Ashlar block render.. still looking good?

A short homage to the forgotten art of 'ashlar' block marking by Alan Denyer, MD of EBC Design and Restoration

Following on from my previous post where i talked about how render can transform a dull frontage - here's a short homage to the forgotten art of 'ashlar' block marking... Ashlar what? Well, way back in the late 1700's builders started using rendered finishes on almost everything - bricks were expensive! But, instead of leaving a plain surface, many buildings had lines drawn onto the part-dried render to imitate more expensive stone blockwork (ashlar blockwork meaning dressed cuboid stone with close fitting joints, a classical style originating in Ancient Greece) - and the practice remained common until the late 1800's.

We've tried block marking a few times and i personally like the effect when recreating a period feel on older buildings. Basically so long as you're consistent with something like a 9 inch x 15 inch minimum block size, and keep your verticals and horizontals on the level you're in business. Looks particularly good painted (use a satin finish external covering) although the extra detailing means that quite often this isnt neccesary. On the example photos here (berkeley rd south, earlsdon, coventry), we used a honey coloured local sand in the mortar mix with a small amount of hydrated lime - and left this unpainted, whilst the ashlar joint work is carved out with the tip of a 6 inch nail. Built c. 1860 the house will have been brick faced, however, previous owners had applied several coats of pebble dashed render to hide structural problems. The covering was removed prior to renovation but sadly brickwork was in too bad a state to be saved, hence the re-rendering. Anyhow, 150 years on i reckon ashlar marking's still looking good if youre thinking about extending an older style (pre-1900) property, or updating a tired frontage where restoration of existing brickwork isnt desirable - or practical.


With thanks to Alan Denyer, MD of EBC Design and Restoration - Who develops and restores 'older' property in the Coventry and Warwickshire area.