Eco friendly wall finishes are everywhere this year. We spoke to the experts to discover the four best eco-friendly wall finishes out there, their pros and cons, and where and how to use them.
Unlike many paints, limewash is a great sustainable choice as it is not made from synthetic chemicals, which can be less healthy for the environment; instead, it is a mixture of natural clays, minerals and pigments. The result is a surface that’s infused with colour and free from solvents and toxins.
While many paints prevent the breathability of walls, limewash works in harmony with building materials such as stone and brick. It also makes our homes healthier: it boosts air quality by reducing the risk of damp and has anti-allergenic and antibacterial properties.
Beware: not all limewash products are created equal. For example, some are hybrids (usually mixed with acrylics) while others are available in a limited colour palette. If you want a fully eco-friendly option, look for a product made from all natural ingredients.
‘Not only is our limewash made from renewable materials, but our production process uses very little energy and is powered entirely using green energy sources,’ explains Bronwyn Riedel, co-founder of Bauwerk Colour. Plus, when it comes to finding the right shade, the world is your oyster: Bauwerk Colour has 400 to choose from.
Bauwerk Colour limewash can be used on all masonry surfaces, but it’s not suitable for metal or wood. Expect to pay from £27 for 1ltr.
Tadelakt, a Moroccan plaster, is an ancient solution to our modern need for sustainable interiors. A plaster made of hydraulic lime sealed with olive soap, tadelakt is an ancient solution to our modern need for sustainable interiors. It’s been used for thousands of years in Morocco, and is now becoming popular further afield thanks to its low impact on the environment.
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No harsh chemicals are used in the application of tadelakt, and its smooth, water- and mould-resistant finish means it’s perfect for bathrooms, wet rooms, kitchens and splashbacks… in fact, anywhere in your home where there’s water.
A word of warning: tadelakt is prone to stains. ‘This is especially true if it’s used on horizontal surfaces such as shelves, bath surrounds and vanity units,’ explains Valentin Tatanov of Tadelakt London. ‘Specific water-based stain protectors can be used to minimise this effect, but in general don’t allow products like toothpaste, perfumes and oils to dry or absorb into its surface.’ Clean it with water – you won’t need harsh chemicals – adding an olive soap solution for the bathroom to improve its water-repellent qualities.
It’s not necessary to call on an expert to apply tadelakt, but Valentin recommends it, as the ingredients need to be mixed correctly to prevent cracks. ‘Small cracks are repairable, but if they’re much larger, then that section of wall will need to be replastered,’ he says.Prices for supply and install start at £150sq m at Tadelakt London.
Stronger than regular cement-based mixtures and suitable for just about any surface, microcement is becoming increasingly more eco-friendly. It’s a blend of cement, fine aggregates and polymers, along with a waterproof sealant that makes it ideal for kitchens and bathrooms. It also creates a joint-free finish that’s super-easy to clean.
It’s long-lasting, making it a good choice for your pocket and the earth. ‘Like all cement products, a lot of energy is used to make microcement, but once it’s installed, it will last indefinitely,’ explains Andrew Cooke, founder of AC Polished Plaster. ‘There’s also very little waste created during the application. And once it’s applied, no volatile emissions are emitted.’
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Microcement also has a lower carbon footprint. ‘Tiles, marble and other traditional finishes are heavy and come with a larger CO2 cost when it comes to transporting them,’ explains Julian Prieto, co-founder and head designer at Edge2 Properties. ‘This finish is lighter, and therefore it has a much lower CO2 cost.’
The secret to success with microcement is to make sure the substrate – the underlying layer – is firm and won’t move or crack. It’s best to get a professional to handle this. Andrew Cooke recommends getting a sample board made before you proceed, as there are many application techniques to choose from. Microcement from AC Polished Plaster starts at around £90sq m.
It’s easy to think that modern building materials must be best – after all, aren’t they at the forefront of innovation? But with many releasing pollutants and creating harmful waste, it’s time to look to more traditional solutions that offer the appearance we want without the cost to the environment. Cornish manufacturer Clayworks is leading the way with clay plaster, a wall finish made from readily abundant natural materials including mineral pigments in hundreds of colours.
No synthetics, toxins, glues or paints are added to clay plaster, meaning it’s free from formaldehydes and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). ‘The health benefits are obvious and the lack of any noxious substances allows waste to be composted,’ says Clare Whitney of Clayworks. ‘Zero waste means fewer carbon emissions.’
Clay plaster is also a no-brainer from a design perspective. You can use it almost anywhere in the home – although it’s not suitable for showers and other places where there’s running water. That said, don’t be too quick to banish it from the bathroom altogether. Clay Plaster is suitable for other surfaces thanks to its ability to absorb excess moisture. ‘This has wide-ranging benefits for indoor air quality, including evidence pointing to mitigating mould, microbes, asthma and formaldehyde,’ adds Clare. Clay plaster from Clayworks starts at £20sq m.