Pebble dash: The do’s and don’ts

Pebble dash: The do’s and don’ts

Pebble dash is a bit like property Marmite – there are those who despise it and those who see it as an opportunity.

There are also those who value how sensible it is.

There may even be some people who actually like it.

Here, we’ll explain everything you need to know about pebble dash, including what you’ll need to do if you want to remove it and how you can make it look more attractive…


What is pebble dash?

Pebble dash is a form of render that uses cement and lots of small stones and rocks.

Popular between the 1920s and 1950s, pebble dash was often used by builders to cover up poor brickwork on new properties.

Pebble dash was applied to external brick walls by smoothing a layer of cement over the brickwork and then throwing the stones and small rocks into the wet mortar.


The pros and cons of pebble dash

Pebble dash splits opinion and there are certainly pros and cons to having a pebble dash home.


Pebble dash pros

Pebble dash cons

Low maintenance finish

Looks old fashioned

Hard wearing and lasting

Can be difficult to remove

Cost effective way to cover poor brickwork

Could devalue your home


Can pebble dash be removed?

It’s possible to remove pebble dash from a property – but there’s lots to consider before you do.

Pebble dash can hide a multitude of sins.

After all, in the 1950s it was often used by builders to cover up poor quality brickwork.

It’s impossible to assess the condition of the walls underneath a layer of pebble dash.

And removing the render could end up revealing a whole host of other costly issues, including:


  • Poor brickwork
  • Damp
  • Poor pointing


Removal of pebble dash is a job for a professional and could cost thousands of pounds, depending on the size of the property and the level or remedial work required once the render is removed.


How is pebble dash removed?

The only way to actually remove pebble dash is to chip it off.

This is time-consuming and can be risky, as damage can be caused to the brick wall behind the render.

So, it’s always best to consult a professional if you’re thinking of removing pebble dash from your property.


Can you paint pebble dash?

It’s possible to paint pebble dash and this is an option many homeowners and landlords opt for when looking to improve the exterior look of their properties.

However, painting pebble dash requires a certain amount of preparation and tools to do a good job.


What you’ll need when painting pebble dash

To paint pebble dash, you’ll need:


  • A waterproof and breathable masonry paint
  • A long pile roller and paint tray
  • A dust brush
  • A masonry brush
  • Sand paper
  • Masking tape


How to paint pebble dash

1. Start by preparing the surface by removing dirt and cleaning down the surface of the pebble dash with your dust brush.

2. Examine the wall for any signs of cracks or damage, or any missing stones or rocks and use an exterior filler on areas that need attention

3. Ensure the surface of the wall is dry and use a masonry cleaner to kill off any bacteria or algae that could be growing on the pebble dash. Wash down with a hose

4. Once the wall is dry, apply an exterior primer using a roller and brush

5. Once the primer is dry, mask off areas like windows, doors and downpipes

6. Apply the exterior masonry paint using the long pile roller and use the masonry brush to apply paint to the spaces between stones – use plenty of paint

7. Allow the first coat to dry for at least four hours and then apply a second coat with your long pile roller

Professional exterior painters use spray systems, which can mean a better finish and certainly less work for you.


Can you render over pebble dash?

Rendering over pebble dash can put additional strain on the exterior of the house and should never be done.

It can also lock in moisture between the pebble dash and the layer of render on top.

Because most pebble dash walls were rendered with cement, the surface won’t be breathable.

So, applying a layer on top could lead to more serious damp problems.


How do you modernise pebble dash?

Pebble dash can be modernised by painting, but this is a very work-intensive task.

One other way to modernise a pebble dash wall is to install 20mm external wall insulation boards over the top of the wall and then either apply a coloured render over the boards or render and then paint.


Cleaning pebble dash

Sometimes, cleaning a pebble dash wall can improve its appearance.

Dirt and grime can build up on pebble dash walls over time, making them appear even more brown than they sometimes look naturally.

Before attempting to clean your pebble dash wall, check for missing stones or cracks and fill in any damaged areas.

Once ready, spray the wall with a hose to remove any loose dirt.

Then, fill a bucket with soapy water and use a bristle brush to scrub the surface of the wall.

Spray down the wall again to remove any soap residue and allow to dry naturally.


Further reading…