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Bricks, stones, and concrete can be used to make beautiful home siding, chimneys, fences, and walls. With preventive maintenance and occasional masonry repairs, these structures can last for years.
Masonry Repair Charleston SC can involve fixing a brick chimney, repairing stone patios, or even restoring historic building facades. If a wall, chimney, or other structure needs restoration, it is important to have qualified masons take a look at it to see what kind of repairs are needed.
Cracks in masonry can be caused by many different things. They can be a sign of foundation problems, or they could just be due to settlement. It is important to determine the cause of the cracks in order to correct them and prevent further damage. It is also a good idea to have an engineer evaluate the cause of the cracks in order to make any necessary structural repairs.
One type of masonry crack is caused by thermal movement and shrinkage. These types of cracks often appear at the interface of dissimilar materials, such as at a joint in a brick wall. They can also occur at openings, such as doors and windows, or where a building connects to adjacent buildings or walls of different heights. It is possible to minimize these types of cracks by ensuring that the masonry materials have different exposures and conditions and by installing expansion joints in such locations.
Another common type of masonry crack is caused by moisture changes. This is often seen as horizontal or diagonal cracks in brick walls, but it can also be caused by other issues, such as inadequate venting or freeze-thaw cycles. It is important to ensure that water is directed away from the foundation and through the proper drainage systems to reduce these types of masonry cracks.
Brick cracks can also be caused by a number of other issues, such as improper grading or drainage, or by non-standard brick or mortar. It is important to note that just filling in the cracks will not fix the underlying problem, and they may reappear.
Some other common brick cracks include stepping cracks and vertical corner cracks. Stepping cracks are due to a buildup of pressure in the wall, while vertical corner cracks are often caused by drought-like conditions that cause the soil to shrink and move downhill. These types of cracks can be a sign of serious foundation problems, and it is important to consult with a masonry company. They can use a combination of methods to repair these cracks, including hydraulic cement and injection epoxy.
Mortar cracks are a common issue with masonry walls, especially in homes. Most are minor and can be ignored, but others can signal the need for major home repairs. The underlying causes of the cracks vary, from soil movements and climate changes to structural overloading or point loads.
Most masonry structures are built from brick, concrete blocks, or stone laid on beds of mortar. The mortar joints are intentionally weaker than the masonry units, so that any movement in the structure will first show up at the joints rather than at the bricks or stones. This prevents stress from being concentrated on the weakest part of the structure and helps extend the life of the masonry materials.
Unfortunately, the mortar joints are also the most vulnerable to moisture damage. Moisture penetration through the masonry units and into cracks in the mortar will erode the mortar, which eventually leads to crumbling and deterioration of the bricks. The damage will continue to worsen unless the moisture problem is addressed.
The first step to repairing mortar cracks is to clean the old mortar joints. This can be done by scraping loose mortar off the brick face or using a hammer and chisel to break up and chip away the damaged mortar. Make sure to wear safety glasses and a dust mask while working. After cleaning, you can prepare the mortar for new repairs by lightly spraying it with water to moisten it.
If your masonry wall has expansion cracks, have an engineer evaluate the structure to determine the cause of the movement. If the structure is not designed properly, expansion cracks will likely result from overstressing structural elements. The cracks can be relieved by the installation of control joints, which are saw-cut into the wall at a predetermined spacing.
Most masonry wall cracks are due to movement in the underlying soil. As the soil settles, the bricks and their mortar will shift slightly. This can cause small vertical cracks or, in more serious cases, severe structural instability.
Mortar cracks are usually minor and can be repaired with a process known as “repointing.” This is the process of filling in the open spaces between bricks or stones that are held together by mortar. Cracks that impact only the bricks or stones themselves will likely need to be addressed through a more extensive approach. This can include managing water or other issues that may be affecting the entire structure.
Cracks that occur within the mortar joints can often be caused by thermal expansion and contraction. This type of crack is not unusual in Michigan, where climate changes can affect masonry structures and the soil they sit on. If these cracks do not exceed 1/2 inch, they are considered normal and need not be addressed further. However, cracks that are larger or extend further into the bricks themselves should be addressed.
Masonry cracks are also often caused by movement of the underlying footing or slab that the structure rests on. This is particularly common in older homes where the original footings were built into and on top of the soil. This type of crack is most often seen in load-bearing walls where the internal tensile stress on the wall is greater than the structural integrity of the footing.
Load-bearing walls should be inspected after any major weather events or seismic activity. A professional mason will examine the cracks and determine if they are caused by a foundation issue and, if so, how serious the problem is. They will then recommend the best course of action to repair the damage.
When repairing cracks in masonry, it is important to use the right repair material. Many people make the mistake of using concrete repair epoxies to seal brick cracks, but this is often ineffective. Epoxy does not bond well with brick, and it may change how moisture vapor passes through the wall, hastening the deterioration of the structure. Alternatively, it is recommended to use a mortar mix that matches the color and texture of the existing brick. This will create a more seamless appearance and help conceal the cracks in the brick.
An annual inspection of stone walls by a masonry professional can prevent small problems from turning into large, costly structural failures. These can be caused by erosion, frost heave, and damage to the stone itself. A collapsed stone wall presents a major safety hazard and needs to be repaired as soon as possible.
The simplest and least expensive way to repair stonework is to repoint the mortar joints. This process is also referred to as “tuckpointing.” It involves cleaning the mortar joints, removing any loose or crumbling material, and repointing the joints with new mortar. In stone masonry, the joints are the weakest link and can be easily eroded by water and freeze-thaw cycles.
A masonry mason can use a hand trowel to thoroughly clean the cracks and then fill them with vinyl concrete patcher that has been stained to match the color of the stone masonry. It is a good idea to spread the patcher evenly over the entire crack and then use a pointed trowel to smooth it out and remove any excess material. The patcher will dry for 24 hours, and then the surface of the masonry can be sanded with medium-grit sandpaper to finish it off.
Some stone surfaces are prone to delamination and erosion, especially if they contain lots of veins or if the stones were quarried from soft rock deposits. The occurrence of this type of damage can also be exacerbated by incorrect bedding. For example, copings and cills are usually edge bedded; however, in this case they were face bedded, possibly because it was difficult to discern the bedding pattern or because of ignorance of the consequences.
Other natural causes of deterioration include mechanical damage by the roots of ivy, which may split stone if it enters through crevices. Biological damage may be the result of bacteria that attack the stone or the oxidation of sulfurous acid in polluted air that eats into the surface of the stone.