Materials and components

Explore information to help you better understand the traditional materials used in old buildings.

Tile Image: 

Clay plain-tiled roofs

Old roofs of clay plain tiles aren’t all the same. Old peg tiles had individuality and details varied locally. With care, their character can be maintained.

 

Decorative leadwork

Beaten, twisted, cut or cast, ornate designs bear out the skill and artistry of early craftsmen. And surviving examples are under threat.

 

Inappropriate cement pointing

The type of mortar that someone proposes for repointing joints in the walls of an old building is a good test of whether they should be working on such buildings at all. Douglas Kent, the SPAB Technical and Research Director, explains why - and what you do if an inappropriate cement mortar has been used.

French drains

French drains are not French, but are definitely drains, and sometimes useful ones at that! This article explains when they might be used to fight damp.

 

 

 

 

 

Limewash

Limewash is one of our most useful, beautiful and benign decorative finishes. In many ways it is the ideal choice for old buildings.

Lime or clay plaster

Historically, many building interiors were plastered with non-hydraulic lime, sand and hair (sometimes gauged with gypsum) or, alternatively, clay, a lime binder and reinforcement such as straw, concealed under a lime skim. Such plasters are applied directly to solid backings, such as masonry or cob, or flexible supports, including timber laths or reed.

Lime or clay plaster ceilings

Historically, many building interiors were plastered with non-hydraulic lime, sand and hair (sometimes gauged with gypsum) or, alternatively, clay, a lime binder and reinforcement such as straw, concealed under a lime skim. Such plasters are applied directly to solid backings, such as masonry or cob, or flexible supports, including timber laths or reed. Lime or clay plaster can have a more pleasing character as well as offer better internal comfort and sound insulation than substitutes widespread by the 20th century.

 

Paint

A good choice of paint is about more than just colour.

Roof maintenance

Lack of maintenance is a key reason why old buildings deteriorate. Maintenance essentially means preventing rainwater getting in where it can cause harm. Water is potentially most likely to enter through the roof, so putting right minor problems here before they worsen can avert the need for more extensive repair.

Lime

Lime was employed in the construction of nearly all old buildings in Britain. An understanding of this versatile natural material is fundamental to their conservative repair and long-term protection.