Lime mortar

Lime mortar

Overview
Lime mortar is a type of mortar
Mortar (masonry)
Mortar is a workable paste used to bind construction blocks together and fill the gaps between them. The blocks may be stone, brick, cinder blocks, etc. Mortar becomes hard when it sets, resulting in a rigid aggregate structure. Modern mortars are typically made from a mixture of sand, a binder...

 composed of lime and an aggregate
Construction Aggregate
Construction aggregate, or simply "aggregate", is a broad category of coarse particulate material used in construction, including sand, gravel, crushed stone, slag, recycled concrete and geosynthetic aggregates. Aggregates are the most mined material in the world...

 such as sand
Sand
Sand is a naturally occurring granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles.The composition of sand is highly variable, depending on the local rock sources and conditions, but the most common constituent of sand in inland continental settings and non-tropical coastal...

, mixed with water. It is one of the oldest known types of mortar, dating back to the 4th century BC and widely used in Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 and Greece
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

, when it largely replaced the clay
Clay
Clay is a general term including many combinations of one or more clay minerals with traces of metal oxides and organic matter. Geologic clay deposits are mostly composed of phyllosilicate minerals containing variable amounts of water trapped in the mineral structure.- Formation :Clay minerals...

 and gypsum
Gypsum
Gypsum is a very soft sulfate mineral composed of calcium sulfate dihydrate, with the chemical formula CaSO4·2H2O. It is found in alabaster, a decorative stone used in Ancient Egypt. It is the second softest mineral on the Mohs Hardness Scale...

 mortars common to Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

ian construction.

With the introduction of ordinary portland cement
Portland cement
Portland cement is the most common type of cement in general use around the world because it is a basic ingredient of concrete, mortar, stucco and most non-specialty grout...

 (OPC) during the 19th century the use of lime mortar in new constructions gradually declined, largely due to portland's ease of use, quick setting and compressive strength.
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Encyclopedia
Lime mortar is a type of mortar
Mortar (masonry)
Mortar is a workable paste used to bind construction blocks together and fill the gaps between them. The blocks may be stone, brick, cinder blocks, etc. Mortar becomes hard when it sets, resulting in a rigid aggregate structure. Modern mortars are typically made from a mixture of sand, a binder...

 composed of lime and an aggregate
Construction Aggregate
Construction aggregate, or simply "aggregate", is a broad category of coarse particulate material used in construction, including sand, gravel, crushed stone, slag, recycled concrete and geosynthetic aggregates. Aggregates are the most mined material in the world...

 such as sand
Sand
Sand is a naturally occurring granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles.The composition of sand is highly variable, depending on the local rock sources and conditions, but the most common constituent of sand in inland continental settings and non-tropical coastal...

, mixed with water. It is one of the oldest known types of mortar, dating back to the 4th century BC and widely used in Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 and Greece
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

, when it largely replaced the clay
Clay
Clay is a general term including many combinations of one or more clay minerals with traces of metal oxides and organic matter. Geologic clay deposits are mostly composed of phyllosilicate minerals containing variable amounts of water trapped in the mineral structure.- Formation :Clay minerals...

 and gypsum
Gypsum
Gypsum is a very soft sulfate mineral composed of calcium sulfate dihydrate, with the chemical formula CaSO4·2H2O. It is found in alabaster, a decorative stone used in Ancient Egypt. It is the second softest mineral on the Mohs Hardness Scale...

 mortars common to Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

ian construction.

With the introduction of ordinary portland cement
Portland cement
Portland cement is the most common type of cement in general use around the world because it is a basic ingredient of concrete, mortar, stucco and most non-specialty grout...

