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Proper Ratio of Lime to Sand

Proper Ratio of Lime to Sand

We get asked the question often “What ratio of lime to sand should I use?”  Our answer is “We don’t know until we know what the void space of your sand is,”   There are thousands and thousands of sands across the USA, and within those myriad of sands, there are literally countless ways that manufactures sieve, wash and process the sand you purchase at your local masonry or building supply company.

One of our sayings here at Lancaster Lime Works is “Sand is not Sand is not Sand.”  Even the mason’s sand that is provided in huge piles at your local masonry supply company will vary from load to load.  It is of utmost importance to test the sand that will be used in our lime putty for the following: Void Space and Particle Size/Shape/Distribution.

Our lime putty is the best available.  However, if too much or too little lime is added to your sand, product failure will be the result. Therefore we spend just as much time explaining and teaching about sand as we do about installation of lime based mortars

The Basics are Simple:2015-03-20-07-18-47
The void space between the sand is similar to the space between beach balls in a display bin at Walmart.  In between these beach balls there is room for smaller soccer balls, then in between the soccer balls there is room for baseballs, then in between the base balls there is room for marbles, then in between the marbles there is still space for even smaller particles such as dust and yet there is still empty space between all these balls. This is called the “void space.”   Sand has the same.

The void space within the sand must be filled with the lime putty.  Too much lime will push the sand particles apart; not enough lime will leave “holes” in the mortar, and both scenarios will leave you with a weak mortar, stucco or plaster.

Lime Mortars gain the majority of their strength from the sand and rely on the sharp pieces of sand making contact with each other and compacting firmly together. The Lime develops a crystal structure that binds the already sharp, compacted and interlocking sand particles together.

Portland Cement based mortars are comparable to a two part epoxy glue, they gain the majority of their strength from the binder which is the Portland.  The Portland basically “glues” the sand together and negates the necessity for grading and evaluating sand that is needed for Lime Mortars. Lime mortar is a cushion between the building stones or bricks, Portland Cement mortar is a glue that holds the stones or bricks together.

The Correct Ratio:

The ratio of lime to sand is always variable.  Specifications calling for such ratios of 1:2, 1:3 or 1:1 lime to sand are misleading, confusing and could quite possibly be wrong.  The lime:sand ratio will absolutely vary from sand to sand and from load to load. The correct ratio of lime:sand is determined by discovering the void space within the sand chosen for the project.  The void space within the sand must be filled with the lime putty – too much lime will push the sand particles apart, not enough lime will leave “holes” in the mortar and both scenarios will leave you with a weak mortar or plaster.

The results of having the correct ratio are fun to watch and are observed when mixing batches of lime mortar.  If the ratio of lime to sand is 1:3 (one lime:three sand), that will mean dumping three evenly filled buckets of sand into the mixer and one bucket of putty for a total of four buckets added.  If not too much lime has been added, only three buckets of lime mortar will be removed from the mixer because the putty just fills the space between the sand.

We believe that all masons should have the skills to determine the void space within the sand they are using and be able to prove and explain to the architects and engineers that they are using the correct amount of lime for the sand chosen for the project.

The testing method of finding the void space between the particles of sand is relatively simple yet very very important to prevent mortar failure and obtain a strong lime mortar. (more about how to do this in the next blog)

Our goal and Lancaster Lime Works is to provide the training and resources to mason’s and architects to match and install all historic mortars.  Please contact us with questions.

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Renovations of Three Downtown Springfield buildings Reveal Glimpses of Past – News – The State Journal-Register – Springfield, IL

Items from the past are always fun to find when you’re restoring Old Historic Buildings.

It’s nice to see more interest in restoring our past for the future going on all across the US.def04199858b46db922dd91d702986d3_B1NpPM
The work also has turned up small reminders here and there of office work before the age of computers and high-speed Internet. Someone working in the Booth building, for instance, apparently had a fondness for Bubble Up soda. A metal spittoon and a Tuxedo Tobacco tin preceded smoking bans. No modern office was complete without Purity Typewriter Oil. The product said so right on the label.”It will not gum or get rancid.

Heavy brown fabric — similar in touch to burlap — helped keep elevators quiet. Levison & Blythe Manufacturing Co. of St. Louis produced the typewriter cleaning oil. Mail tubes ran between floors for interoffice correspondence. Patches of white mosaic tile can still be found. Removal of a wall revealed skylights that apparently had been obscured for decades.

