Affordable Masonry and Tuckpointing

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should I repoint my house or building?

The longevity of mortar joints should last about 45 years, but will vary with the exposure conditions and the material used. Since brick can last over 100 years, the occassional maintenance tast for brick masonry is the repair of mortar joints.  Repointing your home as soon as you see deterioration in the mortar if the most effective and permanent way of decreasing water entry into the brickwork and making it worse.

Can you match mortar color to blend in with the existing one?

Yes. The first step toward achieving a consistent mortar color is using the same ingredients as the home or building was built with.  Many years of specializing in brick repair has helped us to develop a fool-proof method of matching colors of mortar, allowing us to match any existing mortar or brick regardless of color or age. The cracks in brick and mortar virtually disappear.

Colored mortar is most often mixed at the job site—using pre-blended materials or individual ingredients. Mortar color is a cost effective way to increase the visual impact of masonry structures, whether concrete or clay units are used. Both custom and stock colors are available.

To create color in mortar, mineral pigments are added to mortar mixes, either along with the cement at the manufacturing facility or directly to the mortar mixer on the job. When added to the cement, the benefits of pre-blended color are a consistently mixed product and factory-controlled dosages. Contractors can be assured that the cement product is uniform, and they simply need to do their part to batch materials consistently and mix mortar thoroughly. (The same uniformity is applicable to pre-blended colored mortar mixes.) For job site blending, individual pigment packets are added to the mixer. To get proportions right on a consistent basis, it’s usually recommended to use only full bags of cement for each batch, as partial bags necessitate measuring partial pigment dosages.

Consistency is key to uniform results—and uniform appearance over the entire wall surface. From batching to mixing, placing, tooling, and curing, every aspect of getting the mortar in the wall can affect its final appearance.

Sand should be from the same source for the entire project, and proportions of sand relative to cement should be monitored for consistency from batch to batch. (Pre-blended mortar mixes ensure proportions through factory-controlled batching.) Similarly, water should be dosed consistently to maintain a uniform water-cement ratio in the in-place mortar.

What is masonry?

  Masonry is the building of structures from individual units laid in and bound together by mortar, and the term "masonry" can also refer to the units themselves. The common materials of masonry construction are brick, stone such as , marble, sandstone, cobblestone, flintstone, granite, slate, travertine, limestone ; concrete block, glass block, and tile. Masonry is generally a highly durable form of construction. However, the materials used, the quality of the mortar and workmanship, and the pattern the units are put in can strongly affect the durability of the overall masonry construction.

Masonry is commonly used for the walls of buildings, retaining walls and monuments. Brick is the most common type of masonry and may be either weight-bearing or a veneer. Concrete block masonry is rapidly gaining in popularity as a comparable material. Blocks - most of which have hollow cores - offer various possibilities in masonry construction. They generally provide great compressive strength, and are best suited to structures with light transverse loading when the cores remain unfilled. Filling some or all of the cores with concrete or concrete with steel reinforcement (typically "rebar") offers much greater tensile and lateral strength to structures.

What is tuckpointing?

  Tuckpointing is a way of using two contrasting colours of mortar in brickwork, one colour matching the bricks themselves, to give an artificial impression that very fine joints have been made.

 The method was developed in England in the nineteenth century to imitate brickwork constructed using rubbed bricks (or rubbers ): bricks of fine red finish which were made slightly oversize and then individually abraded or cut, often by hand, to a precise size after firing. When laid with white lime mortar a pleasing finish of red brick contrasting with a very fine white joints was obtained. Tuckpointing was a way of achieving a similar effect using cheap, unrubbed bricks: these were laid in a mortar of a matching colour (initially red but later blue-black bricks and mortar were occasionally used) and a fine fillet of white material, usually pipeclay or putty, pushed into the joints before the mortar set.

 What are the advantages of having a house made of brick or stone?

  • The use of materials such as brick and stone can increase the thermal mass of a building, giving increased comfort in the heat of summer and the cold of winter and can be ideal for passive solar applications.
  • Brick typically will not require painting and so can provide a structure with reduced life-cycle costs, although sealing appropriately will reduce potential spalling due to frost damage. Concrete block of the non-decorative variety generally is painted or stuccoed if exposed.
  • The appearance, especially when well crafted, can impart an impression of solidity and permanence.
  • Is very heat resistant and thus will provide good fire protection.

What are the disadvantages of having a house made of brick or stone?

  • Extreme weather may cause degradation of the surface due to frost damage. This type of damage is common with certain types of brick, though relatively rare with concrete block. If non-concrete (clay-based) brick is to be used, care should be taken to select bricks suitable for the climate in question.
  • Masonry must be built upon a firm foundation (usually reinforced concrete ) to avoid potential settling and cracking. If expansive soils (such as adobe clay ) are present, this foundation may need to be quite elaborate and the services of a qualified structural engineer may be required.
  • The high weight increases structural requirements, especially in earthquake prone areas.

 What is stonework?

 Stone blocks used in masonry can be "dressed" or "rough." Stone masonry utilizing dressed stones is known as ashlar masonry, whereas masonry using irregularly shaped stones is known as rubble masonry. Both rubble and ashlar masonry can be laid in courses (rows of even height) through the careful selection or cutting of stones, but a great deal of stone masonry is uncoursed.

Natural stone veneers over CMU, cast-in-place, or tilt-up concrete walls are widely used to give the appearance of stone masonry.

Sometimes "river rock" (oval shaped smooth stones) is used as a veneer. This type of material is not favored for solid masonry as it requires a great amount of mortar and can lack intrinsic structural strength.

Manufactured-stone veneers are maturing in their popularity as an alternative to natural stones. Attractive natural stone has become more expensive in many areas and in some areas is practically unavailable. Manufactured-stone veneers are typically made from concrete. Natural stones from quarries around the world are sampled and recreated using moulds, aggregate, and colorfast pigments. To the casual observer there may be no visual difference between veneers of natural and manufactured stone.

Why use concrete blocks?

 Blocks of cinder concrete (" cinder blocks " or "breezeblocks"), ordinary concrete (" concrete blocks "), or hollow tile are generically known as Concrete Masonry Units (CMU)s. They usually are much larger than ordinary bricks and so are much faster to lay for a wall of a given size. Furthermore, cinder and concrete blocks typically have much lower water absorption rates than brick. They often are used as the structural core for veneered brick masonry, or are used alone for the walls of factories, garages and other "industrial" buildings where such appearance is acceptable or desirable. Such blocks often receive a stucco surface for decoration. Surface-bonding cement, which contains synthetic fibers for reinforcement, is sometimes used in this application and can impart extra strength to a block wall. Surface-bonding cement is often pre-coloured and can be stained or painted thus resulting in a finished stucco-like surface.

The primary structural advantage of concrete blocks in comparison to smaller clay-based bricks is that a CMU wall can be reinforced by filling the block voids with concrete with or without steel rebar. Generally, certain voids are designated for filling and reinforcement, particularly at corners, wall-ends, and openings while other voids are left empty. This increases wall strength and stability more economically than filling and reinforcing all voids. Another type of steel reinforcement, referred to as ladder-reinforcement, can also be embedded in horizontal mortar joints of concrete block walls. The introduction of steel reinforcement generally results in a CMU wall having much greater lateral and tensile strength than unreinforced walls.

Some concrete blocks are colored, and some employ a split face, a technique that results in two blocks being manufactured as one unit and later split into two. This gives the blocks a rough face replicating the appearance of natural, quarried stone, such as brownstone. For applications such as roadway sound control walls, the face patterns may be complex and even artistic.

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