Houses of Parliament

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Client: Houses of Parliament
Contractor: Stonewest
Architect: Purcell
Location: London
Budget: £89k
Duration: 12 weeks
Category: Lime Plastering – Restoration

In 1832 a fire destroyed much of the Houses of Parliament (official name Palace of Westminster). The reconstruction lasted for approximately 30 years. The building has been Grade 1 listed since 1970 and part of Unesco world heritage since 1987. During 2002 and 2004 contractors were appointed to clean and restore the Commons Inner Courtyard. The render was of a hard cementicious nature and was in poor condition, so the decision was taken to remove it following completion of the stone work repairs.

Scope of works

Artisan Plastercraft were employed to carry out the lime plastering render work on the Commons Inner Courtyard. The works on this project were extremely intricate and required our skilled craftsmen using hand tools to obtain the desired finish. Remnants of existing basecoat of render had to be removed to ensure 15mm depth for the new lime render and good moisture movement. The finish was the most technical aspect of the job. We had to create ashlar lines which visually look like blockwork. In order to do this we had to mark the top coat when it was wet with an ashlar tool which forms a dent in the plaster and using rule lines by hand we marked out the ashlar lines into the material to create the blockwork effect. The finished surface had to match the existing work.

New external corners were formed in lime mortar and render was carefully removed from around pipes to avoid damaging any brackets. Render was carefully removed from windows using hand tools and then new render applied which had to be returned into the reveals. Special care was taken and plastic sheeting used to protect the leaded stain glass windows from being damaged in any way. Our craftsmanship was tested constantly throughout this project and every detail had to be analysed and critiqued.

We demonstrated how you can achieve a new for old, like-for-like finish, in historic buildings and showcased how to achieve the same finishes if you have the skill, tools and knowledge.