pebbledashed house in Hants

Painting pebbledash, render and tyrolean masonry walls using a spray method rather than brushes

Painting Pebbledash, Spar dash and Tyrolean exterior wall finishes:

Why painting them with normal paint is sometimes NOT such a good idea and why an alternative SPRAY painting method could be perhaps a better option.

We look at WHAT pebbledash actually is, and WHY.

Let’s look at where pebbledash comes from, and how it’s made, and then used.

We often get contacted by homeowners who have pebbledash on the exterior walls of their house and whilst pebbledash is generally a long life exterior wall finish, it certainly has its drawbacks!

So we thought it was a good idea to put some of our knowledge online.

Pebbledash: Love it, or hate it? Which side of the fence are you on?

This article explores the pro’s and con’s of painting pebbledash and the action and steps you can take to do something about it.

Painting pebbledash and other textured walls

Pebble-dash exterior wall finishes were made popular in England and Wales since about the 1920’s, when housing was in greater demand, and builders were forced to cut costs wherever they could.

This is sometimes referred to as “Harling” in Scotland

Pebble-dash was not designed to be painted and the only way to paint it to have a company like us SPRAY the walls with a special pebbledash coating system.

Pebbledash finishing on external walls was ideal for this purpose as, not only was it fashionable at the time, but it could be utilised to cover up poor quality brickwork, especially with a shortage of skilled men in the construction industry after world war one.

Applying pebbledash to an exterior wall
Applying pebbledash to an exterior wall by hand.

Pebbledash, in it’s “raw” state, i.e. a load of stones in a big sack (!) are often known by their shapes, colours and sizes as there does exist quite a few varieties:

Varieties of pebbledash

You may have seen dashed houses in several different colours and that applies to the stones used.

The different mixtures to create pebbledash have such names as: Canterbury spar, sharp-dash, sharpstone dash, thrown dash, pebble stucco, Derbyshire Spar, Yellow spar, golden gravel, black and white, and also sunflower.

A trip down to your local builders yard is often a good bet as they will have samples and brochures of pebbledash if that is really what you want to buy.

(remember our company does not actually offer pebbledash, but we offer a pebbledash repair and painting system instead, which lasts longer, is available in lots of colours and also stops damp.)

Tyrolean exterior wall coatings explained.

Tyrolean is a cement based textured exterior wall coating which is hand applied using a tool called a tyrolean gun. This is a special bucket with a spindle in the middle rather like a hairbrush.

When cement mixture is introduced into the gun, the handle turns the hairbrush-like spiked cylinder, which picks up the cement, and is then flicked onto the exterior wall surface in small splats.

The tyrolean gun is a hand operated tool and can be very exhausting to use all day!

There are air and electric powered versions available, however nothing beats the old method of doing it and our technicians strive to use a mixture of traditional building skills, and modern technology, to create a fantastic and long life transformation of any home, usually within the space of a week!

This is a photo we found of someone using an air powered tyrolean applicator, sometimes simply known as machine render or sprayed rendering

machine applied tyrolean using air pressure
Machine applied tyrolean using air pressure.

This is repeated constantly until a desired cement texture is achieved on the wall.

It is very difficult to achieve good results on this method without fine warm weather and a highly skilled operative coating a well prepared wall.

It can be applied as a cement colour (depressing!) or it can be coloured with the addition of an Admixture, which is a coloured dye for the water in the mix.

It is brittle, often quite short term, provides no protection against the weather and often finishes patchy.

Tyrolean wall coatings
Tyrolean wall coatings being applied.

Tyrolean often cracks and in many cases, as the tyrolean wall coating applied is so thin and brittle, it falls off.

We mean Literally: falls off.

So perhaps be careful when walking past a Tyrolean finished house in the future?

The house above was one we ourselves worked on, in Blackheath, which is in south east London.

The walls were painted pebbledash, but some areas had cracked so we had to remove the bad bits, do the rendering, and then spray tyrolean on the wall to match up the heavily textured surface.

