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Ashurst, J. Technology and Use Hydraulic Lime. 1997

Ashurst, J. Technology and Use Hydraulic Lime. 1997

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Ashurst, J. Technology and Use Hydraulic Lime. 1997
Ashurst, J. Technology and Use Hydraulic Lime. 1997

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Published by: Trinidad Pasíes Arqueología-Conservación on Mar 10, 2011
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Tintern Abbey: Frank Baines, Architect incharge of Ancient Monuments andHistoric Buildings, specified in 1911 thatno cement was to be used on the face ofthe masonry, and that Blue Lias,Aberthaw or Arden Lime (moderately toeminently hydraulic limes) were to beused exclusively in the consolidation ofwall tops and facework.
The Technology and Use of Hydraulic Lime
John Ashurst 
The exclusive use of Portland Cement mortar can only indicate ignorance of the qualities of many natural hydraulic limes, and this want of knowledge is dearly paid for 
C Graham Smith, Stud Inst CE 'Engineering Papers', 1895As a nation, we have largely forgotten about hydraulic lime in our building industry. Therevival of interest in non-hydraulic lime putty which received its main stimulus frombuilding conservation and especially the great 'West Front' projects at Wells and Exeter inthe 1970s was not generally extended to hydraulic limes. We have largely deprivedourselves for some 50 years of a range of traditional 'setting' limes which were once thebackbone of masonry construction.Any treatise on mortar since the work of John Smeaton in the mid 18th century and untilthe 1950s, recognises the important role of hydraulic limes in the context of mortar andplaster. For certain types of work, these limes were the most appropriate material. Studyof pre-war texts on lime and cements is to be highly recommended as an antidote tosome of the 'all or nothing' modern attitudes to lime and cement, especially whensupported by site observation as a way of understanding the nature and use of hydrauliclimes.Lime is the traditional, ancient binding medium of masonry. Until the advent of artificialcements and especially the advent of Portland cement, lime was used almost exclusivelyand it has never entirely disappeared. Lime is classified according to its ability to setunder water, and a formal classification system was introduced by Louis Vicat (aneminent French civil engineer who researched hydraulic limes and cements in the courseof bridge and road building). As a result of his work, which was published in the 1830sand 1840s, limes which set under water are known as 'hydraulic' limes (formerly theywere known as 'water' limes). Their hydraulic characteristic is produced by 'impurities' ofsilica and clay in the limestone from which they are burnt.When limestones containing silica and clay are burned, the clay decomposes at between 400ºC to 600ºC and combinesat 950ºC to 1250ºC (the top end of the burning temperatures for hydraulic lime: sintering takes place at 1300ºC to1400ºC) with some of the lime, forming silicates and aluminates, especially tricalcium silicate and dicalcium aluminate.The lime produced consists of a mixture of quicklime (or 'freelime'), cementitious material and inert material such as silicaor uncombined clay. Such limes need to be slaked with enough water to convert the quicklime to calcium hydroxide, butnot so much that a chemical set begins. Burning and slaking procedures are thus more complex than those associatedwith the production of chalk or other 'pure' limes, but the materials produced are far more versatile.Under the general classification of 'hydraulic' are subdivisions suggested by Vicat and later generally adopted. Thesesubdivisions are important since they relate to the performance of each type. Table 1 shows the classification system withrelevant characteristics.The properties of the hydraulic limes depend on their composition and the burning and slaking specification, and it isessential that when hydraulic lime is to be used to know the facts. Thus, a supplier should make known chemical analysisand production data or so guarantee the purchaser against failure that such data is not required.The Table 1 categories of 'feebly', 'moderately' and 'eminently' hydraulic, which are 19th century in origin, weresometimes re-named in the 1930s to suit reduced availability and use. Thus, 'feebly hydraulic' became 'semi-hydraulic'and 'hydraulic' related almost exclusively to an eminently hydraulic Blue Lias lime.
