Masonry Tips

1. Use sand to de-ice walkways and driveways rather than salt. Saltwater forming along foundations and brickwork will cause deterioration and efflorescence to occur.

2. Check caulking joints around windows, doors, and flashing. Old, cracked caulking or areas that are completely lacking caulking will allow water to penetrate behind brickwork, deteriorating mortar joints from behind, and enabling freeze/thaw damage to occur in spring and autumn.

3. Check the slopes and overhangs of window sills and chimney caps. Window sills should always slope away from the house, and both sills and chimney caps should have at least a one and a half inch overhang and drip edges to ensure excess water does not run down the surface of brickwork.

4. Be aware of water penetration through foundation walls. Water running down basement walls or puddles forming on the floor are serious signs that foundation repairs are necessary. Musty smells can also warn you of water penetration, even if water accumulation is not apparent.

5. Removing Efflorescence. Efflorescence is the deposit of water soluble alkali salts, on the surfaces of masonry. There are many methods to removing efflorescence, some examples are pressure washing, muriatic acid, simple soapy water and wire brush. There is no tried and true method for permanently removing efflorescence as sometimes washing the bricks will cause the soluble salts to reabsorb or not all the salts have leeched to the surface. Attempting these methods have had positive results for removing efflorescence, the question of longevity is the concern.

6. Building your own home. When you are hiring a masonry contractor to handle the veneer portion of your home, ensure you get proper references and multiple quotes. I cannot stress this enough as you will save yourself a world of headache and time.

7. Collar joint or toothed joint? Most often, toothed joints are used when two brick walls meet at a corner, or when a chimney is built up the side of a house. Use collar joints when a new addition is meeting up with an existing building as structures built at different times will settle at different rates and you want there to be some flexibility between the two foundations.

8. Installing a new window or door. When installing a new window or door, make sure that an adequate angle-iron is used to support the masonry above. Make sure that all cut bricks are reinstalled to prevent exposed cuts showing at the edges of the opening. Don't allow any brick less than 2” wide be installed adjacent to a window or door opening.

9. Corrosion of lintels causing cracks at upper corners windows and doors. Consider replacing the damaged mortar joint, where there is angle iron present, with caulking. This will allow the metal and masonry to expand and contract at different rates.

10. Solid window sills are superior to brick sills. Water is constantly running over the surface of window sills. This running water rapidly deteriorates the joints present in rowlock sills, resulting in their constant need for repair. Solid unit window sills do not have these joints to wash away, making them a more practical choice.

11. Cleaning masonry: Soaps and acids. When it comes to cleaning brick work and brick walls a simple soap and water solution with a wire brush can do wonders for masonry, but when it comes to the tougher stains a muriatic solution might do the trick or a store bought cleaning product. Always wear gloves when dealing with these stronger cleaning products.

12. The strongest mortar is not always the best mortar. Mortar is meant to be softer than the units that it supports. This allows the mortar to give out before the masonry does, and to be easily replaced when necessary.

13. How can I prevent my masonry from deteriorating? This can seem like a question that has a huge answer but more often than not, deterioration is due to water coming into contact with the brick or masonry. You want to locate and stop the source. Having an experienced professional diagnose the problem can save you lots of money in the future.

14. Water flowing towards foundation. This is one of the most common problems when it comes to masonry deterioration and one of the easiest to fix. By simply building up the grade at any low points where the water runs towards your foundation you can alleviate this problem.

15. Dryer and hood vents. Often times these vents are installed to close to brick walls or foundations. Having these vents installed with a gap between the masonry and the exhaust will prevent a lot of hot humid air from coming into contact with the masonry.

16. Eaves, downspouts, and run off extensions. Having a leak free, positively flowing, clean eaves with downspout extensions shedding water about 5 feet from your foundation can prevent costly damage to your foundation and brick work.

17. Sprinkler systems. Ensure sprinklers are not spraying your brick walls. A little shower won’t damage a brick wall, but a consistent spray can do a surprising amount of damage over time.

18. Masonry is a skilled trade. Although many of these tips are directed towards home owners, know your limitations. We have had to fix multiple home owner repairs after they had attempted to tackle it themselves. This makes our job much more difficult, having to deconstruct what is there and clean up the surrounding areas. This ends up costing you more money in the long run.

19. Keep an eye on masonry problems. Masonry is known for its longevity and durability; as such, minor deterioration may not be a reason to panic and may not even progress much over the years. If the damage is minor, take a picture, date it, and monitor it before getting every little hole or minor levels of deterioration fixed. Having someone come out to repair things multiple times is much more costly than having them tackle a few slightly larger problems all at once.

20. After a good down pour. This is a great, simple way to check where damage might occur. Whenever there is a good rain storm (better when it’s not a slanted rain), take a walk around your home and it will become apparent where leaks around your brick walls might occur.

21. Weep Holes. Weep holes are void spaces between bricks (or masonry units) on the bottom course of brick walls where the masonry unit meets the foundation. Many times weep holes can become clogged by deteriorated mortar, or by little critters making homes in them. Clearing these out will promote drainage.