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Breathable Paints for Traditional Houses.

Breathable Paints for Traditional Houses.

5th Mar 2018

Using the wrong paint for old buildings will not only cost you time and money but may also cause long term damage to the building.  As damp is a common problem for traditional houses, breathable paints are a far better alternative to damp proofing paints.

Modern damp proofing products create a barrier to water penetration, in the short term this may appear to work well. In the long term this will compound the problem as buildings naturally move thermally and structurally. The movement eventually cracks the damp proofing barrier and allows water in and keeps the water captive which causes blistering.  

So why are breathable paints better?

Breathable paints have been used since the 19th Century, which makes them ideal for traditional historical houses.

Breathable paints will allow free movement of water through the buildings structure. It may not solve or get rid of your damp problems, but it will not cause long term damage to your property.  

Paints can work in two ways, they can soak into the wall and bond to it or they can create a layer / skin which will stick to the wall. Earthborn claypaints tend to soak into the wall and Earthborn silicate masonry exterior paint tend to bond to the wall.

Case Study: We helped renovate this Listed Victorian Cemetery Lodge (opens in new tab)

So how can you tell what is a good breathable paint? Paints have a Sd value which is a measure of Water Vapour Permeability.  Earthborn Silicate Masonry for example has a Sd value of 0.06m, for severe damp houses the recommended Sd value is 0.05m or more.

Why are Claypaints particularly good for traditional houses?

Clay paints are breathable and will absorb moisture. This paint has excellent coverage and will cover old lime plastered walls well.  You may think you are limited by choice of colour by choosing to work with Clay paint. This is a myth, there is a huge range of colours to choose from.

Now available are earthborn pigments which are perfect to mix your own colour with a Clay paint or Silicate Paint. Pigments are also perfect if you want something unique and different in your home, you can experiment with different effect. 

So how much more will it cost me to use clay paint?

Clay paint may cost you more in the short term, in the long term you will not need to redecorate as often. As clay paint is so thick the coverage is excellent which means fewer coats need to be applied. covering approximately 8-10m² per Litre (Dependant on substrate and porosity.) Unlike conventional paints, earthborn Claypaint states it's ingredients, so you can make an informed decision to buy a true eco-friendly paint. It's virtually VOC Free and is also odour and acrylic free making it suitable for allergy and asthma sufferers. 

Update 2020

Since this article we have continued to grow and now offer a large range of suitable paints for lime walls:

Breathable paint for lime plaster

Breathable paint for lime render