 (OPC) during the 19th century the use of lime mortar in new constructions gradually declined, largely due to portland's ease of use, quick setting and compressive strength. However the soft, porous properties of lime mortar provide certain advantages when working with softer building materials such as natural stone and terracotta. For this reason, while OPC continues to be commonly used in brick
Brick
A brick is a block of ceramic material used in masonry construction, usually laid using various kinds of mortar. It has been regarded as one of the longest lasting and strongest building materials used throughout history.-History:...

 and concrete
Concrete
Concrete is a composite construction material, composed of cement and other cementitious materials such as fly ash and slag cement, aggregate , water and chemical admixtures.The word concrete comes from the Latin word...

 construction, in the repair of older, stone-built structures and the restoration of historical buildings the use of OPC has largely been discredited.

Despite its enduring utility over many centuries, lime mortar's effectiveness as a building material has not been well understood; time-honoured practices were based on tradition, folklore and trade knowledge, vindicated by the vast number of old buildings that remain standing. Only during the last few decades has empirical testing provided a scientific understanding of its remarkable durability.

Uses


Lime mortar is used as an alternative to ordinary portland cement. It is made principally of lime (hydraulic, or non hydraulic), water and an aggregate such as sand.

Non-hydraulic and hydraulic


Hydraulic lime
Hydraulic lime
Hydraulic lime is a variety of lime, a slaked lime used to make lime mortar. Hydraulicity is the ability of lime to set under water. Hydraulic lime is produced by heating calcining limestone that contains clay and other impurities. Calcium reacts in the kiln with the clay minerals to produce...

s set under water, and non-hydraulic limes need air to carbonate and set.
For hydraulic lime mortars, the lime is obtained from lime stone containing impurities.
A non-hydraulic lime is produced from high purity calcium lime stones.

In the past, countless lime kilns all over countries such as Britain burnt lime stones of varying qualities - many of these lime stones containing impurities. The lime thus having varying degrees of hydraulicity, making them unsuitable for today’s industrial processes but due to its water resistancy suitable for building. Most of those kilns ceased production as portland cement gained widespread use replacing hydraulic lime. Today mainly non-hydraulic limes for lime plaster
Lime plaster
Lime plaster is type of plaster composed of hydrated lime, sand and water. Lime plaster is similar to Lime mortar, the main difference is the based on use rather than composition. Traditional lime plaster contains also horse hair to reinforce plaster....

s are produced and a very small number of kilns are still producing hydraulic lime for the building industry to standards which are now expected of any building material.

Non-hydraulic lime



Non-hydraulic lime is primarily composed of calcium hydroxide
Calcium hydroxide
Calcium hydroxide, traditionally called slaked lime, is an inorganic compound with the chemical formula Ca2. It is a colourless crystal or white powder and is obtained when calcium oxide is mixed, or "slaked" with water. It has many names including hydrated lime, builders lime, slack lime, cal, or...

 (generally greater than 95%).
Non-hydraulic lime is produced by first heating sufficiently pure limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

 (calcium carbonate) to between 954° and 1066°C, driving off carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

 to produce quicklime (or calcium oxide
Calcium oxide
Calcium oxide , commonly known as quicklime or burnt lime, is a widely used chemical compound. It is a white, caustic, alkaline crystalline solid at room temperature....

). This is done in a lime kiln. The quicklime is then slaked – thoroughly mixed with water to produce liquid slurry—the lime putty—or with less water to produce dry powder—a hydrated lime(or calcium hydroxide
Calcium hydroxide
Calcium hydroxide, traditionally called slaked lime, is an inorganic compound with the chemical formula Ca2. It is a colourless crystal or white powder and is obtained when calcium oxide is mixed, or "slaked" with water. It has many names including hydrated lime, builders lime, slack lime, cal, or...

).

The slaking process involved in creating a lime putty is an exothermic reaction which initially creates a liquid of a cream consistency. This is then matured for 2 to 3 months - depending upon environmental conditions - to allow time for it to condense and mature into a lime putty.

