Information about coloured renders, silicone render, acrylic render finishes & Cement renders Pre-bagged render such as K Rend Weber Sto and Parex  

We all know how boring some websites can be, crammed with text, we originally intended to leave this site relatively free of text clutter.

But we felt that the knowledge gained from over 40  years’ experience surveying and applying exterior wall renovation products may be appreciated by those that may be embarking on a rendering project.

We often  hear the same remarks when chatting with customers one thing that’s often repeated is:

“one builder says this about my render…and the other says this”

All we intend to do with this section is to explain the ins & outs of rendering and general wall care.

Rendering a house with scaffold costs, whether its a new build render or refurbishment of old render is not a cheap exercise.

Not only is the financial outlay a big decision often running into thousands of pounds a badly designed or installed render or coating can seriously ruin the fabric of the building, the last thing you want to do it to have to take it off.

So Please Do Read on:

Over the last decade or so pre-bagged factory render systems have become very popular.

Before these pre-made proprietary systems became readily available rendering contractors,  builders, plasterers etc mixed up their own renders on site.

This is nothing new, of course, renders have been around for thousands of years. In Rome, you can still see some fine original examples of lime-based Stucco scagliola, etc. that still look good today.

Some Renders fail and delaminate soon after being applied

The failure of most renders can be attributed to a few main flaws.

Listed below but in no main order are some common defects and mistakes that will cause cracks and the premature failure of render

The render mix.

Using a made on-site mix of unknown ingredients what we call  “bucket chemistry render mixes”

Wrong sand (more on this below)

Incorrect use or overuse of admixtures such as latex SBR, PVA, waterproofer, accelerant/ frost proofers, plasticisers (some builder even recommend adding  washing up liquid to render mixes)

Incorrect ratios of ingredients

Too much or too little water

Inadequate preparation of the substrate or background onto which the render is going onto.

The surface could just need a simple wash down to remove friable material or moss, this minimal task is often ignored

Just a little more on the subject of rendering over unsound or painted surfaces.

We see many failed jobs when sand and cement renders have been stuck over painted brickwork or other painted unsound renders.

Care should be taken especially with lime washed surfaces as most modern renders will not adhere to this finish

Don’t let any builder persuade you that the PVA glue he’s is going to apply will provide the key and do the job.

Chances are the glue will emulsify and the render will crack and fall off!.

We normally water jet and steam paint, blast or chemically remove it. If it’s a painted render surface we normally take the render off and the paint with it.

If this is not possible, cut deep chases into the render or if its brick or block grind the horizontal mortar beds back 10-15mm, wash down the surface and then apply the render.

The new rebates you have made provide a good key for the render.

The best renders for the base coats over unsound or unusual surfaces are normally a render with a high polymer content and micro fibres.

K Rend make such a product called HP12

If it’s a damp solid wall cement is not recommended so you could use a lime product such as Parex Parlumiere  as a base

These renders can stick to glass and will provide a good base, Ardex X7G can also be used to provide a high adhesion base coat. (on the right house)

Back to other mistakes

Not controlling suction of the material, (the surface sucking the moisture too quickly from the mix causing it to delaminate)

Insufficient mixing of the combined ingredients to form a homogeneous mix

Poor quality workmanship, such as applying in bad weather, applying too thinly, overworking the render with plastic or wooden floats

Use of hard cement renders on old stone brick walls (more on this later)

 

A basic render most commonly consists of sand and cement 

The binder or Cement…..AKA ordinary Portland cement (OPC)

Sometimes Lime (NHL, lime putty with a pozzolan hydrated lime and cement)

Although not that common nowadays, but making a return amongst the more learned, lime was all that was used before the last century or so

Sand is mixed with water and the binder at around four parts sand to one-part binder (cement or lime)

One very important part of the factor when mixing this lot together is the sand.

The sand is critical in determining the quality of a render mix and the longevity of it.

Many builders use incorrect soft yellow sand or fine silica sand  (like play pit/ kiln sand)

Remember the sand has to be glued together by the cement or lime to form a cohesive layer when it cures. If the sand particles are too fine they don’t lock together properly.

Also, the shape of the sand particles plays an important role in a good mix. If they are angular in shape and irregular, they will lock together better.

Imagine trying to glue marbles together, it’s not going to be easy, but if you smashed them up with a hammer they would intersperse, bind and lock together much better.

So sharp sand particles lock together better than round ones

But that’s not all.The sand should be well graded, clean and free from impurities such as mud clay silt etc.

More information on sands if you search this:

BS EN. 13139:2002

A well-made render will not crack or break down and become powdery.

The skills of rendering which used to form part of a city and guilds plastering qualification are not taught anymore.

