Tadelakt plaster is a traditional form of plaster that originated in Morocco and has been used for thousands of years. Since those early days, it has become quite popular in the western world, particularly for wetrooms, as bathrooms and shower surrounds.
Similar to Venetian plaster, Tadelakt is made using Marrakech lime and is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. It can be used to achieve a range of different looks depending on how it was applied, and what is done to it after that application. For example, polished Tadelakt has a glassy finish that, with the right application, can look a lot like marble when finished.
How Tadelakt Plaster is Made
Though the precise makeup of Tadelakt can differ, the basic premise is typically the same. Hydraulic lime from the Marrakech region of Morocco is burned in kilns and then mixed with an aggregate that is determined by the desired look of the plaster. For example, marble dust may be used if the desired look is that of marble. Other popular aggregates are fine sand or limestone. Pigments may be added to colour the plaster as it is typically quite light by default. The plaster is then mixed with water to the desired consistency, which is usually a little thicker than Venetian plaster due to the fact that fewer coats will be applied.
How is Tadelakt Plaster Installed?
Again, the desired look of the final product will have a significant impact on how the plaster is applied, but it often involves at least two coats, if not more. The second coat will usually be applied when the first is almost dry. The surface of the Tadelakt is flattened off, which compresses the aggregates in the plaster and closes the pores. Finally, before the Tadelakt has dried completely, olive soap may be used to give the plaster waterproof qualities.
Why Use Tadelakt?
One of the more compelling reasons to use Tadelakt is its history. While Venetian plaster may be more popular—especially in the western world—Tadelakt has been around for much longer. The craftsmen who practice this method are typically taught in apprentice-like situations, and there is a real love of the technique in their work.
For many of the same reasons, it is also a unique look in the modern world. With the variety of cheaper alternatives that are available—such as modern plaster and a tin of paint—most people are not willing to invest the extra money and time it takes to get something like Tadelakt installed in their build. And, due to it being more widely known, many of the people who are willing to go that extra mile will often choose Venetian plaster.
All of this makes Tadelakt something of a rarity despite the fact that it is as good—if not better in many cases—than the alternatives. But there are plenty of reasons to choose Tadelakt for your next build beyond the fact that it is not as common as the alternatives, so let’s take a closer look at those other reasons.
Lime is naturally resistant to mould and mildew, which makes it an excellent material for the kinds of areas where mould and mildew typically appear. These include bathrooms and kitchens, as well as outdoor spaces and any kind of wet-room.
Furthermore, the finished product is a seamless surface, unlike tiles, which means there are no spaces among the Tadelakt where grime and dirty might be able to accumulate. With tiles, it is not the tiles themselves that tend to get mould, but the grout in between them. With Tadelakt, you avoid that risk, meaning a more hygienic room that is also easier to clean.
Being made from entirely natural ingredients, there are no harmful chemicals involved in the making of Tadelakt that might leach into the local area, or affect people using the room that the Tadelakt is installed in. Additionally, Tadelakt absorbs CO2 during production, and releases 80% less than cement overall, making it objectively better for the environment.
Tadelakt is often thought of purely in terms of bathrooms and other forms of wet-room thanks to its smooth surface and waterproof properties. There is no reason it needs to be limited to those kinds of rooms, however, and its elegant finish makes it ideal for hallways, or feature walls.
It is also a very pliable and easy-to-work material and is not limited to use on large flat surfaces like walls, floors, and ceilings. It is possible to make all manner of spectacular looking things from Tadelakt, such as shelves, sinks, and fireplaces.
If money and future maintenance is no object, it is hard to argue against a good wax—especially an olive soap wax. However, Venetian Plaster is already more expensive than other forms of plaster, so it would be understandable if cost concerns played a significant role in your decisions regarding which sealant to use.
Colour to Suit
While Tadelakt has a very distinctive look, you are not limited to one colour. It is possible to pigment the Tadelakt during the mixing process to get the colour you want in your room. Mixing the colours into the plastering medium like this means that the finished wall is not just coloured—as it would be with paint—but imbued with the colour. That means that any small scrapes or scratches that might be inflicted on the Tadelakt will not reveal an unsightly, discoloured mark.
Minimalist Yet Luxurious
Minimalism is very much in vogue in recent years, and it doesn’t seem to be a trend that ever dies away completely. Few finishes can convey a feeling of luxury and minimalism simultaneously quite as Tadelakt can. The smooth surfaces and subtle features of the Tadelakt can give any room an undeniable air of quality, while the uncluttered texture of the material will not overpower any senses.
A common misconception about Tadelakt is that it will require a lot of upkeep. While it is true that you will need to re-apply wax every so often in order to keep the surface waterproof, it is not that much of an inconvenience when contrasted with the lack of a need to scrub the grout, as you would with tiles. As far as cleaning goes, regular (if gentle) cleaning products are sufficient. You will likely find that Tadelakt does not require nearly as much attention as alternatives when it comes to cleaning.