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Brick has long been regarded as one of the most enduring building materials ever crafted.  They have been used in construction since ancient times.  Outstanding examples of brickwork can be found in structures dating back to ancient civilizations in Egypt, Rome, Mesopotamia, China and Siam – not to mention medieval castles and fortresses in Europe.

Brickwork refers to masonry created by layering bricks in a pattern called bond, and joining them with mortar.  Bricks may be laid in a variety of bonds along a series of courses.  In single-thickness walls, these patterns are purely decorative, but, in double-thickness walls, they strengthen the wall by connecting the layers.

Today’s architects and engineers use brickwork and brick cladding to boost the aesthetic appeal of building façades, interior walls, pavements and other surfaces.  Brickwork is also used to finish corners, door frames, and window openings, etc.  Where brickwork remains fully visible, as opposed to being covered by plaster or stucco, it is known as face-work or facing brickwork.

Bricks may be made of clay, shale, soft slate, calcium silicate, concrete or shaped from quarried stone.  True bricks, however, are ceramic, and their durability results from the intense heat rendered by firing during the brick manufacturing process.

Assessing the need for brick repairs:

  • The settling of a structure onto its foundations may leave “stair step” cracks in brick walls.
  • Excessive moisture entering the brick wall cavity may result in the appearance of white, powdery deposits or crusts called efflorescence on the brick surface.
  • Thermal expansion – the sun warming and expanding brickwork – often leaves the bricks exerting more pressure on one another than previously applied and can result in vertical or stair step cracks.
  • Steel expansion – the process of steel supports in the masonry expanding at a different rate than that of the brick – commonly occur at doorways, windows, and other openings where brick meets another type of building material.
  • Finally, bowed or bulging walls indicate certain levels of structural failure that need immediate attention.

Depending on the condition of your brickwork, you may need to undertake tuckpointing or repointing (i.e., repairing or re-applying mortar to damaged mortar joints in the brickwork); replacement of cracked or fallen bricks; or cleaning to remove residue, efflorescence and molds from brick facing.

Cleaning and maintenance:
Proper care of brick masonry starts during construction.  Experienced masonry contractors know that the mortar they use should be of the proper consistency.  If the mortar isn’t thumbprint hard before it is jointed, brushed and retooled, the wall will be smeared and it will require a great deal of effort to clean.

Cleaning is often one of the most overlooked aspects of brickwork maintenance.  There are three basic methods of cleaning masonry:

  • Bucket and brush hand cleaning
  • Pressurized water cleaning
  • Sandblasting

Selecting the proper cleaning solution and the appropriate method is very important.  The different minerals found in both brick and mortar may react negatively with some cleaning solutions and cause stains and blemishes that may actually ruin the appearance of the entire structure.

Replacing old bricks may not be as easy as it sounds.  Just because it’s a standard red brick, doesn’t mean they’re all the same.  If your brickwork is more than 50 years old, chances are you need an expert bricklayer or mason to help you look for the right replacement bricks that will match the color, size and quality of the originals.  Shoddy brickwork replacement will detract from the value and aesthetic appeal of your property. 

For more answers to your questions regarding brick repair, contact Freedom Restoration at 410-451-7110 or click here.






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