This lack of skill and knowledge with an over-reliance on pre-made renders and plastic coatings has ruined many a fine building.

 

A good general guide if you want to make your own modern render mix for a cavity wall build is to use sharp sand for the base coat with a finer graded sharp plastering sand and cement with a little latex SBR added to the gauging water at 4/1 or 5/1 The SBR makes your mix a polymer render,  which is another buzzword in the rendering industry.

You can also add chopped glass fibre strands to the base coat

(or hair of any type if you’ve   got some kicking about)

Render for the base coat/s should be greater in strength than the one going over it so you build up in weaker mixes as you go.

 

The benefits of a factory made render

Having a render that you can buy in the bag mixed with the correct type and ratios of sand & cement and other ingredients (dyes and polymers) makes sense.

This has been made even more attractive especially when pigmented so the final finish can be through coloured saving the need to paint the render. Self-coloured or through-coloured renders are not new. Products such as Blue Circle Tyrolean and Decromace have been around for decades.

Scagliola plasters and renders dating back to the Romans and beyond used pigments to create wonderful marble and stone effects

 

A sand & cement made on site normally would not normally be pigmented, so you would have to paint the render, rather like plaster.

Having the render self-coloured (pigmented with mineral dye) can provide you with a good window of time (usually 5-10 years) before the render needs painting.

Dismiss claims by installers and manufacturers that they are self-cleaning, these claims should be taken with a large “pinch of salt”

Mother nature and the test of time will dictate otherwise.

To summarise with a pre-made proprietary render the contractor and the customer has some of the problems and risks associated with render failure reduced.

Just like having a cake mix product,  having a bag of render with all the ingredients in can minimise defects in years to come (or sooner)

Providing they are applied correctly.

With over 35 years’ experience in the wall refurbishments business, we get asked the same old questions from clients such as

“what’s the best render for solid walls”  or “what’s this Monocouche render” 

(Monocouche just means one coat, layer, it’s a French term)

“is  K Rend the best”

Not many people ask how thick you should you apply the render and how many coats?

It needs to be 10mm minimum usually 15mm for block or brickwork

I am surprised how anyone could allow a contractor to apply a render without specifying the thickness of it.

If you apply render too thinly you may get to see the outline of the underlying block or brickwork, ghosting or pattern staining as we call it.

Also, the render could fail to protect against the elements and soon breakdown

Normally for brick or block work, a render is applied in two stages.

First, a base or scratch coat is applied. Described as a scratch coat as its marked and grooved with a tool (or with a  chestnut stick for true aficionados of lime renders)

The base or scratch coat is about 10mm thick mixed around  four parts sand to one part cement (or lime is added in the form of Hydrated lime to help plasticize the mix and offer a little flexibility, more on lime renders later)

Then a second float coat of 5mm is applied about mixed at a ratio of 5/1 or 6/1

Finishing the render

With made on site renders This is normally ruled flat and true with a straight edge (also referred to as a darby) it’s just like shuttering a concrete floor,  only vertically!

So around 10mm-15mm is the overall normal thickness, more if using lime in very exposed locations,  especially on rubble or single skin walls.

Then it’s worked with a wooden or nowadays a plastic float and sponged up to provide a flat neat finish, usually referred to as “rubbing up” in the trade.

The self-coloured renders, the factory made ones (in the bag)  are applied sometimes in two passes by hand or machine pump and then ruled off.

Once they are semi-hardened or “thumbprint green”: they are scraped back, by literally scraping them with a pronged float.

Rather like a trowel-float with nails in it)

About 2mm is shed when this finish is carried out, so masking is the order of the day!

When things go wrong with pre-coloured factory made renders:

Some newcomers to the through coloured render scene, try and sponge the finish, (as they do on a made on site render, as described above, they would normally  get painted)

This is a big mistake and one we often see, clients are most unhappy with the lumps & bumps, the trowel marks, and discolouration in their new render finish

The water the contractor flicks and sprays on the surface as they sponge up and the overworking of the render dilutes the dye out of the mix. This makes a real mess of the job.

Even though the contractor often informs the customer that the finish will dry and become even over time, it never does.

So the unhappy customer ends up removing the new render or painting it.

Which kind of defeats the object of having a self-coloured render in the first place!

You can paint coloured renders but a badly finished render will just highlight the undulations and imperfections even more.

If you are considering  painting over self-coloured renders, be careful with adhesion as some of the through coloured renders have a waterproofing agent incorporated into them such as a silicone

This additive is designed to make them less resistant to dirt pick up (so-called self-cleaning)

After a few years, this silicone benefit should have been drawn out of the render by the sun, rain and wind so with a gentle wash down and acticide wash you should get good adhesion and be safe.

