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Researching the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
  Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada


Interior Finish

by Linda Hoad

In Historians,
Preliminary Architectural Studies,
Volume 03, Unpublished Report HG 02
(Fortress of Louisbourg, 1972,
Report Number H G 02 03 03)



This report considers the remaining types of interior finish , other than lambris and panelling, which have already been studied. These finishes are: crépi, enduit, plaster, whitewash, and paint.

The documentation on which this study is based is very sketchy, because time did not permit an examination of the unindexed toisés, marchés, and devis. Information concerning these materials is also filed under other headings (e.g. door reveals,, fireplaces, etc.), and the whole problem of interior finish will have to be restudied when reports on each of these topics have been completed. This report is mainly a definition of terminology found in the documents filed to date, and will serve as a basis for more extended research in primary and secondary sources.

The reader should also consult the report on "Crépissage and Enduit" in Château St- Louis Historical Reports Series I (H-C4), and the draft of a report on interior finish by Blaine Adams, appended to this report.



The terminology in the documents is very loose and the terms crépi and enduit are used interchangeably: "crépissage en platre" [NOTE 1] or "enduit en platre" [NOTE 2] ; "crépis en mortier de chaux et sable: [NOTE 3] or "enduits en mortier de chaux et sables" [NOTE 4]. Dictionary definitions, and the 1727 specifications, indicate that there is a difference between the two.


Crépissage, or roughcasting, is a preliminary step in finishing a wall. According to Chabat, Daviler, and Diderot, it is a coating of plaster or mortar applied with a broom, without using a trowel. Chabat states that this technique is used on rubble masonry., on the fill of a charpente building, and on ceilings. The 1727 specifications indicate that crépissage was done with a lime and sand mortar, 1 part lime to two parts sand, and that it cost 2 livres 10 sols per square toise [NOTE 5]. It was used both outside and inside a building. No mention is made in the official documents of the use of plaster for crépissage, as suggested in the secondary sources, and it is unlikely that plaster was used in this way.


Enduit is a term indicating a thin layer of plaster, lime mortar, or cement mortar used on walls to protect them from moisture and to improve their appearance. (Daviler, Chabat, Diderot). The closest English equivalent is probably "stucco". The 1727 specifications state that the same type of mortar should be used for enduit as for crépi, but that it should be passed through a bouclier [? possibly a screen] in order to prevent cracks. (" ... et cet Enduit sera passé au bouclier, afin d'Eviter les gersures"). The price for this work was 6 livres 10 sols. Most of the secondary sources suggest that the crépi layer is much coarser than the enduit layer. (Davey, Norman. A History of Building Materials Neve, Richard. The City and Country Purchaser's and Builder's Dictionary).

According to the documents, there are three distinct types of enduit: sand and lime [NOTE 6] (described above), earth and lime [NOTE 7] and plaster [NOTE 8]. The latter will be dealt with separately in the next section.

Earth or clay (terre grasse) and lime enduit is not mentioned in the official specifications and toisés but is quite frequently mentioned in connection with private buildings. The terms "crépir en terre" [NOTE 9] and "crépis en mortier de terre" [NOTE 10] also appear in the documents, and may indicate an enduit made only with clay; however it is more likely that these terms are abbreviated forms of clay and lime enduit. Since terre grasse is a frequently used construction material, some further research should be done in order to determine just what the French meant by this tem.



Plaster enduits were used less frequently than the other types and they were more expensive (10 livres per square toise in the 1727 specifications). In fact, almost the only references to date on the use of plaster concern fireplaces (Engineer's House, Levasseur house).

There is a very interesting comment in 1717 on the need to hire an experienced plasterer in order to avoid carpentry work which was more expensive and more time-consuming. ("il faut engager un maitre masson ... experiment dans le travail a platre pour eviter les travaux de menuiserie qui ocupent trop d'ouvriers et trop de temps") [NOTE 11]. Daviler mentions two qualities of plaster, the first for crépis, and the second for enduits and "architecture" such as lambris, cornices, chimney mantels, etc. The use of plaster for this type of detail will have to be examined very carefully, from the documents and from the artefacts.


