Part of Historic Environment Scotland

Mortars, plasters, and renders

Explore the range of materials used in the production of mortars, plasters and renders used in traditional buildings.



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4 weeks


Tuesday 14 January - Tuesday 11 February 2020

Study time

Taught:9 days


As a stand-alone short course:£765


Looking for a related qualification? Learn about our Accredited Diploma that can be taken part-time or full time.

Explore The Diploma
A close up look at yellow lime harling on the side of a building


Gain a historic overview of the development and use of mortars, plasters and renders in traditional Scottish structures, and their continued use today.

What you'll learn

Learn about the classification of raw materials, and discover the impact they have on the physical properties of mortars. Explore the use of limes and other cementing binders in plasters, renders, harling and lime wash, as well as building mortars, in traditional buildings.


The specification process is a key part of this course. Benefit from expert guidance on the practical application and conservation of plasters, renders and traditional harling, from substrate preparation to the aftercare of cured materials.

Learn how to assess all relevant aspects of a site, including exposure levels, substrate condition, and type of structure to ensure an accurate specification.


This course will also teach you how to analyse mortars using techniques including:

  • Visual inspection
  • Acid digestion
  • X-ray diffraction
  • Electron microscopy
  • Petrographic analysis
  • Moisture movement 


You will learn how to prepare mortars, focusing on the impact of water content and mixing time, the effects of additions during preparation, and the technical suitability of restoration mortars versus ready-mixed materials.

Topics covered

  • Scottish traditions
  • Production of mortars
  • Mortar analysis
  • Plaster composition
  • Render composition
  • Conservation of lime mortars
  • Scottish plasterwork traditions
  • Repair and conservation of historic plasterwork
  • Repair and conservation of traditional renders

Course content

Short courses offer the opportunity to learn about building conservation through lectures, hands-on workshops, and site visits. 

Classes, lectures and presentations

Students benefit from attending classes and lectures taught by national and international experts. Forthcoming lectures are to be confirmed.

Previous speakers have included:

  • Craig Frew (Frew Construction)
  • Roz Artis (Scottish Lime Centre Trust)
  • Will Napier (Adams Napier Partnership)
  • Callum Graham, (Historic Environment Scotland)
  • Charles Jones, Technical Conservation Skills Project Manager, (Historic Environment Scotland)

Potential site visits

Students may have the opportunity to participate in site visits. Forthcoming visits are to be confirmed.

Previous site visits for this course have included:

  • Scottish Lime Centre
  • Charlestown Limekilns
  • Stirling Castle
  • Grandison Plaster workshop, Peebles
  • Bannockburn House
  • Edinburgh Castle
  • Moray House
  • Acheson House
  • Holyrood Palace
  • Croft-an-Righ (Edinburgh)
  • Pollok House
  • Britannia Panopticon Music Hall
  • Glasgow City Chambers


Although our short courses are not formally assessed, students will be awarded a certificate upon successfully completing this course.

A formal qualification can be obtained by studying our Advanced Professional Diploma on Technical Building Conservation.

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