A matured lime putty is "thixotropic", meaning that when a lime putty is agitated it changes from a putty into a more liquid state. This aids its use for mortar
Mortar (masonry)
Mortar is a workable paste used to bind construction blocks together and fill the gaps between them. The blocks may be stone, brick, cinder blocks, etc. Mortar becomes hard when it sets, resulting in a rigid aggregate structure. Modern mortars are typically made from a mixture of sand, a binder...

s as it makes a mortar easier to work with. If left to stand following agitation a lime putty will slowly revert from a thick liquid back to a putty state. It is advised that a lime mortar should be "knocked up" prior to its use.

As well as calcium based limestone, dolomitic limes can be produced which are based on calcium magnesium carbonate.

A frequent source of confusion regarding lime mortar stems from the similarity of the terms hydraulic and hydrated.
  • Hydrated lime is any lime other than quicklime, and can refer to either hydraulic (hardens underwater) or non-hydraulic (doesn't harden underwater) lime.
  • Stored lime putty is always non-hydraulic (since hydraulic putty sets quickly after mixing) and, as the name suggests, lime putty is in the form of a putty
    Putty
    Putty is a generic term for a plastic material similar in texture to clay or dough typically used in domestic construction and repair as a sealant or filler. Painter's Putty is typically a linseed oil based product used for filling holes, minor cracks and defacements in wood only...

     made from just lime and water.


If the quicklime is slaked with an excess of water then putty or slurry is produced. If less water is used, then the result is a dry material (any excess water escaping as steam during heating). This is ground to make hydrated lime.

Hydrated non-hydraulic lime can be mixed with water to form lime putty. Before use it is usually left in the absence of carbon dioxide (usually under water) to mature. Putty can be matured for 24 hours to many years, with an increased maturation time improving the quality of the putty. There is an argument that a lime putty which has been matured for an extended period (over 12 months) becomes so stiff that it is less workable.

There is some dispute as to the comparative quality of putty formed from hydrated lime compared to that produced as putty at the time of slaking. It is generally agreed that the latter is preferable. A hydrated lime will produce a material which is not as "fatty" and often due to lengthy and poor storage, the resulting lime produced by hydrated lime will exhibit longer carbonation periods as well as lower compressive strengths.

Mix


Traditional lime mortar is a combination of lime putty and aggregate
Construction Aggregate
Construction aggregate, or simply "aggregate", is a broad category of coarse particulate material used in construction, including sand, gravel, crushed stone, slag, recycled concrete and geosynthetic aggregates. Aggregates are the most mined material in the world...

 (usually sand). A typical modern lime mortar mix would be 1 part lime putty to 3 parts washed, well graded, sharp sand. Other materials have been used as aggregate instead of sand. The theory is that the voids of empty space between the sand particles account for a 1/3 of the volume of the sand. The lime putty when mixed at a 1 to 3 ratio, fill these voids to create a compact mortar. Analysis of mortar samples from historic buildings typically indicates a higher ratio of around 1 part lime to 2 part aggregate/sand was commonly used. A traditional coarse plaster mix also had horse hair added for reinforcing and control of shrinkage, important when plastering to wooden laths and for base (or dubbing) coats onto uneven surfaces such as stone walls where the mortar is often applied in thicker coats to compensate for the irregular surface levels.

If shrinkage and cracking of the lime mortar does occur this can be as a result of either
  • The sand being poorly graded or with a particle size that is too small
  • The mortar being applied too thickly (Thicker coats increase the possibility of shrinkage, cracking and slumping)
  • Too much suction from the substrate
  • High air temperatures or direct sunlight which force dry the mortar
  • High water content in the lime mortar mix
  • Poor quality or unmatured lime putty


Pozzolan
Pozzolan
A pozzolan is a material which, when combined with calcium hydroxide, exhibits cementitious properties. Pozzolans are commonly used as an addition to Portland cement concrete mixtures to increase the long-term strength and other material properties of Portland cement concrete, and in some cases...

s can be added to the mix of lime mortar. These are substances which when combined with lime produce a hydraulic (cementitious) set. They include powdered brick, heat treated clay, silica fume
Silica fume
Silica fume, also known as microsilica, is a fine-grain, thin, and very high surface area silica.It is sometimes confused with fumed silica and colloidal silica...

