Is looking to the past key to our future?

Posted by Paul Looby on

How many times have we seen that the rush for ‘progress’ has resulted in disaster? 

Too many times for sure. We so often see that the so-called old methods or perhaps it is more accurate to refer to them as traditional methods, in many areas, farming being one, reduction in plastic consumption being another and decoration being another.

The debate around climate change and whether it exists or not rumbles onwards but at least we are seeing some positive movement, at least in terms of preserving the planet that we inhabit. 

In our business, eco credentials are really important and that has partially prompted me writing this blog article. 

Let me start by saying that we are a reseller of eco-friendly paint and finishing products, amongst those being a range of lime paints. 

Like most people, until fairly recently I was pretty ignorant of the downsides of the paint that I was using to decorate my home. We all see the adverts showing us lovely colours and we go to the big store and buy the paint that we have had marketed at us, without giving too much thought to what we may be ultimately doing. 

Over the past few years, I have been looking at natural finishes in more detail and what I have found is that there is little information being circulated about lime paint and lime plaster finishes but lots about latex paint for instance. Ironically, there is never any mention of the downsides of using latex paint on our walls in our homes. 

Lime paints, chalk paints and natural finishes have a long and rich history, perhaps most famously in what we can still see today from the Italian Masters such as Michaelangelo. 

That said, there is a strong tradition in Northern Europe and in Britain too, pink is often associated with Suffolk, for example, and vibrant orange with the Lothians. Impurities in early lime commonly produced off-white lime finishes, without additional pigments, not today’s startling white. 

Here in Bulgaria, there are many areas, perhaps mostly in the Rhodope mountains where lime finishes have been used for centuries and are still looking great. 

Why should we consider lime paint for our home decoration, internal and external? 

It is healthy;

Using the modern latex paint products basically gives us a room that is coated in a plastic finish. These rooms do not breathe and are not resistant to bacteria and mould (sound familiar?). 

Lime finishes especially cure by a process known as carbonation, they draw in the carbon dioxide that we breathe out and use that to harden. 

Due to their high alkalinity, lime paints are highly resistant to mould and bacteria. 

Importantly for old buildings, as many of us live in here in Bulgaria, lime finishing can also consolidate surfaces and, unlike with uniform synthetic coatings, provides attractive colour variations, especially after weathering. The alkalinity deters wood-boring beetles and helps sterilise walls. Being solvent free is another advantage. 

Have you ever wondered why so many people living in the city suffer from allergies? Especially in children, these manifestations are a real epidemic. I do believe that some of the reasons for this lie  in what we have built and furnished our homes with, because the widely available interior paints and furniture varnishes are based on chemical ingredients that highly pollute the air and emit harmful substances.

These are the so-called VOCs - volatile organic substances with a proven harmful long-term impact on our health. They cause rashes, difficulty breathing, dizziness, poor concentration, headaches.

It is durable;

Slaked lime products (cooked active lime stored in water for up to 2 years, thus becoming inactive lime) will carbonise with mineral surfaces and create a mineral bond that will continue to harden for decades.

The lifespan is far greater than the modern latex type finishes, typically in excess of 50 years.

Ready for a rustic finish?

We have been conditioned or marketed to so much that we are constantly looking for the ‘perfect’ uniform finish (we do offer chalk based wall paints too, for a uniform finish, a subject for another day). 

It is sometimes a huge leap of faith to consider a non-uniform or rustic finish. Indeed, when applying a lime finish for the first time, not being able to ‘see’ what the finish will look like before it is fully dry, can be daunting too. 

There are also stories that do the rounds about how difficult it can be to apply. My thoughts are that once we get past the idea of a uniform finish and buy into the rustic finish, there is great fun to be had. Modern lime paints and washes are not difficult to apply and of course, preparation is the key. A lime finish needs a mineral base to be applied before application. The steps are really not that different to those for more modern paints. 

Traditionally, colour matching has been an issue as the finishes were hand-made in batches, usually on site and to a general recipe. Thankfully, there are many manufacturers (Autentico included) out there who have taken this on board and have developed a consistent set of base materials and offer colours that can be replicated time and again. 

Now for the advertising bit, we offer two ranges of lime paints; Venice for indoors, available in 40 colours.  The Va Bella (also called Kalei) for external use. This is super-eco in that it comes in powder form, no water added prior to delivery, it comes in a 25kg package with a lime compatible pigment powder, which can all mixed together on site. 


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