Sunday, 9 May 2010

The joys of Limewash

As you can see, my husband is having to be very Heath Robinson in his approach to painting the bits wot he can't reach . . . using a little short-headed long-handled broom that his mum used to use for getting cobwebs down in the stair well.

If you have an old house, the idea is to let walls breath. We spent a lot of time and money doing just that when restoring this house. I am now on touching-up the lime-washed walls where they have become weathered. I hate lime-washing. Even more, I hate having to mix the perishing stuff. We had a tub half-full of lime-wash with tallow in, left over from the restoration work. It had lived inside the house and kept well but of course, was a thick cheesy lump of lime with water on the top . . . I spent an hour or more yesterday, stirring it with a trowel to combine the two elements. Then I had to try and get an exact match for what is already on the walls, using the last of the powdered yellow ochre pigment we had. We do have another pack which we brought recently when we went to Ty Mawr Lime in Brecon, but as it's imported from a different site in Africa, we didn't know how good a match we could get with it (it looked rather beigey on the colour chart).

Anyway, I was lucky and got EXACTLY the colour I needed for the front of the house, using the last of the original ochre, having figured out that it is the front of the house you see first when you arrive, so that daren't be a patchwork effect. Of course, before you can paint, you have to prepare the wall, which because we live in We(s)t Wales means removing the accumulated moss from the bottom of the walls with a wire brush. As OH is braving the scaffolding, I of course get to do everything at ground level. All I can say is, all this hard unrelenting work (which we couldn't start until April when things warmed up a little, inside and out) is like banging my head against a brick wall and I am going to be absolutely FLOATING when I finally lay down my paintbrush!

I will give a word of warning here, about pigments and lime-wash. They take ages to mix in. They don't appear to be adding much colour at all, then you add some more and then, whoomph, you have a paint which looks like Turmeric and not at all the yellow you need . . . And so it came to pass with the 2nd mix yesterday - which is for the end wall overlooking the paddock. I tried a little test patch and it was obviously too dark though it dried much lighter than it went on. There was an absolute beard of moss at the bottom of the wall too, which took some shifting.

We did have another bucket of lime, but this had lived outside (though under cover) and had set solid. OH had added water to it a few weeks back and let it stand. I had no alternative but to try and lighten the yellow with some of this spoilt lime. It took me ten minutes of struggling to dig out piffling little amounts of lime from the 4" of water on the top, draining it a little in a frizbee with a broken side, and adding it to my yellow bin, before I realized life would be much easier if I poured the water off . . . I didn't want to add too much more water to my mix, so I went in search of a sieve.

We live on a quiet little lane and don't have many cars passing by. Why should it be that just when I am labouring (obviously bra-less!!!) at my front gate, with an old metal kitchen sieve, a large metal salad spoon and a large quantity of soggy old lime, that the world and his wife should start driving past? I didn't have my glasses on so couldn't see who it was, but several cars waved at me so they must, horror, KNOW me!!! My reputation for being the village eccentric has doubtless risen greatly overnight . . .


  1. This lime-wash thing sounds grim! I suspect it isn't a mix which is much used here, except in restoration work [?] We have on several occasions needed to touch up interior paint prior to a sale and we always forget which shade of off-white was originally used.
    As for being "seen" while less than properly attired, it never fails! I'm not one to flop about in a robe in the morning even though I may not get decently washed and dressed if I have some outside work to do.
    But let there be the one morning in months that I'm in dishabile and someone will come to the door. [And suddenly one feels like a slattern!]
    We can only hope that all this hard work pays off with a good sale--and soon--so that if you're going to move it isn't done in the middle of the winter!

  2. It sounds a major job, is this still with the intention of selling the house?

  3. dubgirl - oh yes, damnty sure I wouldn't be doing it otherwise!!! Did another 5 hours painting on the back of the house today - masonry paint - and it goes on better on stonework than it does on pebbly render.

    MM - the limewash, when I was doing rooms inside, had to be really thin and about 8 coats applied to build it up. Put it on too thick and it cracks on drying. I hate the stuff, but it's what old houses need. Having said that, we are weatherproofing the back wall which faces West and gets all the weather (as in RAIN!) as not much limewash left on it.

  4. Oooh house painting.... my least favourite job! I have to say though that I LOVE the colour of your window frames! You won't find it any drier on Dartmoor ;)

  5. That does look a long way up! You will both have very stiff necks before you have finished. I like the yellowy cream of the limewash. A lovely fresh colour.

  6. DW - that's the non-limewash on the gable wall (County Cream by Dulux). Think of the front wall of our house, and the lime-wash is that muted yellow colour, not too dissimilar to the Dulux paint.

    DB - Dartmoor rain doesn't bother me too much, as just to be back near by roots would compensate. Despite living in Wales nearly a generation, it isn't where I belong . . .