, fly ash
Fly ash
Fly ash is one of the residues generated in combustion, and comprises the fine particles that rise with the flue gases. Ash which does not rise is termed bottom ash. In an industrial context, fly ash usually refers to ash produced during combustion of coal...

, and volcanic materials. The chemical set imparted ranges from very weak to almost as strong as Portland cement.

Setting


Non-hydraulic lime mortar sets/hardens by reaction with atmospheric carbon dioxide (commonly called 'carbonation
Carbonation
Carbonation is the process of dissolving carbon dioxide in water. The process usually involves carbon dioxide under high pressure. When the pressure is reduced, the carbon dioxide is released from the solution as small bubbles, which cause the solution to "fizz." This effect is seen in carbonated...

'). This is in contrast to the setting of portland cement
Portland cement
Portland cement is the most common type of cement in general use around the world because it is a basic ingredient of concrete, mortar, stucco and most non-specialty grout...

 and hydraulic lime which sets by reaction with water in the mix.

The reaction with carbon dioxide produces calcium carbonate – the raw material used at the start of the process to create lime. This process is much slower than that in Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC); depending on the thickness of the mortar and climate conditions, an initial skin hardening may take from a couple of hours to several days to gain an initial hardness. This tends to delay construction progress.

Although the setting process can be slow, the drying time of a lime mortar must be regulated at a steady rate to ensure a good final set. A rapidly dried lime mortar will result in a low-strength, poor-quality final mortar often displaying shrinkage cracks. In practice, lime mortars are often protected with damp hessian sheeting or sprayed with water to control the drying rates.

The full drying and hardening of the thickness process can continue, albeit at a slower rate, for many years with the mortar continuing to gain strength.

One of the advantages of lime mortar is that in the event of cracking, mortar deeper in the join is exposed and reacts with the air to crystallise and bond across the crack, reducing the loss of strength.

When a stronger lime mortar is required, such as for external or structural purposes, a pozzolan can be added, which improves its compressive strength and helps to protect it from weathering damage. This can also assist in creating more regulated setting times of the mortar as the pozzolan will create a hydraulic set, which can be of benefit in restoration projects when time scales and ultimately costs need to be monitored and maintained.

Properties


Lime mortar is not as strong in compression as OPC mortar, but both are sufficiently strong for construction of non-high-rise domestic properties.

Lime mortar does not adhere as strongly to masonry as OPC. This is an advantage with softer types of masonry, where use of cement in many cases eventually results in cement pulling away some masonry material when it reaches the end of its life.
  • Under cracking conditions, OPC breaks, whereas lime often produces numerous microcracks if the amount of movement is small. These microcracks then recrystallise on exposure to air, effectively self-healing.
  • Historic buildings are frequently constructed with relatively soft masonry units (e.g. soft brick and many types of stone), and minor movement in such buildings is quite common due to the nature of the foundations. This movement breaks the weakest part of the wall, and with OPC mortar this is usually the masonry. When lime mortar is used, the lime is the weaker element, and the mortar cracks in preference to the masonry. This results in much less damage, and is relatively simple to repair.
  • Scrapped lime mortar is simply chalk and sand, which are normal constituents of soil. Cement mortar on the other hand presents a disposal issue.
  • Lime mortar is more porous than cement mortars, and it wicks any dampness in the wall to the surface where it evaporates. Thus any salt content in the water crystallises on the lime, damaging the lime and thus saving the masonry. Cement on the other hand evaporates water less than soft brick, so damp issues are liable to cause salt formation on brick surfaces and consequent disintegration of bricks. This damp evaporation ability is widely referred to as 'breathability'.


Usually any dampness in the wall will cause the lime mortar to change colour, indicating the presence of moisture. The effect will create an often mottled appearance of a limewashed wall. As the moisture levels within a wall alter, so will the shade of a limewash. The darker the shade of limewash, the more pronounced this effect will become.