When repairing pebbledashed houses prior to painting, this is essential to match the wall surface or the job will look awful. It is a messy task too, hence why we masked up the windows because if you do not do this, the cement in the mortar will melt the upvc plus scratch the glass of the windows so take note.

A guide to painting pebbledash and render walls

Pebbledash and tyrolean continued to grow as a popular method of covering the external walls of a house quickly and cheaply.

The 1st pebbledash used in the UK and Ireland was often of a quite high quality, and offered the home at least rudimentary protection from the ravages of the British climate, such as wind driven rain, hail, snow etc.

Will pebbledash keep the weather at bay?

pebble dashed house prepared for painting

The major problem with pebbledash is that it is not completely watertight, although quite correctly, it does allow the exterior walls to breathe, that is to allow escaping of some moisture, whilst not letting too much in.

However the main problem is that both pebble dash and tyrolean are not totally damp proof or waterproof, and, especially in exposed or coastal locations, water can be driven into the wall by the wind, which then freezes.

After this moisture has frozen in voids (tiny holes) in the sponge-like wall, it expands within the wall, just like an ice-cube expands in the ice tray, so does the water in the wall.

Inflexible pebbledash can crack easily.

Pebble dash is not flexible at all, so if pressure is applied from within the moist wall, the wall surface has no option but to try and expand to compensate.

This is also true of some tyrolean surfaces.

Unfortunately, pebbledash is not flexible and as such, cracks.

This then allows more water in, and thus accelerates the cracking even further.

A crack in an outside wall of only 2mm wide, stretching length ways over 10 metres, actually is equivalent to a HOLE in the side of a house the size of a tennis ball!

(Think about it..)

Many home owners are now finding that there are alternatives to pebbledash, sometimes involving it being covered over, sometimes it means removing the pebble dash coating altogether in favour of a replacement external wall finish that is more pleasing, or in some cases, more fashionable and in keeping with the neighbouring houses.


Compare pebbledash with paint
A tight squeeze working on this house!

Pebbledash removal? What are the risks?

Many people give up altogether and resign themselves to the fact that the pebbledash on the outside walls of their home looks awful, and always will look awful, in fact some people mistakenly try and paint over the pebbledash themselves!

After wearing out about 20 brushes, breaking 10 paint rollers, cutting deep scratches in their hands & the loss of patience when they realises its taken 2 months to paint one wall, and it still looks awful, perhaps it’s time to get the specialists around your house to do the job correctly, safely and expertly!?

What happens if the DIY enthusiast tries to paint Pebbledash?

1) The wall will dry patchy and uneven.

2) You will use a huge amount of paint and the porosity of the substrate will soak up the masonry paint, which is in essence only coloured water!

3) You will wear out lots and lots of rollers and brushes.

4) You will make a lot of mess. If you run a brush over a very rough or textured surface, the wall will “flick” the hairs of the brush, so it is unavoidable to not get paint on windows, doors, floors, pets, and yourself!

5) You will not offer the wall any protection, unlike a special exterior wall coating made for pebbledashed houses, which offers complete protection against the weather

6) If you have damp in your home, a wall coating will cure it, masonry paint will not.

7) You will probably end up giving up and call a texture coating company instead!

Pebbledashed and tyrolean textured walls are also often quite porous so they need to be specially treated anyway before it is economic to apply any new covering to the wall at all.

Pebbledashed house Bristol

What are the options for pebbledash and tyrolean walls?

Do nothing:Not quite the positive approach, but some people don’t seem to care about their house.

DIY painting: as outlined above, is NOT recommended at all, and only the foolish would attempt it. Or those with very thick skin on their hands and an awful lot of time on them too!

Having a new coat of tyrolean or pebbledash: Not good if the home owner is sick of looking at it!

However if people must, then it can be quite a big and expensive job, especially if the consumer wants it done properly.

Cowboy builders would only knock off the loose topcoat, and render, with a thin skim with pebbles over that. In doing a job like this, the pebbledash or spar dash coating may last about 3 to 4 years being realistic.