“We’re just kind of collecting it all,” Lawrence said. “We’ll probably put them on display somewhere in the building, maybe in the lobby. It helps show the history of the buildings.”

Lawrence, who heads Siciliano Inc. of Springfield, estimated that it would take another two years to complete restoration of all three buildings.

The Ferguson and Booth buildings were both built in the early 1900s, according to a history compiled by Lawrence. Both are eight stories high. The three-story Bateman-Kennedy Building in between dates to the 1800s. Early work is concentrating on the westernmost Booth Building, where plans include 21 upper-level apartments and lower-level commercial space.

Lawrence, who declined to estimate the cost of the project, said his goal is to open apartments in the Booth Building in early 2016, followed by completion of the Bateman-Kennedy and Ferguson buildings.

The long-term plan is for a single entrance through the Bateman-Kennedy Building to the upper levels of all three buildings. Three to four apartments also are planned in the Bateman-Kennedy Building. Cafe Brio restaurant will remain on the ground floor of the Ferguson Building, which will be remodeled for office and conference space. Lawrence said he envisions a fitness center and an upper-story restaurant among the possibilities.

via Renovations of three downtown Springfield buildings reveal glimpses of past – News – The State Journal-Register – Springfield, IL


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Classic Red Stone 1900’s Historic Building Fighting for Restoration!

Kozy Building Passing 11th Hour For Restoration | FOX 21 News, KQDS-DT

Let’s see What Happens here in September 2015? This is occuring all over the US.


DULUTH, Minn. – 28 June 2015

It’s been nearly five years since the troubled Kozy building went up in flames in Duluth. And today, it remains arguably the biggest eyesore in downtown Duluth.

But a businessman behind the restoration plans tells FOX 21’s Dan Hanger he’s got one more solid shot at millions in housing tax credits to turn the property around before the weather takes its final beating on the building or the city of Duluth heads in for demolition.

“There’s a little bit of displacement in the arch and we’re seeing that in a few areas. That wasn’t there last year, so that tells us the clock is running,” said Mike Conlan, former Duluth director of planning and development, and current business partner with Eric Ringsred who owns the building.

“The seriousness is if we’re not successful this year, we’re probably going to throw in the towel and say, ok, we’ve been trying this for three years,” Conlan said.

But Conlan believes his recent application for $7 million in state Housing Tax Credits seems promising this time around after being denied last year.

“The engineering study is done. The architectural work is done. Appraisals have been done. Market studies — all of that. It’s a complete package,” Conlan said.

In the meantime, while Mayor Don Ness wants to see the historic building finally restored, he also says the demolition process by the city is very real and only the fault of the property owner.

“There should have been investment made years ago. First of all, the building should have been insured so when it went up in flames, they would have had the dollars to reinvest and fix the building, but it wasn’t insured,” Ness explained.

While Conlan doesn’t own the building, he remains hopeful the state will pull through with the $7 million in tax credits before the clock strikes midnight.

“It’s all in before the state. And again, they tell us it’s a competitive proposal, they like it, but of course it’s statewide competition,” Conlan said.

“They need to step up in a major way if this building is going to be saved,” Ness said.

via Kozy Building Passing 11th Hour For Restoration | FOX 21 News, KQDS-DT | Welcome to FOX 21 Online


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Concrete Mortar Mix vs. Brick Mortar Mix

This is working with a flat concrete slab, but imagine what it would be like on a vertical brick structure. Your Mortar Mix had better be perfect, especially if you’re dealing with an old building and don’t know what the mortar mix is to match what’s there. If it’s analyzed you know before you go.


Here’s a cool tip or two on dealing with cracked cement slab.


I’ve been busy fixin’ stuff!

There was this crack in the concrete walkway at Mom and Pop’s house that was driving me nuts, so I repaired it and thought I’d share all the super simple fix-it details with you. 


The crack had been there forever, but it only started driving me crazy recently. You see, it wasn’t all that noticeable until I finished installing the new stamped concrete tile driveway… 


 At which point the crack, in the walk way on the left, stuck out like a sore thumb. It was very rudely screaming at me: FIX ME!

And since I don’t like being yelled at, I did.