A load of mixed lime mortar may be allowed to sit as a lump for some time, without it drying out (it may get a thin crust). When ready to use, this lump may be remixed ('knocked up') again and then used. Traditionally on building sites, prior to the use of mechanical mixers, the lime putty (slaked on site in a pit) was mixed with sand by a labourer who would "beat and ram" the mix with a "larry" (a wide hoe with large holes). This was then covered with sand and allowed to sit for a while (from days to weeks) - a process known as 'banking'. This lump was then remixed and used as necessary. This process cannot be done with OPC.

Hydraulic lime



In the context of lime or cement, the term 'hydraulic' means to 'harden under water'. Hydraulic lime can be considered, in terms both of properties and manufacture, as part-way between non-hydraulic lime and OPC. The limestone used contains sufficient quantities of clay
Clay
Clay is a general term including many combinations of one or more clay minerals with traces of metal oxides and organic matter. Geologic clay deposits are mostly composed of phyllosilicate minerals containing variable amounts of water trapped in the mineral structure.- Formation :Clay minerals...

 and/or silica. The resultant product will contain dicalcium silicate
Belite
Belite is an industrial mineral important in Portland cement manufacture, a name for dicalcium silicate, Ca2SiO4, sometimes formulated as 2 CaO · SiO2 ....

 but unlike OPC not tricalcium silicate
Alite
Alite is a name for tricalcium silicate, Ca3SiO5, sometimes formulated as 3CaO·SiO2 . It is the major, and characteristic, mineral phase in Portland cement. The name was given by Törneborn in 1897 to a crystal identified in microscopic investigation of Portland cement...

.

It is slaked enough to convert the calcium oxide to calcium hydroxide but not with sufficient water to react with the dicalcium silicate. It is this dicalcium silicate which in combination with water provides the setting properties of hydraulic lime.

Aluminium and magnesium also produce a hydraulic set, and some pozzolans contain these elements.

There are three strength grades for natural hydraulic lime, laid down in the European Norm EN459; NHL2, NHL3.5 and NHL5. These are similar to the old classification of feebly hydraulic, moderately hydraulic and eminently hydraulic, and although different, some people continue to refer to them interchangeably.

Lime with cement



Addition of lime to cement
Cement
In the most general sense of the word, a cement is a binder, a substance that sets and hardens independently, and can bind other materials together. The word "cement" traces to the Romans, who used the term opus caementicium to describe masonry resembling modern concrete that was made from crushed...

 mortar
Mortar
Mortar has several meanings:* Mortar , material used in masonry to fill the gaps between blocks and bind them together.* Mortar fires shells at a much lower velocity and higher ballistic arc than other ordnance....

 makes the mixture thicker and stickier while wet. Addition of cement to lime mortar acts as a pozzolan
Pozzolan
A pozzolan is a material which, when combined with calcium hydroxide, exhibits cementitious properties. Pozzolans are commonly used as an addition to Portland cement concrete mixtures to increase the long-term strength and other material properties of Portland cement concrete, and in some cases...

giving some degree of quick set, but this comes at a price, and is not recommended.

Three cement & lime mixes have been widely used.
  • 1:1:6 is a satisfactory mortar mix for various purposes, but behaves as cement based mortar.
  • 1:2:9 has been found to be prone to premature failure, and is no longer recommended
  • 3:1 + 5% cement makes a lime mortar that firms up quickly, avoiding delays to work, but the addition of cement has been found to be associated with premature failures, and the practice is no longer recommended.


1:2:9 and 1:1:6 are frequently mistaken for lime mortars, but are considered cement mortars, as although they contain substantial amounts of lime, their properties are primarily those of cement mortar.
1:1:4 ( lime + O.P.C + sand ) is the usual mix for the experienced builder. NOTE this calculation is based on weight NOT volume.

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