Non-hydraulic to feebly hydraulic lime
 Non-hydraulic lime is available from over 40 suppliers (UK and the Republic of Ireland) in the form of putty and from mostbuilders merchants in the form of bagged hydrate. Bearing in mind the limitations of 'chalk' lime and the merits of 'stone'lime, much quoted in traditional sources, it is clear that care is needed in selection and specification. The source materialof well known limes such as Shillingstone and Totternhoe, Lewes and Dorking are, or were, all taken from the Chalk, butall were categorised as 'grey stone' or feebly hydraulic. These were the limes of much of 18th and 19th century buildingdevelopment. To use a feebly or non-hydraulic lime today is perfectly acceptable, but it must be remembered that what isnow available is not suited to exposures such as chimneys, copings, wall heads, weatherings, quoins or paving and mustThis article is reproduced from
The Building Conservation Directory 
 DArch RIBA EASA(Hon) was,at the time of writing, Directorof Resurgam, a division ofHutton+Rostron EnvironmentalInvestigations Limited.Sadly, Professor Ashurst diedin 2008
Further information
RELATED ARTICLESLime mortars and rendersRELATED PRODUCTS ANDSERVICESHydraulic limeLime plasterLime puttyLimewashMasonry services (stonemasons)Mortar toolsPointing with limePozzolanic additives Site Map © Cathedral CommunicationsLimited 2010 
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not be used anywhere during frost-prone months. Durability can be improved by the addition of pozzolanic material suchas low-fired, fine ground ceramic powder, but the general limitations described still apply, especially in northern or marineexposures.The great merit of mature putty lime is that it is often highly compatible with weakened, weathered stones and bricks, isable to accommodate minor building movement, tends to act sacrificially within the masonry face and is ideal inconsistency for pointing, face repair and plastering. In other words, it is often the perfect material for the conservator.Referral to traditional texts, recommended above, must be made with the context firmly in mind. Conservation of historicmasonry faces is not the subject of these traditional treatises. Non-hydraulic lime, as well as feebly hydraulic lime, canperform better than any other, in the right hands, for conservation, for many internal locations or for sheltered summerwork.Lime putty should be matured, in excess of one month, wet stored with aggregates or blended in a mortar mill withaggregates. In the absence of a mill, hand ramming and beating is the ancient and modern practice to produce the bestresults. Slow curing and humidity control are significant to the final performance.
Feebly to moderately hydraulic lime
 Building limes, and limes suited to more exposure than the last category, fall into this group. The famous limes producedfrom the lias formation, especially in the south of Britain where the stones are more calcareous than the north, gave theirname to hydraulic lime in the earlier part of this century, so that 'Blue Lias' became synonymous with 'hydraulic lime'. Theuseful deposits consist of clays and marls with prominent thin-bedded limestones. Blue Lias limestones have provided arange of hydraulicities due to the varying composition and the method of burning. The welcome return of a Blue Liassupply at Charlton Adam is currently in the form of a 'borderline', that is a lime at the high end of the feebly hydraulic andlow end of the moderately hydraulic.The tradition in Britain was always to slake hydraulic limes on site and differed in this way to continental practice. One ofthe most interesting and extensive uses of Blue Lias lime was in the conservation of HM Office of Works AncientMonuments and Historic Buildings. In 1911 Frank Baines, Architect in Charge, set out procedures which survived until theearly 1970s, when hydraulic lime ceased production in the UK altogether. A standard mix of two parts hydraulic lime tofive parts of well graded aggregate was recommended at this time. Blending and slaking were carried out together, in apit or metal bin, by putting in alternate layers of sand (5") and ground hydraulic lime (2"), watering the sand every timeand finally cutting through and mixing it by hand with a little additional water. The blended material was then heaped on aboarded platform, polished with the back of a shovel, and left overnight or for at least 12 hours until it was 'cool'. Slightexpansion of the slaking material took place during this time. Any material which had begun to stiffen was rejected.The damp sand method was adopted to avoid the over-watering associated with rose sprinkling, which was observed todestroy some hydraulicity. Lime needed to be freshly burned, although a certain amount of airslaking was not consideredharmful beyond retarding the setting.Whether or not the quick lime is slaked on the production line in a hydrating plant or partially slaked, or unslaked, must beabsolutely clear. The simplest method is to receive a dry, ground, slaked material. If this is not possible, slaking andpreparation to the 1911 procedures must be followed. Limes in this category tend to be pale buff to cream and arerelatively fat and workable. Properly mixed, placed and cured, they have great versatility, but should not be used in verydemanding exposures such as copings, chimneys and pavings. Their initial setting time varies between four and 12hours.
