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  • Writer's pictureMark Shepherd

Limewash Paint for the Natural Look

I had a client on Lake Sammamish who, among a lot over other work, wanted to figure out a way to cover up some old unsightly brick retaining walls. They are integral to holding up a tall bank and a 100-year-old Leland Cypress tree, so removing and replacing them was out of the question and not in the budget.

After considering various options, it seemed that painting them was the best solution. I had been reading about the use of limewash paint, made of hydraulic lime powder and water, often used to color and protect clay bricks,

limewash paint on brick walls
Brick walls, repaired and painted with colored lime wash paint.

Here is how the walls looked originally.

before repair and limewash

The owner didn't like the way it looked from the water as its bright orange color visually stole the show while the surface showed a lot of cracks and discoloration.

She asked that paint be colored to make it disappear in the landscape, and limewash is bright white, so I found some pigments to use in it. We decided to match the color of the house siding which already has a Clay Brown tone. This gives the affect of a bare hillside, though new plantings will also be chosen to cover it up as much as possible.

Lime wash paint has been used for centuries in Europe and elsewhere, having originally been extracted in seaside villages by cooking sea shells in kilns before later sourcing it from limestone quarries. The mud huts of pre-Industrial villages were painted with it, protecting the wall structures from weathering and decay. Likewise, the material has traditionally been used to protect brick work in modern architecture, though the practice has largely fallen out of use in the past 50 years.

Lime has a natural anti-microbial quality, and its protective shell is strengthened by regular reapplications. In this way it can always be kept looking fresh with a minimum of preparation, whereas modern latex and enamel paints need scraping and filling to be done before new coats are added, and they tend to peel when it comes to outdoor masonry. But lime just gets stronger with each added layer.

I'm fond of the ultra-flat texture of it and would love to have it as an interior paint in my house, and I will definitely keep recommending it to customers who are wanting a painted masonry surface in their hardscaping.


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