An excellent product for over-coating or painting render including self-coloured render is Sika 550 or the silicone paint made by Jubosil called Revital colour

I have been specifying these  for over ten years on the likes of K render etc. with great results

 

Another drawback of a through coloured render is that they do not patch without signs of the repair If a contractor misses a bit or repairs are required afterwards (even days)  Be prepared for some areas that will stand out like a “sore thumb”

 

Another way of finishing a render is to spray the final finish on and leave it with a texture, similar to  Tyrolean or roughcast.

With the proper skills and techniques,  textures of varying degrees can be achieved. From fine to heavy

Nowadays most customers want a smooth flat finish with no texture.

It should be noted that a textured finish weathers better than a smooth surface. Wind-driven rain is pushed across a textured surface and slowed down.

Roughcast, pebbledash or harling as it’s called in Scotland is a good example of why a textured surface has been the prefered choice for years for extreme weather protection and durability

So to summarise and offer some do’s and don’ts

Make sure the render is at least 10mm thick and made up with the correct sand and accurately gauged or use a pre-bagged render.

Make sure the contractor is familiar with the products he is using especially if it’s a pre-bagged product

Ensure the render is reinforced with nylon mesh. The nylon scrim as its called is sandwiched between render coats, this dramatically reduces the chances of cracks, water ingress and ultimately the failure of the entire render.

Make sure the surface to which the render is going onto is sound and clean.

Make sure your contractor is not using galvanised metal beading, (beading is the trim fixed around window and corners to form a neat edge)

PVC-u or stainless is the best material to use for beading.

When using concrete render (sand and cement) allow for expansion joints on big sections.

Ensure the weather is correct not too cold (5c above and rising) and not too hot for the finish coats.

Do not render down to ground level or below the damp proof membrane ( DPM) unless some protection against rising damp has been designed into the detail.

 

Make sure proper scaffold is in place… You will not get a good job done off bits of tower scaffold.

On big jobs, even house wall gables, moving wheeled tower scaffold around to catch the render when it’s going hard will result in an untatrecive variety of different finishes!

I have known some clients claim their builders can render houses off ladders, apart from the H&S aspect (which you are also responsible for) are you really going to get a good job done by a contractor who wants to render off ladders ? or his own bits of scaffold?

(Also the use of “put logs” in which scaffold tube is hammered into the mortar joints, is not allowed nowadays, so make sure its a professional firm that erects the scaffold)

Make sure that paths, roofs, windows etc with low tack protection and clean up after each day, polymer renders do not clean up easily.

Silicone renders

A Silicone render refers to the final finish of render, not the base coats.

Silicone renders are often confused with other products such as K rend FT.

These complete different products are pigmented cement renders which sometimes contain a colourless silicone water repellent, hence they are sometimes referred to as silicone render.

The new generation of silicone renders are made up of an emulsion of synthetic silicones and polymers. They have high PH content making them a little resistant to algae and lichen growth. But as I have said before in this site take any claims of self-cleaning with a “pinch of salt”

They do get dirty especially if trees are nearby

They exhibit excellent flexibility properties making them the no one choice for anti-crack renders. They are suitable for application over existing renders or over a new render and also as a final finish for external wall insulation systems.

The ultra-violet resistant pigments of a silicone or acrylic render allow for large areas to be rendered with perfect colour consistency.

What are the benefits of using silicone render rather than acrylic?

Both have excellent water repellency properties and are UV stable.

The main benefits of a silicone finish V acrylic are better dirt repellence, Some degree of vapour permeability.

Silicone renders are also able to accommodate pronounced movement in the underlying material, making them the number one choice for external wall insulation

Silicone renders have a longer lifespan.

When used over a quality render you should expect a 20 year + lifespan.

Once they do get soiled and tired they can be freshened up by painting with a silicone smooth paint which can be roller applied.

A good render base for the silicone would be a polymer render, reinforced with nylon mesh.

The main benefits of either finish over a through coloured render are:

Corner beads do not show through the render. It is not a good detail to have a white corner plastic bead poking through a self-coloured render.

Although you can get colour matched beads they are still prominent and they can fade and change colour differently to the render over time.

Silicone renders completely encapsulate corner beads so you get a solid,  neater finish.

Another big advantage of silicone or acrylic renders is the colour range. They can be made up in just about any colour and are available in various textures from very fine to course.

They are less prone to cracking especially when applied over a good quality render

As mentioned above they are more resistant to dirt and grime

These products originated mainly in European countries,  there are now many firms making these products in the UK, including WBS,  Jubosi,  Sto, Parex,  Weber, K Rend, & Baumit

More to come on silicone renders

More to come on lime renders

More to come on EWI

More to come on condensation and energy saving for a traditional  build

More to come on stone cladding remove;