Charlotte masonry contractors say don't wait to address repairs
A worker for Courtney Masonry prepares to replace brick on a crumbling walkway. Owner Doug Courtney recommends taking care of masonry issues promptly to avoid compounding damage. Photos by Jeremy Deal
Fifteen years of North Carolina winters took their toll on the steps leading from the driveway to the front door of Bob Jackson's home. "I bought the house new, and the brickwork was new as well, but I noticed the cracks developing two or three years ago," the Angie's List member from Matthews, N.C., says.
After soliciting three bids, Jackson hired highly rated Celtic Masonry in Mooresville, N.C., to repair the mortar damage on four sets of steps on the stairways. "Brick and mortar are intended to stand the test of time, but mortar will tend to break down," says Celtic owner Paul Nelson. "It happens often on front steps, because of traffic and sun exposure."
The Carolinas' relatively mild winters motivate Charlotte-area residents to build walkways, porches, patios and other exterior brick structures, according to local masonry contractors.
"People want to bring the indoors out," Nelson says. But the freeze-and-thaw cycles that occur throughout the colder months make brickwork susceptible to damage.
"Water gets down in those cracks and freezes, then expands, and that's going to loosen brick or push mortar out of joints," he says. Even a well-done masonry job becomes vulnerable over time.
"The bricks were fine, and I think the [original] work was probably done as it should have been in the first place," says Jackson, adding that Celtic filled in the mortar and put the bricks back in place over a period of about three days. The job cost $600, which Jackson says was "considerably lower" than the other bids he received.
North Carolina requires a contractor's license for masonry work costing more than $30,000, while South Carolina mandates a residential contractor's license for any job with a price tag of more than $200.
Make sure providers possess the proper credentials and experience working with the materials needed for your project, whether it entails repairing a worn out walkway, tuckpointing, installing pavers or other jobs.
Doug Courtney, owner of highly rated Courtney Masonry and Concrete in Lancaster, S.C., suggests looking for companies that will guarantee their work. "I usually give a one-year warranty, but if there's something out of the ordinary [after that], and we didn't do something right, we'll go back and fix it," Courtney says.
While laying brick or mortar, contractors can help prevent future weather-related damage by ensuring the area has proper drainage and applying sealants. "There have been a lot of products that have come out that will help seal and protect stone and brickwork," Nelson says.
The cost of a masonry job varies, depending on the size and scope. Nelson says a simple, one-day repair job could cost as little as $300, but longer or more complicated projects could go higher. "If it's something that you have to set a scaffold or use ladders, it'll be a lot more expensive," Courtney says.
Don't wait to address mortar cracks, he adds. Courtney says a newly built home takes about 10 years to settle into its foundation, so it's imperative to address problems immediately. "It's only going to get worse," he says.