Here’s a close-up of the bugger… 


You can see how the cracked corner sits lower than the rest of the concrete slab. So my plan was to dig up the cracked end and place a layer of sand underneath it so that it sat level with the rest of the slab. But the darn thing wasn’t having any part of that. As I dug out the soil on the end, I found that the piece was not only six inches thick, but it was still completely attached to the post on the right.

So I put my thinking cap on and came up with plan B: fill the crack with mortar mix and then use the mix to level out the top. And, I’m happy to say that it turned out perfect.

I used my chisel to create a small under-cut below the lip of each side of the crack.


Basically, your crack should look more like the image on the left above. The difference is that in the years down the road, the undercut will help prevent slippage of the repair.

Next, make sure your surface is thoroughly clean of any oils, dust, or debris.”

via HOW TO FIX A CRACK IN CONCRETE with Rapid Set® Mortar Mix – Do-It-Yourself Fun Ideas


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Foundation Corner Crack is Nothing Compared with Brick Mortar that Doesn’t Hold

This might be common, but the bigger issue is how solid is the brick mortar between those bricks? Is it the right mortar mix? And will it hold up over time?

The corners of her concrete foundation are cracking off and she wants to know how to repair them. Here’s her testimony:

“The corners of my foundation are slowly falling off. I know I have foundation problems, but I want to put this big chunk back on instead of rebuilding it.

Is there some type of adhesive or bonding agent I can use for this large chunk?”

This chunk of concrete came off because the brick and mortar and poured concrete expand and contract at different rates. Photo credit: Robyn

This chunk of concrete came off because the brick and mortar and poured concrete expand and contract at different rates. Photo credit: Robyn

You bet there’s a compound you can use.

What would you say if I told you there was a miracle concrete epoxy that fit into a standard caulk gun?

Would you be amazed if I told you this repair could be done in about ten minutes by you?

When you go to use it, I want you to cut a piece of an old pliable CD or DVD case and put it between the top of the chunk and the brick mortar. Do NOT put any epoxy on the top of the chunk!

The brick and mortar are moving at different rates than the concrete and I need you to provide a surface where they can slide easily and not get interlocked. This is why the concrete cracked and broke off.

You need to figure out how to hold the chunk in position without moving for an hour or two as the epoxy hardens. This is mission critical to your success.

via Foundation Corner Crack Repair

In addition to the foundation check out the brick mortar in your building to see if it is crumbling, even a little bit. This shows you might have the wrong mortar mix. We test for that.

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Mortar Mix and Historic Mortar Demystified

This is a perfect example of heading off a distastrous and expensive restoration project by making sure you have done a correct mortar analysis with the existing mortar so you can match it.

Various Sands for Comparision / Matching Historic Mortar

The traditional volume mix design of 1 part lime putty to 3 parts sand may be insidious to follow straight up without more details. First, mix designs historically used quicklime as the 1 part of lime mixed to the 3 parts of sand by volume. Quicklime when it is slaked with water will increase volumetrically 70-100 percent – or basically double its size. This fact would reduce the sand content closer to that of a 1 part lime to 1.5 parts sand – a much sticker richer mix design.

Secondly, sand must be measured in a damp loose condition according to ASTM C270 when mixing mortar. Dried sand will bulk up to 30 percent and grow volumetrically by the addition of a small amount of water. This can send your mortar mix designs at the construction site off the specified requirements.

via: Measuring and Mixing Historic Mortar


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Stucco Homes Lime Putty Results – Restoration and Preservation

The Casa de Estudillo in Old Town San Diego is a historic adobe house in Old Town San Diego in San Diego, California. Constructed in 1827, it was once considered one of the finest houses in Mexican California. The house has recently been undergoing restoration on the exterior walls.

A beautiful example of stucco preservation and restoration that the correct Architectural Lime Putty Stucco Base & Finish Coat can produce. So you can see what can be done with Stucco Homes as well.

