Tadelakt Instructions

What is tadelakt?

Tadelakt is - lime render that is:

  • Troweled smooth
  • Consolidated and polished with a polishing stone
  • Made waterproof by painting on olive oil soap

The oldest alternative to glazed tiles?
A lime render finish originating in Morrocco, believed to 4000 years old originally used as: a finish to steam rooms and bathrooms, to waterproof earthen cisterns for the hygienic storage of drinking water and also used by Romans in the baths - it is possibly the oldest alternative to tiles.

Though impermeable to water it is permeable to air therefore allowing walls to breathe. Adding a  pigment provides colour to gives a natural beauty. 

Tadelakt - hard as stone yet soft as silk

tadelakt bath
Avoiding the need for tiles, a tadelakt shower.

To save time the shower enclosure above was just plastered with lime plaster and treated with three coats of olive oil soap to make waterproof. It was not polished with a stone but 1 year in is still waterproof.

Tadelakt Instructions

Do we need tadelakt instructions?

The translation of Tadelakt means to: rub in or caress!

Tadelakt instructions

Tadelakt though by definition is a process that you go through to make the surface waterproof - troweling the lime plaster smooth and then polishing with a stone and olive oil soap. The olive oil soap combines with the lime to make a waterproof surface. 

How this process is carried out can vary but the fundamental priciples are to:

  • Ensure there is a proper key to ensure the lime will adhere to the background
  • Control the suction to ensure adherance and avoid excessive drying
  • Use adequate aggregate to help minimise shrinkage, but not too much that strength is compromised
  • tighten in and consolidate during the hardening process
  • further compress and burnish with olive oil soap to provide a hydrophobic surface
  • get all these right and you will have a surface that is impermeable to water - but not air

As with all lime plasters it can better to gain an understanding of the materials being used and know what will be most suitable or practical for the particular project. Once the principles are understood and the lime can be 'read' then the challenge of tadelakt can begin. But once you understand it, tadelakt can become a game that you get better at the more you play it!

Tadelakt Bath

tadelakt bath

Tadelakt Shower

tadelakt lime finish

History of Lime finishes in gerneral

Sometimes an aggregate was used in top finish coats sometimes not. Sometimes hair was used - some will say it was never used in top coats but restoration work on historic buildings unveils a building trade using methods in the past that varied widely from area to area. There were no national builders merchants providing the same materials in Scotland and Cornwall as there is today - builders and plasterer's used what was available in their local area, with methods suited to these materials.

The many different methods that all work can be in part attributed to the fact that Lime cannot be compared to the standardised gypsum plaster or cement of today; there are different types and strengths of lime and therefore many variables before you even begin to consider the drying / setting time issues that lime can present.

If we just want to follow instructions then perhaps the standardised and predictable cement & gypsum plaster would be best!

If you want a challenge then tadelakt!

The Burnishing Process

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Before & After Tadelakt Photo's

background tadelakt

A variety of backgrounds

tadelakt apply

Tadelakt being applied

tadelakt floated

Tadelakt floated ready for burnishing

tadelakt floor

Red Ochre pigment used for floor