Friday, 4 January 2013

Internal lime plasterwork in Italian farmhouse

Internal lime plasterwork in Italian farmhouse

Over the last couple of weeks we carried out the application of the first coats of lime plastering in this farmhouse in the Italian countryside.The background was a mixture of stone work and rubble layed in lime mortar .The lime seems to have been made locally ,much of it can be seen to have large lumps of unmixed lime among the different aggregates some of which seem to have been sands and some of which were what  I imagine to be local clays /earth.The structure of the stonework itself although old and seemingly haphazard was constructerd as I have seen many times with  large stones and large mortar joints with small stones and brick used as infill in these joints.
We inspected the existing mix and although it would be good to get it analysed, there is no way we could replicate this exact mix so we used a lime putty and sand mix. I think the aim here was to try to apply a functional material, meaning that the plasterwork was compatable with a lime mortar background, flexible and breathable as well as being aesthetically pleasant.
We first applied a scatch coat to cover the whole area.We used a combination of the Italian method of throwing the mortar on the wall where the wall had big hollows and applying the material using the laying on trowel where the wall was flatter thereby doing our bit for European harmony and I like to think for world peace There was very little suction on the stonework so we waited some days for the mortar to harden/carbonate naturally.This was not really a huge problem since there was quite a large area to do.
After several days and a break to prune and feed some olive trees a new experience for a Londoner  we applied a second or float coat. We did not try to straighten the walls, mainly because they were impossible to plumb up(there is only so much lime and sand in the world) and also to respect  tradition .This was a canteen area where wine was made ,animals kept meat cured and a style of life lived for hundereds of years.We left the walls showing their shape and tried to keep things like nitches intact. We also left the old timber lintels exposed  We floated up the work using small hand made floats leaving it consolidated ready for a top  or stucco coat at a later date once the background has had a chance to carbonate
In the end the weather changed and fortunately we had finished what we had to do so we will return and put on the top coat later in the year


The old church serving a population of about 15

existing stonework  note the rubble infills

sharp sand and much better shovel no backache with this model 

mortar mix

First coat: note the two methods of application for different backgrounds
I should be made UN Secrectary General for my contribution to world peace

one for the stonemasons  

one for the plasterers

agricultural work

up you go

pruning  olive  trees 

If you look closely you can see the lumps of unmixed lime
in the existing mortar

application of scratch coat


scratch coat applied and left to harden

float coat applied and left for top or stucco coat

scratch coat

walls floated and timber lintels left exposed

thats the end of that as the weather changes

traditional vaulted ceiling over an open archway

we will be back when the weather changes

Lime plastering in Italy
This is a 300 year old property   in the Italian countryside (although in fairness nobody seems too certain, just that "it is very old ,who knows?") The ground floor has been used traditionally for keeping animals making wine and smoking meat.The existing plaster is a lime mortar and where possible it is being saved, altough it was in quite a bad state of repair.The lime was very possibly burnt and slaked locally, much of it had lumps of white improperly slaked lime.It had however lasted the test of time.There was a history of farmers in the uk burning lime and that was probably the case in rural Italy
Over the next couple of weeks we will make a start on applying a lime mortar,We intend to follow the contours of the stone and rubble walls and in a few places to float the walls to a true finish where appropriate
The existing mortar contained small regular sized twigs as we would use animal hair to bind the mortar.We will be using animal hair if we can find a decent supply

stone walls  note the existing lime plaster at the top of  the wall

brick infills built with lime mortar and poorly
covered with cement render
thats coming off

mixed backgroung with niche

area to be plastered

note the very unstable stonework on the right which must
be repaired before plastering