Why Does Edinburgh and Lothians Stonemasons Only Use Lime Mortars for Lime Pointing?
Any building or structure built more than 100 years ago in Edinburgh would have almost certainly been built using a lime mortar for lime pointing. Lime has been used as a binder back to Roman times and this is for good reason. To say it is a time proven product would be something of an understatement.
Many or most of our historical structures have very little in the way of foundations unlike today. Foundations of yesteryear where typically large flat stones laid directly onto the earth andpointed with a lime mortar. As you might imagine, this could lead to a fair wee bit of settlement within the masonry pieces and this is where the use of lime mortar and lime pointing becomes important as the lime mortar is very flexible and can withstand this movement.
Lime mortar used for pointing is also very much more stone-like in the way it behaves in freeze-thaw cycles, and very much moves with the host masonry. It also has a great deal of breathability that cement does not, allowing moisture to exit through the mortar as the building was designed to do.
Examples of Lime Mortar Work:
Properly selected mortar for lime pointing should be slightly softer than the masonry to be pointed, so as in the cases of the pointing being forced out by very extreme temperatures etc, it will not damage the stone as it does so. Cement mixes are far too hard for this purpose, among many other reasons not to use it.
It is sad to see many fine buildings in Edinburgh, Fife and the Lothians and beyond pointed in unsightly, brittle cement mortars. This will in time adversely affect the structure, possibly beyond repair.
The only reason I can think of for the continued use of cement is one of cost. At the time of writing a bag of cement costs around £5, while a bag of lime costs around £20. The cost of lime mortar material is only a slight consideration for say a pointing job, and is surely worth the cost of upgrading to lime. We Only Ever Use Lime Mortars For Building Works, Pointing and Stone Repair.
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