't breathable. Eventually, the moisture would build up, and the walls would rapidly deteriorate to the point of crumbling.

But this wonderful material isn't reserved only for listed buildings; there are a thousand ways that you can use lime plaster in your own home or even in commercial buildings to add character and charm.

Before committing yourself to this, though, you want to know how much you should expect to pay.

So, without further delay, let's jump into the Top Notch Walls guide to lime plastering costs.

Is Lime Plaster More Expensive Than Normal Plaster?

Broadly speaking, yes, it is more expensive.

There are two basic reasons for this:

How Much Does Lime Plastering Cost

It's A Job For Experts!

Applying lime plaster properly takes a lot of skill, and it's a lengthier process than standard plastering jobs, and this generally pushes up the labour cost.

The Materials Are More Expensive

Gypsum plaster is manufactured on a massive scale, which reduces the overall cost of production. Because lime plaster is a traditional material produced on a smaller scale, and the process is more intensive, the production costs are higher, and this has to be reflected in the prices that the consumer pays.

How Much Is Lime Plaster Per Square Metre?

The short answer is that the average cost for lime plastering in the UK is between £60 and £80 per square metre.

In reality, the final price will vary depending on several factors, including:

  • The type of lime plaster you choose (or that the plasterers recommend).
  • The size and scale of the job.
  • Are you having your ceiling plastered as well as your walls? These tend to be more expensive.
  • Your location - There's a definite north-south divide when it comes to hiring a professional plasterer, with those in the southeast paying more.
  • Is it a two or three-coat system? Lime plaster usually has three coats - a scratch coat (or base coat), a second coat, and a finish coat. If it's just a skim coat, this won't be as expensive.
  • The condition of your old plaster - it will cost extra to repair or replace if it has blown or is in a bad state.

These are a few points to consider when you are researching the price of hiring a plasterer.

But why should you go through the expense of lime plastering? You're probably wondering, why can't I choose one of the cheaper options? It all depends on the type of property and what your walls are made of! Lime plaster is sometimes the only choice, as it is suitable for older properties - particularly those that already have an old coat of lime plaster that needs freshening up or replacing.

So, what about these other types of plaster? How are they so different? Let's take a look!

For more learnings, you can check out our post "How Much To Plaster A Room".

What's The Difference Between Modern Plaster And Lime Plaster?

Although they perform much the same functions, there are several differences in the make-up and qualities of each, and we'll explore these here:

Lime Plaster

This traditional plaster is available in two basic forms -

  • Hydraulic lime. Made from impure limestone, this plaster sets and hardens due to hydrolysis - a reaction with water. It sets quickly and is more durable than the non-hydraulic version but has lower permeability. This plaster is generally better suited to external walls.
  • Non-hydraulic lime. This is mostly what we mean when we talk about lime plaster, and it's also referred to as lime putty, fat lime, or hot lime. It is slower-setting, softer, and more flexible, and it sets by the process of carbonation - drawing carbon dioxide from the air. The excellent qualities of this plaster make it ideal for interior use.

These are mixed with sand, water, and fibres (usually animal hair) to bind and strengthen the plaster, and it usually has an off-white colour.

Both mixes are used by lime plasterers on internal and external walls as a render or lime mortar to great effect.

Gypsum Plaster

Made from dehydrated or partially-dehydrated calcium sulphate mixed with water, often with added hardeners. It is not as breathable as lime, nor is it as flexible, although it sets very quickly. It's not ideal for period properties, but it can be used to create beautifully smooth white finishes on modern buildings.

Cement Plaster

This is made by mixing sand, water, and Portland cement, which takes its name from its resemblance to Portland stone when it has set hard. The cement is a mix of limestone heated with clay minerals to form clinker, which is ground up with gypsum to form a fine powder. Cement plasters are usually grey in colour, but white versions are also available.

Cement render and plaster are water-resistant and tough, but it lacks the vapour permeability and breathability of lime plaster.

Hopefully, this comparison will help you to form a better view of your investment.

Is Lime Plaster Worth It?

Absolutely! Although it needs to be used in the right setting.

While it's often touted as a green alternative to modern materials, it's not always the best choice for all situations. For example, lime plaster is a must when it comes to restoring and renovating period properties, but it isn't always ideal for use on concrete or plasterboard.

If you're considering investing in lime plaster, you'll want to know about the benefits, so here are a few to think about:

Aesthetics

It looks fantastic! That is, when you hire a professional, like the master craftsmen at Top Notch Walls, to do the job.

Breathability

Lime plaster helps your walls to breathe, allowing moisture to evaporate. This drastically reduces the chances of experiencing mould and damp issues. Please note that if you want to paint your property, you'll need to use breathable paint or, preferably, a limewash. To learn more about how to paint new plaster, take a look at our post.

Workability

Lime plaster is very workable - skilled plasterers love using it! When properly trained, a good plasterer can mould and shape this brilliant material to get a smooth, perfect finish.

Durability

Compared with cement render and plaster, lime plaster wins this contest easily. That's because it is soft and flexible, moving with the building as it shifts, whereas cement plaster is rigid and is vulnerable to cracking. There are lime plaster structures still standing after several hundred years, while cement has an expected lifespan of 100 years.

Eco-Friendly

In these environmentally conscious times, this is a big deal; it is carbon-neutral, drawing CO2 from the air as it sets; it only needs heating to 900ºc in the kiln, compared to cement, which is 1300ºc; it is biodegradable and can be recycled, and there are no toxic by-products in the manufacturing process.

Final Thoughts

While at first glance, lime plaster might seem a bit on the expensive side, the benefits are obvious. Of course, you may not be left with much choice if your house was originally made using lime plaster or lime mortar between the bricks or stones.

However, the alternative would be to use modern plasters, which is something that we would urge you to steer clear of! You will be setting yourself up for far more expense in the long term.

But lime plaster can also be an option in modern houses because of its excellent qualities, as shown above.

So, when you decide to take advantage of these benefits, contact Top Notch Walls for a consultation and to find out about our first-class plastering services. We don't only offer good advice; we will also deliver perfect results.

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