DONAL HICKEY: Lime is making a comeback

IN TOUGH times for farmers, lime is currently being promoted as the cheapest fertiliser available.

And, in another example of old ways providing solutions to modern problems, builders are also being urged to return to this natural resource.

Lime has been used in Ireland since the pre-Christian era, with kilns used for burning limestone in yesteryear still scattered around the countryside. We saw the real thing happening with alternative layers of limestone and fuel in an old kiln about a decade ago.

Dressing soil with lime was in widespread use by the mid-1600s. Co Cork had vast number of kilns at the end of the 18th century and it is thought the county had somewhere around 23,000 in operation. Today, most lime used in agriculture is crushed or powdered — much cheaper to produce than burnt lime.

The rural development company, IRD Duhallow, which covers parts of north west Cork and east Kerry, is to start spreading the news that the use of lime in building work is on the increase.

It is inviting the owners and occupiers of historic buildings and protected structures, as well as builders, architects, engineers and other interested parties, to a two-day seminar on the issue at the James O’Keeffe Institute, Newmarket, Co Cork, on May 10-11.

The seminar, being organised in conjunction with Building Limes Forum Ireland, will hear experts outline the benefits of using lime in construction. Ireland has a long history of working with lime, but the introduction of cement in the middle of the 19th century led to a decline in traditional limework practices.

Damage caused to historic buildings by the use of cement mortars and modern plasters became increasingly apparent over the past 40 years. However, the need to repair problems caused by dampness in these structures and also in new buildings led to a revival in the use of lime during the last two decades.

Dr Fidelma Mullane, heritage animator at IRD Duhallow, said the seminar will show how to select the appropriate lime, where to get it, and how to prepare, mix, and use it. Lectures and practical hands-on demonstrations will be provided by a team of experts.

Masons, plasterers, blocklayers, local authority staff and members, community group leaders, conservation professionals and others are among those expected to attend.

Case studies ranging from small farm buildings to large-scale landmark structures will be a feature of talks on the first day. Day Two will feature practical work, with attendees mixing lime, pointing, rendering, and taking part in mortared stone-wall construction.

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