Edward Byrne’s love for old buildings led to him setting up an architectural salvage and traditional building supplies business over 40 years ago. It was from this The Traditional Lime Company was born. It became the first company in Ireland to sell natural hydraulic limes commercially in 1997, and has supplied traditional lime / paint to many iconic Irish buildings, including Kylemore Abbey, Aras an Uachtarain and Leinster House.
Based in Tullow, Co. Carlow, The Traditional Lime Company is Ireland’s original supplier of pure natural hydraulic limes and mortars, natural paints and washes as well as all traditional building materials. It is also the sole Irish importer of St Astier Natural Hydraulic Limes.
St Astier Natural Hydraulic Limes and derivative products have been produced by the same French families since 1851. Imparting plasticity, elasticity, strength, low shrinkage and early frost resistance to a mortar, St Astier products are derivatives of pure limestone / silica deposits which are unique to Western France. The degree to which St Astier products enable mortar to be customised for each job makes them excellent for all types of work, including new build, restoration and conservation projects all over the world.
St Astier products simplify mortar specification as, assuming the colour and qualities of the sand used are known, no other additives are required. The properties and colour of the finished mortar is thus assured. Lime mortars are highly flexible and have excellent vapour exchange properties. These factors are necessities for the long-term survival of restored buildings. The Traditional Lime Company offers a range of limes, including those made with Carlow or imported limestone.
Lime washes and paints are ideally suited for use in conservation and restoration projects. To this end, The Traditional Lime Company provides breathable paints in lime and other natural materials. It supplies coloured washes made up in batches to customers’ requirements in a selection of traditional colours. Alternatively, they can provide pigments and ochres for addition to mortars and renders.
In addition to lime washes, The Traditional Lime Company stocks the St Astier range of lime paints and the Beeck and Aglaia range of mineral and natural paints. It also stocks a wide range of sands and aggregates for use with its lime products. In order to produce a mortar of a specific colour and texture, the correct NHL (Natural Hydraulic Lime) must be selected. Edward and his team can provide advice with regard to the various options available.
Another string to The Traditional Lime Company’s bow is that they supply a wide range of traditional materials and tools for use with their lime products along with providing a variety of general-purpose traditional building materials.
“If someone can prove to me that there is a better quality of lime than St Astier, I’ll gladly give it to them for free,” Edward says.
“St Astier Natural Hydraulic Limes come from a unique source of rock in France that gives the best lime in the world. We were the first company to import a full range hydraulic limes commercially to Ireland and are proud to represent St Astier. We can supply their products by pallet or by the bag. Each pallet weighs one tonne, with 25kg bags, either pure lime for site mixes or premixed mortars for smaller patching work.”
The Traditional Lime Company has supplied natural hydraulic limes to many restoration and conservation projects across Ireland, including Kilcoe Castle in West Cork which took 27 tonnes of lime. “The Castle is owned by the famous actor Jeremy Irons, who was a gentleman to deal with it. We’ve also supplied either lime or paint to many of the lighthouses around the Irish coast and to practically every major restoration project in Ireland,” Edward explains.
“The restoration sector is our bread and butter. Conservation projects are small by comparison because they require minimal changes by their nature. We also supply products to a number of eco building projects each year.”
Originally a marine engineer, it wasn’t long before Edward’s passion for traditional buildings took over.
“I worked in the North Sea doing hydrographic and seismic surveys. I also resurveyed the ports for the Nigerian Port Authority after the Nigerian-Biafran War,” he recalls.
“One of the advantages of being a marine engineer at that time was that I was involved in, for want of a better word, the periphery of the oil industry. I had very long lead times before going back to sea. I love old buildings and if I was anywhere there was a big old house or an old ruin to visit, I would.
“A lot of my friends then were doing up old houses, but they were complaining they couldn’t get traditional materials for them. That led to me salvaging old building materials with a view to either buying and restoring a house myself or building a traditional house using these materials. I started off selling off the stuff that I didn’t need.
“Then I met my wife Marion and we had a son. I gave up going back to sea, which wasn’t a deliberate thing, it just evolved into that and the business became full-time. We’ve been selling lime since 1984 as part of our traditional building materials range.”
Edward and Marion renovated their own house about 35 years ago using a modified type of lime and cement plaster on the inside. It was only in recent years that they plastered the outside.
“You couldn’t get the proper lime plaster at that time in Ireland. But thankfully that all changed when we started importing it.”
As well as providing a full technical back-up service for their lime products, Edward, Marian and their small team provide a consultancy service on all aspects of building conservation and restoration. This consultancy service covers materials, methods and historic design, and includes training both on-site and at its purpose-built training centre in Tullow.
The wealth of knowledge that Edward has acquired down through the years means his advice is much sought-after from all corners of the country, and beyond when it comes to conservation, restoration and environmental building and repair. As the NSAI (National Standard Authority of Ireland) representative on the Revision of Building Lime Standards Europe, the affable managing director has given advice on the subject all over Europe.
Edward is also a founder member of the Building Limes Forum Ireland which promotes the use and understanding of lime-based mortars in conservation, restoration and new build. Furthermore, he’s a founder member of INTBAU which is the Irish chapter of The International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture and Urbanism.
The Carlow man, who grew up on a stud farm, holds the distinction of being the first person of any nationality to complete a Building Conservation Masterclass in lime mortars with English Heritage under John Ashurst at West Dean College, Sussex. As someone who is passionate about the use of the correct materials and methods in the conservation and restoration building markets, Edward is the expert in his field.
The Traditional Lime Company
Telephone: 059 9151750 / 086 2585253
Fax: 059 9152113
Email: [email protected]
This article was published in Building Ireland Magazine, October, Vol 7 No 10