Paint finish investigation of Grey House, Blue House Cluster, Stone Nullah Lane, Wanchai, HK

Research Centre: Architectural Conservation Laboratory
Active Dates: 13 February 2015 – 31 March 2015

Project lead: Gesa Schwantes
Project team: Gesa Schwantes; Kristina Kong (student helper BA Conservation)
Project funder: St. James’ Settlement, 85 Stone Nullah Lane, Wanchai , HK
Project type: Contract Research

Project summary:


The Blue House Cluster is a group of shop houses or tenement buildings including the Blue House, Grey House, Yellow House and Orange House. The site is bounded by Stone Nullah Lane to the west, Hing Wan Street to the south, King Sing Street to the north and a back lane to the east, in Wanchai, Hong Kong.

The four shop houses of Blue House at 72-74A Stone Nullah Lane were constructed in 1920s. It was designated as Grade 1historic building by Antiquities Advisory Board (AAB). The four shop houses of Yellow House at 2-8 Hing Wan Street were built in 1920s. It was accorded as Grade 3 historic building. The single lot Orange House at 8 King Sing Street originally built in 1930s was substantially rebuilt between 1950s and 1960s. The Orange House has no grading status. The Development Bureau (DEVB) launched in mid 2009 the Revitalising Historic Buildings through Partnership Scheme (Revitalisation Scheme) Batch II, which allow the Non-Profit-Making Organization (NPO) to revitalise Government-owned historic buildings. The secretary for Development issued an approval-in-principle to the proposal of Viva Blue House project submitted by St. James’ Settlement.

Project Scope ACLab:

The ACLab was invited to quote for paint finish analysis by St. James Settlement. Initially for Blue, Grey and Yellow House. Due to budgeting constraints the St. James Settlement required a revised quotaiton for Grey House only. The works included on- site investigaiton of the building exterior. Facade finsihes, joinerry and metal works were investigated and 22 samples of paint finishes were collected for processing and microscopic analysis in the ACLab. A report summarizing the findings was submitted to St. James settlement including comments on the main issues for defects at the building and recommenrdations for conservation and restoration works.

The building fabric of the Grey House is in an extremely poor condition due to total lack of maintenance work on the one hand (joinery and metal works were not repainted periodically and wood and metal have suffered significant deterioration), and inappropriate and damaging maintenance on the other hand (application of cement to repair plaster and repainting on dirty, damaged substrate in case of the joinery and metal works).  The application of the cement slurry, which was most probably meant to repair the damaged and likely partly missing original lime render on the facades, is now endangering the preservation of the historic fabric.

Due to the poor condition of the building the paint analysis results were not clear for all sampled building parts. In summary a yellow lime based finish was defined for the facades and dark green finishes for the joinery.

Enlarge Photo: Sample location No. 18, wall surface underneath the balcony ceiling in 1F: The original yellow façade finish is visible under younger paint finishes and a cement render applied on the entire façade.