Tadelakt Today

 

Origins

 

When you ask 'what is tadelakt' not many people can give you an accurate answer, as no official technical data exists not even in Morocco. There are few books written about experiences and correct information quite scarce, but still nothing conclusive. We know it is water resistant but not waterproof, with the word 'tadelakt' deriving from 'dallek" and arabic word meaning 'kneading' or to 'caress'. Tadelakt comes out of the earth and has a fine brilliance, giving us a precious model in the understanding of nature and culture. We visited Morocco to learn the technique and travelled in its foreign world with thoughts of how we could bring this world back to our home.

 

Tadelakt is very old and we have never come across the original in the UK. The material or technique has no origins or connections to Europe and this shows us how much we know about North Africa and the middle east.

 

If you goto Morocco and walk around Marrackech, you realise how omnipressent this kind of surface fitting is. Anyone who is interested in materials such as natural plasters etc senses on the spot the differences from other available plastic immatation material from Italy and Germany. The fact that tadelakt is lime raises one sensations in the material. In the desert vallery near Marrakech this material could be confused with mud, yet once the process from earth to a strong and beautiful shiny wall is understood...the craftsman is facinated.

 

Tadelakt is an exclusive material....anyone from Europe who is standing in front of a tadelakt surface is aware that this is special. It looks solid, noble and while the surface has a depth and the colours never glaring. The shimmery aspect appeals to you in the most subtle way and it is almost useless trying to escape its spell...you simply have to touch it. The changes in light and refections make the colours look different everytime.

 

 

 

Tadelakt conquers the world.

Soft. Human. Immortal

 

 

Our Story

 

When I first got into tadelakt in 2010, I started off using tadelakt from Europe, mainly Italy, Belgium & Germany As I knew no better, I thought this was how tadelakt was supposed to be applied and look like.

 

European tadelakt is applied similar to an Italian marmorino and the finish product looks more or less the same, depending on how you trowel it up.

 

The application process is;

Mixing the tadelakt with man-made concentrated liquid colourants and apply with a standard metal plasterers trowel scraped on in 2-3 thin coats. The final coat is compressed and trowelled excessively, and as the coats are applied thin and grain height; this leads to a marmorino or marmorino smooth look. The next day the finish is waxed with a soap or bees wax.

 

As you can read, this method is pretty much black and white... This ridiculous method and immatated material is nothing to do with traditional tadelakt methods such as - soaking the tadelakt under water for days / weeks before use, use traditional Moroccan wood floats, smoothing with the stone,  soaping with olive soap while the tadelakt is still damp and the use of yogurt lids, plastic stamp & plastic spoons for smoothing etc.

 

After I had read various tadelakt books and sourced information from Moroccan's in London, I realised that the European method explained above is how I had been applying tadelakt like many others. There was nothing medieval or ancient about applying tadelakt in such a monotonous way. Obviously there is a strong connection between tadelakt and the traditions of its country of origin. I travelled to Morocco in 2013 to learn the technique and experience the special attitude with life associated with it.

Today we have companies like KREDEZEIT, STUCCO ITALIANO & KOPRIK who send their immatation material into the UK and into the hands of installers / applicators who just did a course or have added this to their already microcement and polished plaster repitoire. These installers then call themselves tadelakt experts but no fault of their own ...as its simply all they know. There is nothing more we would like to see than the original material used. The above companies have all jumped on the "tadelakt" bandwagon with Kredezeit starting it all off.

Our clients are normally people who have travelled to Morocco and have seen it in the flesh. If you have been to Morocco, then you will instantly recognise our beautiful tadelakt, and feel that instant charm.


After I had read various tadelakt books and sourced information from Moroccan's in London, I realised that the European method explained above is how I had been applying tadelakt like many others. There was nothing medieval or ancient about applying tadelakt in such a monotonous way. So I decided to travel to the home of tadelakt and experience this fascinating material for myself. Obviously there is a strong connection between tadelakt and the traditions of its country of origin. I travelled to Morocco to learn the technique and experience the special attitude with life associated with it.

 

A real original coarse tadelakt (5mm grains / 2 coats) Installation method

 

  • Tadelakt powder (lime) is mixed dry with the dry powder pigments

  • A measured amount of water is poured over the dry mix (no mixing needed)

  • This is known as 'soaking the tadelakt' where the water will work its way to the bottom over many days or weeks. When opened after this long period, a solid mass of rock should be evident

  • The cedar wood floats need to be submersed in water for 24 hours

  • A substrate of Hydraulic Lime & sand render (2 coats) with horse hair should be installed beforehand

  • Tadelakt is applied onto the dampened rendered surface

  • The material is left to stiffen, and rubbed up with the wooden cedarwood float

  • A plastic spattle is passed over the surface many times as well careful use of the polishing stone with an agate at least 6/10 (hardness)

  • The smooth and shiny tadelakt now goes into a resting phase from 5-24 hours

  • When the indication are present (experience), many applications of black olive soap and water are applied to the surface and rendered smooth with the stone.

