Pebble dash versus rendering

Pebble dash. This classic British brickwork covering was the perfect solution to poor quality brickwork in the early 20th century.

Designed to cover poor brickwork by smothering the wall surfaces this cheap, weatherproof wall coating was a great solution back then, but not everybody is a great lover of it today.

Since pebble dash is only supposed to last for 20 to 40 years, many people are now having to decide between removing pebbledash and applying a new cement render, sand render, or coloured render, depending on their taste – or keeping the pebble dash and refreshing it in some way (such as paint pebble dash or cover pebble dash with boards, for example).

To help you make the decision, we’ve put together a guide looking at pebble dash and rendering, so you can decide whether to apply to render or freshen up your pebble dash with a second coat.

Pebble dash: A closer look

pebble dash

This coating is created by simply placing pebbles or stones in a wet mortar (made up of a lime mortar mix). These pebbles are left exposed as a render on the walls of a house or property. The pebbles and stones are often of different sizes, giving a unique look to the house. And it houses where these pebbles and stones renders are often found in the UK.

Benefits of pebble dash

Pebble dash is hard-wearing and cost-effective since it’s cheap to cover the walls in this coating. You can paint pebble dash whichever colour you choose, too, which helps give the pebbles a more appealing appearance.

The UK houses that were built with pebble dash have fared pretty well against the weather over the years, and many of the buildings are still standing, having dealt with the elements well.

But there’s no denying there are some problems with pebble dash…

Drawbacks of pebble dash

First of all, the rough surface finish is not a good look right now, and many people see renders with a smooth finish as being the right choice for the time we’re living in.

There are also some problems with damp and pebble dash. If not built well, to begin with, then the building can start to suffer from damp problems as the backing render fails. This removes the top coat of pebble dash, and exposes the brickwork beneath to dampness.

This becomes an even greater problem if you just apply more pebble dash over Portland cement, as pebble dash is also largely made up of cement, which isn’t breathable. The poor brickwork is then still left damp, and the problems will creep into the property itself, causing all sorts of further issues.

Replace pebble dash with more coats

If you wanted to replace pebble dash with a new coating, then that’s possible. But be warned, it’s a time-consuming job that involves removing pebbledash render from the walls, cleaning the brickwork beneath to return the walls to their original state, and then covering the wall again with a new layer of pebble dash. The new layer will need more lime mortar and pebbles, and you’ll likely need several layers, so that means even more mortar coatings.

Several layers are usually applied to make it more resistant to cracks, as cracks on single layer pebble dash are common. The more coats there are, the less chance there are of cracks.

Paint pebble dash

After the layers have been applied, you can then paint the pebble dash however you like. Once painted, the exterior walls of the building will look like new.

Make sure you clean the pebble dash before painting. After it’s painted, you won’t be able to remove the dirt and the building will look as though it’s coated in the dirt that’s stuck onto the wall otherwise.

Replace pebble dash with a new render


You could, of course, cover your walls with different materials and renders. And this is often a choice people will make because the method is usually a little easier, and you can create the finish and achieve the appealing renovated appearance you want.

Other render options

When thinking about new rendering, you have a few different options, so you’ll want to talk with a professional before you decide what is best for your property. Here are some common render solutions though:

  • Sand
  • Concrete/Cement
  • Coloured render
  • Plaster

Look into the options near you that work best.

Coloured render – a popular choice

When you hear that people have rendered their home, the typical material of choice is usually a coloured render on their exterior walls.

That’s because it makes the exterior of your property look great, and the surface is a great defence against moisture. It’s also easy to cover brick in a coloured render, and the rendering process is much quicker than with pebbledash when covering an entire house.

Painting a coloured render is much easier too, and a rendered house can simply be painted with spray, again, making everything from initial installation to maintenance much quicker and very budget friendly.

Making your mind up

The truth is, whether you’re painting pebble dash, covering it with exterior boards to lessen the rough texture of the surface, or replacing it with a new render altogether – there are lots of solutions out there for you to choose from.

The important thing is that every brick of your house has a coat that will protect it from the weather. Once covered, you can be certain that every brick is protected from the weather and you will have succeeded at keeping your house in the best possible condition.

Because really, it doesn’t matter if you prefer a pebble dash coat or a coloured render surface, so long as it does the job it’s supposed to do, then it can only be a good thing.

Aesthetics matter, of course, but don’t let what sits on your brick stop you from making the right choice. Pebble dash is hardy and great against the weather, so if you think you need this in your home, then you can still achieve a pleasant look by painting the surface.

The point is, pebble dash doesn’t have to fall out of favour. If you like it, then replace it. If you don’t, opt for a new render. It’s really that simple!

Pebble dash versus rendering 1

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