Everything You Need to Know About Tadelakt
Tempted by this gorgeous velvety plaster but not sure how to use it or whether it’s suitable? Read on for expert advice
We asked three experts what you need to know before using tadelakt in your home. Read on to discover the pros and cons, where it can be used, how to apply and maintain it, and whether or not it’s a sustainable option.
Professional advice from: Lorraine Sakharet of Decorbuddi; Carl Ferri of C Ferri Interiors; Ian Kozlowski of Decor Tadelakt
“Tadelakt is a traditional lime-based plaster, originally from Morocco, with a natural, non-toxic and breathable finish,” Carl Ferri says. “It’s one of the most popular lime-based plasters and has been used as a domestic finish for thousands of years.”
“It’s still popular in hammams and buildings throughout North Africa,” Lorraine Sakharet adds. “The word ‘tadelakt’ is derived from the Arabic term ‘dalaka’, which means ‘to knead’ or ‘to rub’.”
The application process is more involved than for regular plaster. “Applying tadelakt involves several stages,” Lorraine says. “This includes the preparation of the lime plaster mix, its application on a substrate – typically a base layer of plaster or masonry – and the polishing stage that gives it its characteristic glossy appearance. It’s a labour-intensive process that requires skill and expertise to achieve the desired results.”
“If waterproofing is required, sealers are applied,” Carl adds, “then, finally, protective waxes.”
Find the pros you need for your project in the Houzz Professionals Directory.
Tadelakt might have been off many people’s radar until now, but that’s starting to change. The gently marbled, velvety material fits in with a growing appetite for softer, more raw finishes.
“Since lockdown, we’ve been craving getting back to nature, while those working from home want to create havens that feel natural, calming and organic,” Lorraine says. “Tadelakt has an appealing smooth aesthetic with spa-like qualities.”
“Its natural organic appearance and feel are a welcome alternative to flat painted walls,” Carl adds.
There’s also a huge range of colours to choose from. “Tadelakt can be virtually any colour,” Ian Kozlowski says. “We’ve seen a rise in more natural shades and finishes, with warm natural tones replacing greys. Bone, a warm light neutral, is very popular at the moment.”
“The suppliers we use also offer a colour-matching service,” Carl adds.
Many people prefer tadelakt’s soft, warm aesthetic to the harsh lines of tiles or plain plaster. “It offers a distinctive, elegant appearance with a smooth, lustrous finish,” Lorraine says. “The plaster has a natural variation in colour and texture, providing a rustic, artisan feel. It can complement a variety of interior design styles, from contemporary to traditional.”
“Being hand-applied, it has a natural movement and organic texture,” Carl agrees. “No two walls will be identical, creating a unique finish.”
Tadelakt is especially popular in bathrooms, thanks to its anti-microbial and moisture-resistant properties.
“Once polished with olive oil soap or waxes, it is water- and mould-resistant, and with its seamless finish, has no cracks or crevices that can attract dirt or mould,” Carl says.
“When properly applied and sealed, it becomes almost impermeable to water, making it an excellent choice for areas exposed to water, ” Lorraine says. “The smooth surface also makes it easy to clean.”
“Tadelakt has a very high lime content,” Ian says. “This means, if it’s wet, it wants to dry.”
More: 19 Bathrooms Where Tadelakt Has Been Used Beautifully
Absolutely. “Tadelakt is a beautiful, tactile alternative to tiling in wetrooms and bathrooms, but it can also be used in kitchens or as a gorgeous feature wall anywhere,” Lorraine says.
“It can be used in virtually any room – as a feature wall in a living space, enveloping a bedroom in its warm texture, or used outside undercover to create a Mediterranean feel on a patio,” Carl agrees.
“We’ve found that more homeowners are using the plaster over larger areas, such as hallways and living spaces,” Ian says.
Carl says that chemical cleaners aren’t necessary. “It’s recommended you just wipe it with water and re-coat with an olive soap solution to ensure its condition stays intact,” he advises.
However, you will need to remember to do this every two or three months in order to help maintain its natural good looks.
You should also take care not to use harsh bleaches on tadelakt, as this can damage the soap finish. “We think it’s like a wooden sash window – it’s beautiful and needs treating with care and respect,” Ian says.
However, if you care for it, tadelakt will reward you. “Tadelakt is known for its longevity and durability,” Lorraine says. “Properly maintained, it can last for many years without needing significant repairs or replacements.”
Unless you’re a confident plasterer, applying tadelakt isn’t a DIY job. “It’s a tricky plaster to master, so we recommend it be applied by a professional,” Ian says.
“Ensuring the substrate is correct is vital,” he adds. “We recommend a board called Fermacell Powerpanel H2O in wet areas.”
Be aware also that tadelakt isn’t suitable for floors. “While it’s durable for walls, ceilings, vanity units, vanity tops, shelves and niches, it doesn’t have sufficient resilience to be applied as a flooring,” Carl says.
Price may also be a factor, as it’s not the cheapest finish. “The cost of tadelakt may be higher compared to conventional plaster or tiling, so it’s essential to consider the budget for your project,” Lorraine says.
“Our prices are on a par with high-end tiles,” Ian adds.
Tadelakt’s green credentials make it an increasingly popular choice, according to Carl. “It’s an abundant, sustainable resource,” he says.
It also has a low environmental impact. “If you dispose of it in future, it can be crushed and recycled into new mortar due to its composition,” Carl says. “If you do throw it away rather than recycle it, it’s biodegradable and will gradually sink back into the earth.”
Have you used tadelakt in your home? Share your tips and photos in the Comments.