  • Original tadelakt can take upto a week to dry (change colour)

  • Micro fissures should now be present but does not effect the integrity nor it's hydrophobic properties

 

 

 

After getting back to here in the UK, I was determind to make this wonderful material work here. I had heard so many stories from people who had been to Morocco and Moroccan's themselves who were flown here to apply their tadelakt and left confused, unpaid and a material that although was applied correctly, but had to be scraped off the walls as it never dried. This wasn't the Moroccans fault, as they are just used to brick walls as their substrate and never seen modern construction before. I was told time and time again by Moroccan interior designers that the true original tadelakt, simply doesn't work here, hence why other companies are using a thin, marmorino looking material and calling it tadelakt, to me this was just an excuse, but then again 90% of companies advertising tadelakt, probably have never even stepped foot in Morocco...meaning they are clueless from the off. Our goal is to make people aware of the differences and to show and appreciate this wonderful material.

 

 

Moroccan Lime (Tadelakt)
 

It took years to make the material work here, and the cold climate has very little to do with it. It took a lot of time, patience and hardwork to try understand this complex material, almost giving up at times. After figuring out how the Morrocan's burn the limestone; only about 60% of the stone is converted to quicklime, the core of the stone is unconverted and remains carbonate, so technically you have a mix that is more or less half binder / half aggregate (perfect combination). Now I needed to come up with a way to take the water out of the tadelakt, and creating a substrate to do so that would work consistently. Although I have carried out many installations here in the UK, like anything you will never stop learning as this material is very unpredicatable and stubborn at times. This is down to the tadelakt itself, as the original material is just rough lime which acts as the aggregate and batches can also differ. The quality of the lime is not always consistent..... but this is why the original tadelakt is so unique. They say in Morocco there is no perfect tadelakt installation, that saying is due to these inconsistencies.

 

The durability, special look and feel of the original Tadelakt justifiles the elaborate production. It's quality shows as the surface ages, for it takes on the character of maturation. Small cracks belong to the finish, just as wrinkles do to the distinguished face of an aged person.

"applying a traditional tadelakt is like
playing a game of chess... patience, timing, thinking ahead and
knowing when to move "    - tadelakt company

 

 

European immatated tadelakt (1-2mm veneer tadelakt, currently being used in the UK)

 

The lime used in European tadelakt is controlled, meaning they cannot create a rough lime that naturally comes from the uncontrolled burning of the lime in Marrakech. The material (lime) make-up is fairly hydraulic and the aggregate is added manually before distribution. When you mix water with european tadelakt it is rock hard in the container after days, Morroccan tadelakt (slightly hydraulic) stays soft for upto 8 weeks in a closed container.

 

The aggregate added to this tadelakt an be anything from grains of sand to grinded down marble etc. European tadelakt is unable to micro fissure due to controlled aggregates being added to the lime, it simply cannot replicate the beauty of the real thing. This tadelakt is about 2mm thick, has marble fragments in it which it gives it that Italian marmorino look. The finish has a very dry looking apperance with very unattractive chatter lines. A Moroccan tadelakt doesn't have marble in it and should be cloudy, earthy and natural looking, with absolutely no chatter lines.

There is a tadelakt made in Germany called Kredezeit...that looks ok upon first glance, but as you get closer you can see the difference especially with a trained eye. This material consists of fine lime and aggregate; applied thinly with a trowel and although a stone is used for polishing..oddly the cedar float is not required. As I mentioned above the Moroccan tadelakt is rough lime only with no added aggregate. Its this rough lime that gets broken down in the later stages of polishing with the stone. This is what Kredezeit lacks and makes its finished apperance look plastic and no fissures ever take place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are the immatation tadelakt material currently being used in the UK market at the moment


Kredezeit from Germany

Perfectino from Belgium

Stucco Italiano from Italy

Koprik from Italy

All of the above applied like a stucco marmarino

 

The truth is, I have yet to find an authentic tadelakt from companies advertising the service here in the UK. I have seen most sample boards and the trend seems to be quite repetitive; 1-2mm samples with a marmorino looking finish?

Order a sample board from anywhere, then order a sample from us, only then will you understand what we have been talking about.

 

It was this journey that inspired me to create tadelakt company.....

 

 


 

 

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tadelakt

European tadelakt (imitation)

Moroccan tadelakt

Here you can see two samples on a table, the left is a real tadelakt and the right is the European immatation

here are 2 samples on a table, the left is real tadelakt / the right is an immatation. You can see how thick the sample is on the left compared to the right. Which is stronger? Which would have more resistence to water or damage?

The european tadelakt has marble lines and grain, reminescent to an Italian Marmorino in which it's application process are identical. The surface feels slightly smooth and the finish looks too dry and repetitve. European tadelakt is also hydraulic lime and where the application process involves applying thin coats into one another, pin holes appear on the surface due to the grain being larger than the depths of the coats applied. On larger areas, you will see lots of movement and grain due to the applicator not being able to keep up with the drying process. Original tadelakt should dry gracefully over a week not hours.

 

The images above are openly advertised on various companies advertising tadelakt services. We went to the commercial premises mentioned and took the photos ourselves. We were quite shocked but not suprised.

The Moroccan tadelakt looks more like a cloud patina, and you should see what looks like faint cracking deep into the tadelakt. This cracking is called micro fissures and what gives an original tadelakt its beauty. The micro fissures is an indication of a correctly applied tadelakt. The picture above on the left shows the cloudy patina, The picture above on the right is one of our samples that we layed flat and poured some water on. Just look at those micro fissures !! beautiful !!

 

Moroccan tadelakt should feel soft as silk, smooth and always looks wet. As you can see...no grainy marble lines or chatter. The other main difference is European tadelakt is limited to just walls. Moroccan tadelakt can go on floors, in sinks, baths, on ornaments etc