Whitewash was a finish technique normally applied after the crépissage and enduit. According to the 1727 specifications it was to be put on in two coats, using quick lime that had been slaked the same day, or the day before. This work cost 15 sols per square toise. It was used in both private and King's buildings.

Note that the term "blanchi" when used in reference to wood means "planed", not "whitewashed."


There is, unfortunately, very little documentary evidence concerning the use of paint in Louisbourg. The small amount of evidence we do have has come mainly from private papers, and therefore is difficult and time consuming to find. Charles Ives Duval, a carpenter who built most of the Levasseur house,, received a large quantity of paint ingredients from France, and submitted a bill for painting two rooms in the Levasseur house. [NOTE 12]. The only other references we have to date concern payments made to painters in 1741 and 1750 for work done in the Qrdonnateur's house [NOTE 13].

Further research in private papers, and an examination of the shipping records could provide more extensive documentation on the use of paint in Louisbourg.


The terms crépi and enduit will have to be examined with care whenever they are encountered, since they are used interchangeably, and can be almost identical in composition. The main difference between crépi and enduit is the degree of finish - crépi is a roughcast used both inside and outside, and enduit is a smooth layer applied over the crept on the interior. Ganet used the term "enduit poly" ("polished enduit") in 1725 [NOTE 14] ; the precise meaning of this term will have to be investigated.

Enduits could be made of lime and sand, lime and clay, or plaster. Chemical analysis of some of the artefacts might provide useful information on the composition of enduits used in Louisbourg.

Both of the lime enduits were common interior finishes used in all types of building. The documents give the impression that these finishes were the poor manes plaster. More research is required to determine how the enduits were applied to the various wall types. (e.g. laths).

Plaster seems to have been used more sparingly than the other enduits. The documents do not mention its use on walls, except in the Chapel in the King's Bastion barracks, although archaeological evidence exists for plastered walls. Presumably plaster could be applied over the crept and enduit, and would produce an even smoother surface than the enduit. The use of plaster in decorative features is hinted at, and should be examined more carefully.

Whitewash and paint were finish techniques that could be applied to either an enduit or plaster surface. Whitewash was fairly common, but a more detailed study of exactly where it was used will be required. Paint will also require further research to determine how frequently and where it was used, and what colours were available.


[NOTE 1:] 1731-34, AFO G2, vol. 208, dossier 479. "Payemens faits ... pour la maison de Mr LeVasseur ..."; [NOTE 2:] 28 novembre 1726, AC CIIB, vol. 8, f. 13(v). St-Ovide et de Mesy au Ministre; [NOTE 3:] 28 octobre 1735, AC CIIB, vol. 17, f. 257. Verrier au Ministre; [NOTE 4:] 31 décembre 1749, AC CIIB,, vol. 28, ff. 330-51(v), "Estat des Ouvrages de reparations ..."; [NOTE 5:] 7 octobre 1727, AC CIIB, vol. 9, ff. 127-32. "Devis d'un suplement de Marché ... "; [NOTE 6:] 28 octobre 1735, AC CIIB, vol. 17, f. 257. Verrier au Ministre. [NOTE 7:] 26 juillet 1754, AFO G3, carton 2042., m. 69. Devis d'une maison; [NOTE 8:] 7 octobre 1727, AC C"B, vol. 9, ff. 127-32. "Devis d'un suplement de Marché [NOTE 9:] 16 décembre 1750, AFO G3, carton 2047 Pt. 1, 133, Bail à loyer; [NOTE 10:] 28 octobre 1735, AC CIIB, vol. 17, f. 257. Verrier au Ministre; [NOTE 11:] 22 mai 1717,, AC CIIB, vol. 2, f. 77, de Verville au Conseil de Marine; [NOTE 12:] 19 mai 1733, AFO G2, vol. 182., ff. 716-35, "Inventaire ..."; 1731-34,, AFO G2, vol. 208, dossier 479, pièce 5. "Compte de Louvrage que jay fait ,pour mr. desmarais"; [NOTE 13:] 18 octobre 1741, AC CIIB, vol. 23, f. 173, "Bordereau des Paiements..."; 18 novembre 1750, AC CIIB, vol. 29, f. 236. "Bordereau... "; [NOTE 14:] 18 décembre 1725, AC CIIB, vol. 7, f. 348(v). Ganet au Ministre.