However, a professional pebbledash company may knock off all the render, which is sometimes problematic if the base render scratch coat is firmly adhered to the wall.

Knocking this off can in many cases, rip out the existing mortar joints and the face of the bricks and blocks that actually hold and bind the structure of the house together!

One of our teams applying a primer to pebbledash in Devon
One of our teams applying a primer to pebbledash in Devon

Replacing pebble-dash, is it really worth it?

A good pebbledash job done with quality materials by a professional general builder or reputable contractor, may last for around 8 years, sometimes a bit more, which isn’t too bad and there are some very good companies around to call.

Options for covering pebbledash

If you have now given up on trying to paint your pebbledash, don’t worry there are alternatives available.

Coloured render: (sometimes known as “through colour” render as the pigment or colour is inherent in the coating and is not added on top).

This is essentially a modified version of traditional sand and cement rendering, and is applied in a similar fashion.

Having a coloured render though is NOT a cheap option, so care must be taken when choosing a suitable exterior wall covering from your home. Consider whether the money spent will be good value or not.

The best known brands of coloured render, also called “monocouche” or “monocap” are Weber, K-rend and Cantillana but they are only as good as the people applying them to the wall, so a good tradesman must be selected to do this job.

Have DAD skills disappeared?

This is the same if you are considering having a sprayed on pebbledash coating such as NEVER PAINT AGAIN textured masonry coatings which, again must be applied by skilled experts.

But you would be looking at a 25 year lifespan instead of if you applied normal paint to the wall which not only would look terrible, but would have to be done again every two years at least.

Bringing colour to a pebbledash wall.

An exterior wall coating, some may suggest, is the ideal alternative to the problem of what to do with a pebbledashed wall, especially when the home owner is not wishing for their home to look like pebbledash any longer!

The range of colours available, and the process they use in repairing the wall and binding the existing pebbledash with bagging, or latex modified render, can save a lot of time, a lot of hassle, and in the long term, a lot of money.

a pebbledashed house AFTER an Exterior Wall coating

How pebbledash coatings are applied.

Exterior wall coatings, no matter how they are applied, are best explained as long life paints, with render/stucco elements to them. Indeed, some wall coating products are actually made with hard minerals in them, such as perlite, or crushed marble.

These additives give the coating strength.

This is combined with high quality colour pigments and dyes, flexible resins, fungicides etc. Some coatings are even made with an amount of glass fibre (GRP) in them, so the name of the game in exterior coatings is low maintenance, long life and strength!

An external masonry wall coating is not designed to be the cheapest option, although the savings do come in the long term, (very much so), but its a one stop solution, that often means it saves you more time and hassle than ever realised!

Paint over the top of pebbledash

It’s not a quick fix, it’s not meant to be, and ALL houses surely deserve far more care and respect than a quick cheap job by cash in hand type builders?

For a start, a high performance coating is always a one off job and the company doesn’t normally have to ever return to the site, ensuring customers are VERY happy bunny to say the least!

Who can paint a pebbledashed house?

We can! Call us any time, for free, on 0800 970 4928

An exterior wall coating, be it trowel, roller or spray applied, will cover up more bad DIY done by previous homeowners or cowboy builders.

The system can hide building joins in extensions, repair cracks and hollow render and essentially make the house water tight yet breathable with microporous technology constantly flexing to suit the mood of the house!

Rear of painted pebbledash house

No more cracking, no more fading, no more chipping or peeling!

A wall coating will last in some cases for up to 25 years, many products offering a guarantee for part of that period.

Some would advocate that this method is the one stop solution to repairing and painting the typical house with no fuss, hassle or worry & handled by experts.

A pebbledash exterior wall coating, applied by NPA, takes care of all repairs, missing stones and bald areas, restores the wall to a uniform texture, and the paint finish on top looks great, available in any colour, and is guaranteed for 20 years NOT to fade, crack or peel.

To learn more about WHAT system we offer for painting your exterior pebbledashed walls, give us a call.

Call and get a quote for painting your pebbledash!
Call and get a quote for painting your pebbledash!
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