Tadelakt Application & Maintenance
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 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 DVD guides you through the tools and preparation needed. 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.
Ingredients (Full Declaration)
Natural hydraulic lime, marble powder, quartz sands of selected grain sizes, clay, ashes, diatomaceous earth, and cellulose • COLOUR: natural off-white.
Health & Safety
You will need 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.
Cover glass, metal and lacquered surfaces as well as other sensitive surfaces. Remove spots immediately with water.
Tadelakt can be tinted with up to 10% by weight of pigments. For example a 10 kg of Tadelakt can be tinted with up to 1 kg of pigments.
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.
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.
Mix the pigment into a paste with a little water then add to the gauged mixing water, then mix the Tadelakt with the pigmented water with a plasterers whisk and drill.
Re-whisk if left for 30 minutes before use.
Leave the Lime Wall Finish to dry and harden as described above
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 above. The Tadelakt can be applied in either 1 or 2 coats depending on preference. One coat will be quicker and use a little less Tadelakt overall, but burnishing and polishing require more care to minimise the risk of tiny shrinkage cracks appearing as the Tadelakt hardens.
For two coat Tadelakt application 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 and gently flattened we switch to plastic trowels for the initial compression and burnishing. First we use a very soft 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 we use a harder plastic trowel (Pavan 817/RS) to compress the surface further.
When the Tadelakt is relatively dry its necessary to test whether the Tadelakt is ready to soap. Polish a small area with the stone at this stage to double check it’s ready, do not stone the whole area. For this small test area 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 the Tadelakt surface is almost dry test a small area with your stone, if you pick up any material on the stone it is too wet so leave it alone! When you are happy that the surface of the Tadelakt is dry enough brush 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 reintroduced water so double check no product is coming off onto the stone). The best method is to 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. Applying slightly more pressure you should be able 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. At this stage, remove any soap residue with a lambswool bonnet so that more soap can be applied and buff the surface until no more is absorbed. Clean any soap residue by buffing the surface with a lambswool bonnet.
Once the area is completely dry you can apply wax. 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. The Carnauba Wax will give a high gloss when buffed with a lambswool bonnet on a polishing machine.
Touch dry in < 24 hours. Fully hardened after approximately 4 weeks.
Materials Check List
- DG27 Primer
- Kreidezeit Lime Wall Finish (Fine)
- Fibreglass Mesh
- Kreidezeit Tadelakt
- Kreidezeit Polishing Soap
- Kreidezeit Carnauba Wax Emulsion
- Trowels & Spatulas
- Ceramic Polishing Stone
Tadelakt Tools and Materials Kit
We have selected a set of tools suitable for your Tadelakt project and we’ve packaged them into an attractive toolbox. This, together with enough Tadelakt to make 4 sample panels each of ½M² and an instructional DVD should get you on your way. Click on the link below for more information
DO NOT use domestic bathroom cleaners on Tadelakt.
Caring for your Tadelakt
You will need Marseille Soap, a spray bottle or bucket and cloth, squeegee and soft cloths.
Using the soap solution described below, spray onto the surface and rub in with a soft cloth. When dry, buff with a dry soft cloth.
In the areas where water droplets are most concentrated, remove these 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.