Tadelakt is a word derived from Arabic meaning to knead or massage. It is a traditional Moroccan plaster technique used originally to waterproof cisterns for the storing of drinking water. Later it was used as a coating for wet environments such as fountains and hammams (Turkish Baths).
The extraordinary impermeability characteristics of Tadelakt are comparable if not superior to the cocciopesto mortars used by the Romans for the construction of aqueducts and baths.
Tadelakt has been used externally in Morocco for 1000 years and survives today on some historic buildings.
The architecture is characterised by manually shaped surfaces, organic forms and rounded corners.
A group from Kreidezeit, a German firm specialising in natural paints and plasters, went to Morocco to investigate this fascinating material and wrote up their experiences in a book “Tadelakt” Gert Ziesemann and Martin Krampfer.
They discovered that the main base of the plaster is lime, specifically an eminently strong hydraulic lime. Berber artisans produced this binder by burning limestone found 1.5 m below ground in the Marrakech region of Morocco.The limestone is burnt in kilns fired by olive tree and palm wood, this makes the natural hydraulic lime. This is then mixed with a fine sand made from marble or limestone.
Natural Tadelakt is light in colour so pigments are added to create a range of colours.
The application of Tadelakt varies slightly in Morocco, sometimes it is applied in one thick coat and sometimes in two coats. In the preferred two coat method, the first coat is left until almost dry, then a second coat applied.
Any trowel marks are removed as the plaster starts to set and then the surface is flattened with a river stone which compresses the aggregate and closes the pores.
While the Tadelakt still contains moisture an olive soap or a black olive soap (savon noir) is applied and stoned into the surface. This soaping provides the Tadelakt with its waterproof qualities.
The Tadelakt will gain its bonding strength within the first ten days and be fully set after approximately thirty days.
Our Tadelakt application videos and information on this page will help to guide you through all you need to know for a successful project (with a bit of practice and patience!).
We show you how to apply Kreidezeit Tadelakt and talk you through the methods and key stages to obtain your own tactile, colourful, traditional Moroccan finishes.
If this is your first attempt at applying Tadelakt as a complete novice or skilled plasterer, we strongly recommend you start with a small area (such as a splashback) or practice on sample boards before committing to larger projects.
Substrates & Priming
Tile backer boards are recommended for wet areas, a backing coat of Kreidezeit Lime Wall Finish (Fine) is needed prior to the Tadelakt application.
Tadelakt can also be applied to lime plasters, plasterboard, concrete block, breeze block, sand and cement, gypsum plasters and some ceramics.
On these surfaces you may need to apply a coat of Kreidezeit Casein Primer followed by Kreidezeit Lime Wall Finish (Fine).
A layer of fine mesh in the lime wall finish coat is always recommended to reduce the risk of shrinkage cracking.
Cover glass, metal and lacquered surfaces as well as other sensitive surfaces. Remove spots immediately with water.
Tinting & Mixing
Stir the pigments with a little warm water to a paste, ensure that all clots are stirred out properly. Then stir the paste in to the measured amount of mixing water before adding the Tadelakt powder.
Alternatively the pigment paste can be added to the ready mixed tadelakt, mix thoroughly to ensure homogeneous tinting. Clean around the rim of the bucket occasionally with a bucket trowel.
Re-whisk if left for 30 minutes before use.
Leave the Lime Wall Finish backing coat to dry and as described under Substrates & Priming.
Mix the Tadelakt with the required amount of water and leave to rest for 30 mins, then whisk again. If colouring the Tadelakt with pigments these are added as per the instructions under Tinting & Mixing above.
Tadelakt application is generally done as 2 coats to minimise the risk of tiny shrinkage cracks appearing as the Tadelakt hardens.
The first coat is applied very thinly as a scrape coat to adhere to the primer. When it has dried after an hour or two the second Tadelakt coat is applied a little bit thicker to create a smooth surface.
Once applied, switch to plastic trowels to flatten and compress the Tadelakt.
- First use a thin plastic trowel (Pavan 817/PV or Pavan 817/RS1) to begin closing up any small holes and pores.
- As the Tadelakt continues to dry and harden, switch to a thick plastic trowel (Pavan 817/RS) to compress the surface further.
Test if the Tadelakt is ready to soap just as it dries. Rub a small area with the polishing stone – you shouldn’t pick up any Tadelakt on the stone at all and the surface should become shiny where this small trial is undertaken.
Soaping & Burnishing
This process will achieve the water and dirt repellent surface.
When you are happy that the surface of the Tadelakt is dry enough brush Polishing Soap over the area (a section at a time, start at the bottom to avoid drip marks staining and trowel away any access soap).
Leave the soap to dry and use the stone to massage it into the surface (you have re-introduced water so double check no product is coming off onto the stone).
Move the stone in small circles starting with very little pressure. You’ll find that because you are now up close and personal with the Tadelakt you’ll start to pick up on small blemishes. Apply slightly more pressure to move the Tadelakt into the hollows without the need to add more.
Any remaining roughness or open pores can be closed in with the stone.
Apply wax as optional once the area is completely dry.
The wax we recommend is Kreidezeit Carnauba Wax Emulsion, which is water based and is easily applied with a brush, sponge or soft cloth, again start from the bottom to avoid drip stains.
Carnauba Wax will give a higher sheen when buffed with a lambswool bonnet on a polishing machine.
Touch dry in < 24 hours. Fully hardened after approximately 4 weeks.
Materials Check List
- Casein Primer
- Lime Wall Finish (Fine)
- Fibreglass Mesh
- Polishing Soap
- Carnauba Wax Emulsion
- Trowels & Spatulas
- Ceramic Polishing Stone
Tadelakt Tools and Materials Kit
We have selected a set of tools suitable for your Tadelakt application project and we’ve packaged them into an attractive toolbox.
This, together with enough Tadelakt to make 4 sample panels each of 1 m².
Click on the link below for more information:
Tadelakt Tool Pack
Cleaning & Caring for your Tadelakt
DO NOT use domestic bathroom cleaners on Tadelakt.
You will need Marseille Soap, a spray bottle or bucket and cloth, squeegee and soft cloths.
Use the soap solution to spray onto the surface and rub in with a soft cloth. When dry, buff with a dry soft cloth.
Remove water droplets with a good quality squeegee after each use.
Marseille Soap solution should be used for periodic cleaning or more frequently in hard water areas.
After each use, remove any standing water with your squeegee. Marseille Soap solution should be used for periodic cleaning or more frequently in hard water areas.
Cut out damaged part with a sharp knife or sand down, then repair with original material.
If a shallower repair is required, the Tadelakt powder can be sieved through a fine mesh, such as a tea strainer. This will remove larger bits of grit from the Tadelakt and allow a smoother paste to be made when adding water, whilst retaining the original colour.
Ingredients (Full Declaration)
Natural hydraulic lime, marble powder, quartz sands of selected grain sizes, clay, ashes, diatomaceous earth, and cellulose.
Health & Safety
Use safety goggles, gloves and a dust mask.
In case of contact with eyes, rinse immediately with plenty of water & seek medical advice. Keep out of the reach of children.