Moderately to eminently hydraulic limes
 Moderately to eminently hydraulic limes are not currently manufactured in the UK. Principal imports are from France,Switzerland and Italy. In the continental tradition, these limes have been burned, ground and slaked (hydrated). Theymay contain pozzolanic additives to bring them to a standard, such as cement (some French imports) or volcanic ash(some Italian imports). The popular conception, adding to their convenience, is that they are used in the same way ascement and may be used in all seasons. These ideas need to be qualified.The limes should have been dry stored and should not be in excess of six months old. Opened or damaged bags shouldbe rejected. Blending with aggregates and water should be by an air-entraining process. A spiral blade drum mixer or awhisk mixer are ideal. Ten to fifteen minutes mixing should be interrupted for five minutes to let the mix stand. Mostcritically, the aggregate must be very well graded. This grading requirement applies to all mortar and plaster and shouldbe along the lines recommended in BS 1198, 1199 and 1200 'Specifications for building sands from natural sources', forexample:
Per cent retained on BS sieve meshes
 2.36mm 10%1.18mm 20%600 micron 20%300 micron 20%150 micron 15%>150 micron 15%These limes are harsher to work than putty lime or feebly hydraulic lime. The practice of adding a trowel-full of putty to aidplasticity need not be ruled out, but is obviously difficult to specify and control. The inclusion of limestone, especially witha percentage of crushed chalk, will enhance plasticity and fatness.In common with other limes and in spite of the fact that these limes will set in water, slow curing, up to one week, isrecommended. Work must not take place when the temperature is 5ºC and falling.Moderately to eminently hydraulic limes have great versatility and may be used on copings, chimneys, weatherings andpavings, as well as for bedding ashlars, rubble and for plastering. Their relatively quick-setting property and earlyhardness must not be confused with superficially similar properties in cement. These limes retain good water vapourpermeability and the ability to accommodate movement. In view of these characteristics, coupled with salt and frost
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resistance, it is easy to see why these limes were extensively used in engineering works and have been prized sinceancient times.
LIME CLASSIFICATION Active ClayMaterialsSetting Timein Water Slaking Time ExpansionTypicalColours'FAT'
 (also described as'pure' or 'high calcium')<6%(typically <2%)no set (putty) very fast considerable white
<12%(typically <6%)no set (putty) fast large (eg x2) white off-white
('dolomitic') typically <10% no set (putty) very slow varies white off-white
<12% <20 days slow slight off-white,pale grey
12%-18% 15-20 days slow slight pale grey,pale buff
18%-25% 2-4 days very slow slight grey, darkgrey, brown
30%-40% 12 hours very slow slight light to verydark brown
* Based on DSIR Special Report No 9
Lime and Lime Mortars 
, 1927
LOUIS VICAT (1786-1861) introduced the term 'hydraulic lime' in place of the earlier term 'water lime' used by Smeatonet al, and classified limes according to their hydraulicity. The classification was widely accepted and is that used in thistable 
M1 M2 M3 M4 M5 M6 M7 M8 M9 M10Eminently HydraulicLime
1 1 1 ½
ModeratelyHydraulic Lime
1 1 1
Feebly HydraulicLime
1 1 1
Non-Hydraulic Lime
Brick Powder(reactive)
½ ½ ½ ½
Well graded SharpSand
1½ 2 2 1½ 2 2 ½ 2 2 1
Soft Sand
1/2 ½ ½ ½
Porous Limestoneor Brick Aggregate
½ 1 1½ ½ 1 1½ ½ 1 1½ 1
Mix (by volume)
1-2½ 1-3 1-4 1-2½ 1-3 1-4 1-2½ 1-3 1-4 1-3
 The mortar mixes shown in Table 2 are recommendations based on practice but, whilst conforming in general withsuppliers' recommendations, they should not be taken as literal for every circumstance. The point has already been madethat the selection of aggregate is of vital importance. Clean, well-graded, sharp sand is the backbone ingredient, whileother aggregates have important, but supportive roles.
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