Lime Works

By Patrick McAfee

Review by Stafford Holmes (July 2010)

The adage that “to find the right answer you must first ask the right question” springs to mind when opening this masterly work. Those who already use building limes, and many in the building industry who do not, know only too well the difficulty of answering questions about why lime works.

The genius of this book is not only in identifying the right questions, but also relating them to typical groups who will benefit from a particular response tailored to their needs, and giving these with clarity.

Typical questions often asked by home owners, contractors, craftsmen and specifiers are brought into sharp focus. The answers given are clear and authoritative. In addition to dealing with many universal queries about building limes the traditions of lime in Irish vernacular and local construction have an important place.

This is as it should be in a book written by Patrick McAfee and sponsored by the Building Limes Forum Ireland. The book provides a fascinating insight into the building materials and methods used in the past and increasingly for the lime revival now taking place in Ireland.

One of the delights of using lime is the rediscovery of skills and practical cost-effective solutions used for construction in the past and which remain appropriate today. Patrick’s extensive knowledge and experience, together with support from his friends in the Building Limes Forum have captured the spirit and enjoyment of this rediscovery for all to appreciate. It is a considerable achievement to combine this understanding with well illustrated practical advice.

Part 1, The Building Owner, gives a range of basic answers which are helpful to those finding out about lime for the first time. A typical example of the depth and breadth of advice given is shown in this section. It ranges from answering “what is lime?” including the root meaning of cloch aoill or limestone to explaining dóib bhuí or yellow daub in response to a query about original basement plaster.

Part 2, Practitioners, is a masterclass on stonemasonry, brickwork, plasterwork and limewashing. This section includes a combination of photographs, illustrations and text that leave the reader in no doubt about the meaning of good practice.

Typical of the attention to detail are the drawings and descriptions of the differences between wigging, tuck pointing used in Dublin, English style tuck pointing and double-struck pointing together with clear guidance on the procedures for carrying these out.

Part 3, The Specifier, has up-to-date facts on the rapidly developing lime industry and changing standards together with summaries of technical and specialist information. These include a concise table outlining lime mortar types and mixes, County Donegal eavestone details, hot lime mortar, Famine Wall repairs, site quality control and advice notes to builders.

This majestic epistle is completed with a glossary, bibliography and index.

A thoroughly useful and clearly illustrated practical work of reference which deserves to be on every library bookshelf. An Irish gem.

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