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The Enduring Strength of Lime Plaster


Lime plaster, a traditional mainstay in building construction, is often subject to misconceptions. Many people assume that a hollow sound in lime plaster is an automatic indicator of the need for replacement. This post aims to dispel such myths, shedding light on the real indicators of lime plaster's condition and emphasizing its inherent durability.

Rethinking the Hollow Sound:

While a hollow echo in lime plaster, particularly on walls, might suggest that the plaster has partially failed, it doesn't always signal an immediate need for replacement. Interestingly, the resilience of lime plaster often comes down to how well it's haired. A good mix of hair in the plaster can hold it together impressively, even if parts of the plaster become loose. This remarkable cohesion means that well-haired lime plaster might continue to adhere for a long time, proving to be surprisingly difficult to remove. Hence, a hollow sound should prompt inspection, not immediate alarm.

Understanding Lime Plaster’s Durability:

The key to lime plaster's longevity is the quality of hair reinforcement mixed into it. Hair adds strength and flexibility, enabling the plaster to endure minor environmental shifts and impacts over extended periods. This resilience makes well-haired lime plaster a durable choice that can remain functional for many years.

Ceiling Plaster and Nibs:

The integrity of ceiling plaster, however, demands closer attention. Lime plaster on ceilings is secured by 'nibs' - small bits of plaster pushed through the lath, creating a mushroom-like anchor. If these nibs are compromised, the plaster might start detaching, which poses a safety hazard. Regular visual inspections are crucial to identify any potential issues with ceiling plaster.

When to Call a Professional:

Visible detachment, especially in ceiling plaster, is a clear sign to seek professional help. This situation, possibly indicating broken nibs, calls for immediate expert assessment and repair. As an experienced traditional plasterer, I can provide such services. Alternatively, consulting a local professional skilled in traditional plastering is recommended.


The misconception that a hollow sound in lime plaster equates to failure overlooks the material's inherent strength, particularly when well-haired. While lime plaster is robust and enduring, vigilance is key, especially with ceiling plaster. If you notice any signs of detachment or compromise, don't hesitate to contact a professional for an assessment and necessary repairs. With the right care, lime plaster can continue doing it's job for centuries.

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