Casa de Estudillo
Before – By Bernard Gagnon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
Casa de Estudillo Restoration

After Photos Courtesy of von Kurt/Lipsman:

Casa de Estudillo Restoration Casa de Estudillo Restoration Casa de Estudillo Restoration Casa de Estudillo Restoration Casa de Estudillo Restoration Casa de Estudillo Restoration Casa de Estudillo Restoration Casa de Estudillo Restoration

The post Estudillo House – Old Town San Diego, California appeared first on Saint-Astier.

via: Estudillo House – Old Town San Diego, California

If you have one of those Stucco Homes or stucco building type get your restoration Lime Putty and Mortar from the best –


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A Few Advantages of Lime Based Mortar

A Few Advantages of Lime Based Mortar

The core concern in masonry preservation is a commitment to using lime based mortar for all historic structures. Lime based mortar has many advantages over Portland cement. Here is a short list of just a few advantages:


Lime based mortar is more flexible and less brittle.
If there is building movement, lime mortar will eventually re-seal the cracks in the mortar. Having a softer mortar means soft bricks and stones won’t be forced to break. The mortar is the “sacrificial component” of any masonry wall. With Portland, the mortar is so hard that it chisels off the faces of the bricks with even the slightest building movement and all buildings move.


Lime based mortar is breathable.
This means that moisture that gets in the wall (from damp conditions inside or outside) will escape rapidly. Portland cement seals moisture into a wall, causing mold problems inside, deterioration of wood, and deterioration of the bricks or stones themselves.Lime based mortar still sheds water from rain just as well as Portland cement.


Lime mortar lasts longer.
Lime will last longer than Portland cement. Lime mortar that is made from 98% pure calcium will last 100 years minimum. Portland cement mortar lasts about 50 years, and sometimes cracking and deterioration is visible within 10 years. Portland cement degrades from the inside out because of impurities like aluminum silicates. These impurities cause it to get hard fast, but also cause it to deteriorate fast.


Because lime based mortar is softer, it can be removed easily, without damaging the bricks or stones. Portland mortar is so hard that it is very difficult to replace without breaking or de-facing the bricks or stones, even if it is badly deteriorated.


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Here are a few of the questions from homeowners that we get on a regular basis.

Here are a few of the questions from homeowners that we get on a regular basis.

Nothing bothers me as a homeowner worse than seeing cracks in my brick joints and joints that have completely fallen out. I have to look at it day after day, and I am afraid that water, bugs and air is coming into my home through those joints.I have an old brick home. I would even call it an historic brick home. It was built sometime in the 1800’s, but I don’t know when. Somebody repointed some of these mortar joints at some point with some ugly, gray mortar that doesn’t match at all.Now I read that Portland Cement damages old historic brick homes. I want to get this Portland Cement mortar out, and put the right stuff in. The faces of my bricks are starting to crack and fall off. Is this what you call spalling?

How do I find out what is the right mortar for an historic brick home? I want some repointing done, but every mason that I talk to uses regular cement for the pointing. I need a company that will help me design the correct mortar for my historic home or building . I want to use something that more closely matches the original mortar for pointing. Is the lime mortar from Lancaster Lime Works compatible with the mortar in my building? Is your lime mortar going to match my mortar, and will it last a long time?

If these are the kind of questions you have regarding your old brick or stone home here in Lancaster Pa contact Lancaster Lime Works today.

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General Project Conditions for Using Lime Mortar

General Project Conditions for Using Lime Mortar

1. Bedding and lime pointing mortar should be placed only if air and masonry temperatures are between 40°F (4°C) and 80°F (27°C), and the air is relatively calm. Conditions must remain so for at least 48 hours after completion of work. If conditions are not within these parameters, Contractor shall take all necessary measures to ensure that the manufacturer recommended protection and curing requirements are met, including as necessary, dampening of burlap, polyethylene sheeting, wind barriers, and other protection as needed.


2. The wall must be thoroughly whetted down at least 24 hours before work is begun. The wall must again be whetted down at the beginning of the day then be monitored thru-out the day. If the wall drys out it will suck the moisture from the lime and the lime mortar will not reach it’s compressive strength.


3. Contractor must be aware that working conditions change thru the day. In the morning hours the temps will be cooler and the surface will not have direct sun. In the afternoon the mason must provide proper shade from direct sunlight or the lime will dry out to quickly. All masons on the project must constantly monitor the pre-wetting conditions and apply more water as needed to keep the wall at a proper moisture content.


4. Contractor shall not start work until joint faces and solid bedding have been prepared as approved.


5. Contractor shall not allow direct weather related water against mortar until it has reached its full cure.

These general guidelines for working with lime mortar are not complete and should only be used as a starting point. Using Lime Mortar requires extensive training. Contact Lancaster Lime Works for more information on how to use Lime Mortar and to purchase it.