Indigenous to the Marrakech area of Morocco, tadelakt is a natural, lime-based plaster that’s both decorative and waterproof. An exquisite, natural combination of pure practicality and unadulterated style.
Used in the restoration of riads across the country, tadelakt lime was first mined from The Marrakech Plateau in the High Atlas Mountains. That seamless and smooth finish that you associate with the architecture of the souks, palaces and riads of Northern Africa, is tadelakt. Traditionally seen in a deep ochre red, tadelakt can come in any colour – see our beautiful colour chart for some inspiration.
The word itself means ‘to rub in’ or ‘massage’ when translated from its original Arabic تدلاكت, and its creation and application today remains true to its age-old roots, passed on from the Moroccan masters over centuries. It was in fact under 11th century Berber rule that craftsmen began to use the tadelakt method, initially to waterproof the royal cisterns. Using lime burning for plaster goes back further than a mere thousand years, though. Those innovative Egyptians were using gypsum and lime plasters to build their pyramids 5000 years ago…
Harnessing its huge natural properties with skilled and precise application methods, tadelakt was soon put to decorative use in construction all over Marrakech and beyond: in exterior façades, in small drinking vessels and in the hammams (bath houses). It’s no wonder then that today tadelakt is becoming such a popular, stylish alternative to tiling in bathrooms, kitchens and wetrooms as well as for spas and entire swimming pools. Having said this, it’s such a versatile material that it’s suitable for almost any internal or external wall. Just see our portfolio for an idea of the broad scope tadelakt offers to both domestic and corporate environments.
Like all great traditions, the art has relied on an oral tradition between artisans to keep it alive. The tadelakt method is, broadly speaking, as follows:
- Lime plaster mixed with water for 12-15 hours before adding pigment
- Sometimes marble or limestone sand is added
- Compressed when plastic to eliminate voids
- Mechanically polished using stone, providing a smooth, sometimes shiny, finish.
- Treated with natural soap solution – olive or black soap – to speed carbonation of the surface and impart water-resistance.
The natural olive-based soap used to seal the tadelakt finish is a fabulous product sold in paste form by the kilo in the souks of Marrakech. This emulsifies in water, and deeply permeates the plaster when rubbed in gently, rather than leaving a waxy coating as one might expect it to. The lime’s alkalinity reacts with the soap to form a soap scum which is highly water and scratch resistant – and harder than cured lime – whilst remaining porous and breathable.
Please give Ian a call on 07866 758 020 if you’d like to arrange a site visit, or to discuss the best plastering options for your next project.