Breathable Paints

Breathable paints for both historic and contemporary construction, including Beeck Mineral Paints, Earthborn Clay Paints, Lime Paints and Limewashes.
A breathable paint is one that allows moisture to travel through its surface. Conventional or modern coatings are usually based on a chemical formula that results in a film like coating that is designed to prevent the movement of moisture. In historic construction it is vital to ensure that the fabric is vapour open and no moisture is able to become trapped and allowed to build up, leading to moisture related issues such as damp.

Whilst breathable paints are critical for older buildings, they also play an important role within contemporary construction. Breathable paints are usually derived from naturally sourced materials with low or no chemical additions, resulting in a coating that is healthy for both the internal environment, the user and the occupier. When used, internally breathable paints help control and regulate the internal climate of rooms.

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Many paints may indicate that they are breathable, but it’s good to check to what degree. To do so, check the paint’s SD value. The SD or Steam Diffusion value measures how resistant a coating is to allowing moisture to pass through. The lower the SD value, the less resistance and more breathability. A genuinely breathable paint will have an SD Value of 0.01 to 0.05.

A breathable paint can be beneficial for areas susceptible to damp. However, there can be several reasons for damp appearing in the first place, so determining the cause is the best first step. It’s common to find that non-breathable materials contribute to or worsen damp, especially in solid-walled properties, which require breathable materials that manage moisture within the building fabric. Depending on the cause and intensity of the damp, using breathable building materials, like lime render or plaster with a breathable paint, may be a comprehensive solution worth considering.

Which paint will work best for your project depends on the characteristics of the building, budget and personal taste. The most traditional paint we offer is limewash, a thin and opaque coating with a classic matt finish that has been a practical option for centuries. However, limewash can brush off and need more frequent recoating, so it’s worth considering another option for high-traffic internal areas or heavily exposed external sites. Lime paint is a more contemporary take on limewash, more durable, less opaque and requires fewer coats than limewash. For those looking for the perfect balance of durability and breathability, we recommend Beeck Mineral Paint. This collection of paint is the highest-performing we stock, which works through a process called silicification, making it a remarkably durable and breathable alternative to traditional lime-based coatings.

While it’s possible that a breathable paint, depending on the brand, may provide some level of water resistance, water resistance is the same as waterproof. In our experience, paint is waterproof or breathable, but not both.

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