Hydraulic lime is a variety of lime, a slaked lime used to make lime mortar. Hydraulicity is the ability of lime to set under water. Hydraulic lime is produced by heating calcining limestone that contains clay and other impurities. Calcium reacts in the kiln with the clay minerals to produce silicates that enable the lime to set without exposure to air. Any unreacted calcium is slaked to calcium hydroxide. Hydraulic lime is used for providing a faster initial set than ordinary lime in more extreme conditions (including under water).
Use in construction
Hydraulic lime is a useful building material for the following reasons:
- It has a low elastic modulus.
- There is no need for expansion (movement) joints.
- It allows buildings to "breathe", and does not trap moisture in the walls.
- It has a lower firing temperature than Portland cement, and is thus less polluting.
- Stone and brickwork bonded with lime is easier to re-use.
- Lime acts sacrificially in that it is weaker and breaks down more readily than the masonry, thus saving weaker stone such as sandstone and limestone from the harmful effects of temperature expansion and mortar freeze.
- It is less dense than cement, thus less cold bridging.
- Lime re-absorbs the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by its calcination (firing), thus partially offsetting the large amount emitted during its manufacture. The more hydraulic a lime, the less CO2 is reabsorbed during set, for example, 50% of CO2 is reabsorbed by NHL 3.5 during the set, compared to 100% of CO2 being reabsorbed by pure calcium hydroxide (fat lime putty).
Hydraulic Lime concrete
Hydraulic Lime concretes have been in use since Roman Times either as mass foundation concretes or as lightweight concretes using tufa or pumice as aggregates and a wide range of pozzolans to achieve different strengths and speeds of set. This meant that lime could be used in a wide variety of applications including floors and even vaults or domes. An example is the Pantheon in Rome which has survived for nearly two thousand years, the dome's diameter is equal to its height from the floor. It has six different lime mixes which change the properties and lightness of the material.
Natural hydraulic lime (NHL) is classified for different uses:
Feebly hydraulic lime
Feebly hydraulic lime (NHL 2) is used for internal work and external work in sheltered areas.
Feebly hydraulic lime contains up to 10% clay/ clay mixed with other impurities. It might take one week or more to set after the addition of water. Setting is the process of permanently taking the shape into which lime has been moulded.
Moderately hydraulic lime
Moderately hydraulic lime (NHL 3.5) can be used for external work in most areas.
Moderately hydraulic lime contains clay in the range of 11% to 20%. This type of lime sets (assumes given shape) within a few days after the addition of water.
Eminently hydraulic lime
Eminently hydraulic lime (NHL 5) is used for external work in exposed areas, such as chimneys and for floor slabs/underpinning.
Eminently hydraulic lime contains clay in the range of 21% to 30%. Properties of eminently hydraulic lime are close to those of cement. Eminently hydraulic lime sets within one day after the addition of water.
- Hydraulic Limes gain strength over time hence providing flexibility and avoiding the need for expansion joints.
- Considered to be more environmentally friendly than cement as they are burnt at a lower temperature and uniquely re-absorb some of the carbon dioxide given off during burning as they cure/carbonate in/on the wall.
- Enable building components to be reclaimed and reused as they are 'softer' than cement.
- Set under water hence making them ideal for applications in contact with the sea, canals, rivers etc.