Brick masonry is one of the oldest building materials that we still use today. It has been around for centuries, and it will be used in our buildings for many years to come. Brick and mortar add a lot to any home, including curb appeal. A brick wall can also add value and style to your property, as well as add much-needed protection from the natural elements.

However, brick and mortar can be difficult to maintain as it needs a lot of work to keep up with the demands imposed by the environment. This blog post will explore how you can protect your investment in brick or masonry by sealing it before problems arise.

Using The Wrong Mortar When Dealing with Historic Bricks

The use of modern mortar on older brick is an all too common problem. While it often looks attractive, it can be troublesome over time causing problems that are not easily fixed. 

Traditional mortar consisted of lime mixed with water. As a result, they are much softer than the modern ones. Lime mortars are an excellent option for homeowners who want to refurbish their older bricks. They can be applied as a thin skim coat or mixed into existing cement-based compounds to create a lime/cement blend. Lime is made up of calcium and silicates, which react with water and heat to harden.

When you use Portland cement to restore old walls made with historic brickwork, an alkali-silica reaction will occur, which causes cracks to form over time. Portland cement also contains carbon steel fibers that corrode when exposed to water, forming rust particles that contaminate the porous materials historic bricks are made of.

To prevent this issue from arising, it’s essential to make sure that the mortar you are using is compatible with the era of your brick. Moreover, always check with a professional before starting any project like this, just to make sure you’re doing everything correctly and safely.

Severe Efflorescence

Efflorescence is a salt deposit that appears as a whitish powdery substance with an alkaline pH level. It may also appear as water droplets on building materials such as mortar joints or bricks. These deposits are often white and can be unsightly, depending on their location.

There are many reasons for efflorescence, including improper cement mixing during construction, groundwater infiltration through cracks in the wall, chemical reactions between acid rain and aluminum-based paint coatings, or rusting metal.

Efflorescence can be prevented by caulking, flashing, and dripping or weeping holes. Caulking is a great way to seal up any gaps in the exterior of your home that may trap moisture and cause efflorescence. Flashing around windows and doors will also prevent water from seeping into joints where it could come into contact with an efflorescent material. Finally, drip or weep holes are small openings at the bottom of walls below windows and doors, allowing for drainage when they get clogged by efflorescent material. All three methods work together to provide a system of protection against this common problem!

Corrosion and Rust

Most masonry walls are constructed with a mixture of mortar which is usually composed of lime and water. Over time, the mortar can absorb moisture from the air, leading to corrosion and rust within the wall. This can cause severe cracks over time that may compromise the structural integrity of your home’s foundation.

Proper installation is the best defense against corrosion and rust in brick masonry. You should mix brick mortar to medium consistency, and the mortar should not be too wet or dry when applied to the wall because it will cause cracking or chipping later down the road. Once bricks are installed, they must have a minimum clearance from any other building materials by 2 inches on all sides due to shrinkage during drying, leading to cracks in the mortar joints. 

It is also essential to regularly check for signs of corrosion or rust on masonry walls to prevent these issues before they happen.

Poorly Installed Flashing

The installation of flashing, a key component in brick masonry work. Flashing is designed to protect the structure from water intrusion and corrosion by diverting water from the wall’s surface. However, inadequate or improperly installed flashing can lead to costly repairs down the road.

One common flashing issue is inadequate weep holes. The hole might be too small or not in the right place, or there might not be enough holes, in general, to allow all of the condensation steam to be released. To prevent this issue from arising, the hole should be located at least one inch above the bottom edge of the window or door and must extend at least four inches past each side.

Lack of Regular Maintenance

As a homeowner, you know the importance of regular maintenance when it comes to your home. This is especially important for brick masonry. Neglecting regular upkeep can lead to severe problems that may not be easily fixed or repaired. These include cracks in bricks, erosion on mortar joints, and spalling of brick faces caused by freeze-thaw cycles.

Power washing and sandblasting are two usual ways to clean brick and mortar. Power washing uses high-pressure water jets to remove dirt, whereas sandblasting uses abrasive materials like sand or glass beads to dissolve the surface layer of the bricks to expose their natural color.

Related: All About Masonry: A Comprehensive Guide