Render, replace or paint? Solutions for pebbledash

flaking pebbledash

Pebbledash covers much of the UK’s early to mid 20th century housing stock and was primarily invented to give a cheap, fairly weatherproof,  low maintenance wall coating over poor quality brickwork.

Pebbledash, the traditional British (and Irish) version anyway, should last between 20 and 40 years, so much of the older style homes that have this wall covering are now looking at the prospect of having it replaced or removed and replaced with something different, but what exactly?

This is the big problem with pebbledashed houses.

The wall covering does not last for ever and at some point the homeowner will need to make some decision as to what to do with his or her pebble-dashed house, so making the right choice is paramount.

Let’s look at the typical problems with dashed houses, and then contrast them with the options available when the wall covering is “past it’s sell-by date”.

The problem with Pebbledash.

The big problem with pebbledash is that, in my own personal view as a surveyor since the early 90’s, is that it looks AWFUL!

Many of our valued clients also seem to agree with us…

This is why we are constantly getting calls and emails from people who own this type of house and are looking for some sort of solution, which typically amounts to repair, replace or repair and cover with a spray applied exterior textured coating.

Old and newly painted pebbledash side by side

Old and newly painted pebbledash side by side

Original pebbledash, first seen on domestic houses in any number was during the housing boom after world war 1, and as the homes needed to built quickly, with materials in short supply, they used pebbles, dredged up from the sea bed, which were then thrown (literally) by hand, onto wet mortar.

The bonus was it covered up poor quality bricks underneath and didn’t need to be painted afterwards. That is fine, if you like the look of this ugly stuff, but some people didn’t and ended up painting over the pebbledash, which itself causes another problem as once you paint it, you need to do it again every few years.

Another reason pebbledash was applied to so many homes was that after world war 1 there was a huge skills shortage and pebbledash was much easier to apply and took less skill than traditional stucco or sand and cement rendering which requires extensive training and experience to be able to do it properly.

Pebbledash over time, loses the pebbles (just look at the base of the wall after heavy rain) and when that happens, it exposes the unpainted mortar underneath. This will absorb the rain, and the water will stay in the wall until a cold snap, by which time the water inside the wall will have frozen.

When it (water) freezes, it expands, and that is how cracks in walls occur.

Once this process starts, it gets worse over the years, causing more cracks and also hollow patches of render where the wall covering is just “hanging” on the wall rather than being affixed to it. This is when the house starts to see damp patches inside.

Repair of these areas is problematic as any builder will tell you, if you rip off and replace a bad patch of pebbledash, or you have an alteration to your house, the 2 areas (old and new) will NEVER match up, this image below clearly illustrates this problem.

Old and new pebbledash with NEVER match up.

Old and new pebbledash with NEVER match up.

So what do you do? Repair or replace?

That’s the question really, and it’s something that people saddled with this on their property wrestle with when the time comes to do something about it.

Here are the options available to you if you are in this situation.

1. Having it re-pebbledashed

Having it done again? You must be mad.

Many people think this is their only option. A major drawback in having it done again is that it is not cheap and the results can be far from satisfactory although that largely depends on who you choose to carry out the work.

Much modern day pebble-dash is not pebble dash at all but SPAR DASH, which means instead of smooth, small pebbles, you get sharp flint chips on the wall, which although available in a variety of colours, it leaves a very harsh surface which if you have ever accidentally rubbed up against one of these walls, you will know it hurts.

A house with spar dash on the walls

A house with spar dash on the walls

2. Rendering the wall

If the home owner wants to completely get rid of the pebbledash, it can be rendered.

This can be with a coloured render, which saves on repainting, or sand and cement render, which will need painting once it’s on the house.

A professional builder will REMOVE all the old pebbledash and render over the bare bricks, however, a COWBOY builder, will apply render OVER THE TOP of the old pebbledash, which is a disaster waiting to happen.

The latter method puts extra stress on the mechanics of the house, seals in areas which will harbour damp, and also will make windows and doors hard to open. AVOID.

3. Painting the pebbledash

If you choose to retain the actual dashed wall coating but want to paint it, you should make sure that whoever does it, carries out all the repairs needed, such as fixing cracks etc, before they even open a tin of paint.

Bear in mind that SPRAY painting is more suited to painting this heavily textured surface, as opposed to brushes and rollers which just aren’t up to the job.

painting pebbledash

painting pebbledash

There is a whole method involved in painting pebbledash, so instead of repeating myself, check out THIS PAGE for more info (opens in a new window so BOOKMARK THIS ARTICLE NOW, so you don’t lose this page!)

Not everyone hates pebbledash though.

An article sometime ago on introduced some experts who noted that

In attractiveness terms, the experts draw a key distinction between suburban, postwar examples – “slapdash pebbledash,” …………….. and “rough-cast rendering”, in which larger stones are applied to the walls, and then painted, a technique often found on coastal cottages. “In remote, weather-beaten places,” ………… “pebbledash is both stylish and sensible.”

They did note however that the original type of pebbledash, the pebbles we talked about at the start of this article, can be very difficult to remove, and in some cases, removal can cause serious damage to what’s underneath.  They continued by saying…….

“It’s fine [pebbledash] if it’s in keeping with the period of the house,” says Daren Haysom, manager of the Islington branch of Foxtons estate agents, “but if pebbledash is done badly, or on a modern house, it can bring the value down.”


So what are you going to do now?

If your home has pebbledash on the outside and you are looking for solutions as to what the hell to do with it, then give us a call or send us an email. Tell us about your home and we can suggest, for free, some options that may be open to you. All advice is free is with no obligation.

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