Know your masonry vocabulary
While many aspects of your home’s brick or stone exterior may seem indestructible, long-lasting durability requires regular maintenance and repairs. One of the most common problems with brick or stone masonry is the deterioration of mortar joints. If not addressed at an early stage, this condition can lead to costly major repairs.
If you’re not sure your home's masonry requires repairs, check for the following signs:
- Separation between the mortar joint and the brick itself.
- This will simply look like the mortar is still intact but there is a space between it and the brick.
- Cracks in the mortar.
- The mortar appears to be connected to both sides of the brick but a crack runs down the middle.
- Signs of cracking or crumbling in the actual bricks.
- Damp interior walls or ceilings.
Before hiring a masonry contractor, make sure you understand several key terms as you discuss the scope of the project.
Mortar: Material consisting of cement, water and fine aggregates that is used to form a hardened solid to hold bricks and stones together.
Mortar joints: The space between bricks or concrete blocks that is filled with a mortar or a grout to hold them together. The No. 1 menace to these joints is water. Expansion and contraction during freezing in cold weather can take a serious toll on joints. Mortar joints near windows along exterior walls, those around chimneys or downspouts, and those closest to the ground tend to bear the most water-related damage.
Grout: Mortar with a high water ratio.
Sealers and sealants: Materials brushed on to mortar joints in brick and stone walls to protect them from contaminants.
Repointing: Separation in bricks can be solved with repointing, which is the placement of wet mortar into cracked joints to repair weather damage. This is not to be confused with “pointing” or “tuckpointing.”
Pointing: The correcting and finishing of joints in new brick work.
Tuckpointing: A more cosmetically focused approach that uses two contrasting colors of mortar. One color matches the brick, and the other is typically white. This approach leaves the appearance of very fine joints in the brickwork.