Architects and builders through the ages have chosen masonry for its beauty, versatility and durability. Some of the world’s most significant architectural achievements – Egypt’s pyramids, the Great Wall of China, Rome’s Colosseum – were built with masonry. Masonry is resistant to fire, earthquakes, and sound. Masonry structures can withstand the normal wear and tear of time.
The term masonry covers a variety of structures made of brick, block, tile, stone or terracotta. Sun-baked clay bricks were first used in the construction of buildings more than 6,000 years ago. At about 4,000 B.C., brick in uniform shapes started gaining ground. Along with this came the firing of bricks to improve durability. The evolution of brick construction design led to the development of the concrete block. The manufacturing and uses of concrete block evolved over a long period of time. Today, concrete blocks are produced with a mixture of cement, sand and crushed stone or lightweight aggregate.
After more than 6000 years, masonry is still used today in office buildings, schools, houses, patios and fireplaces. Whether it involves installing ornate exteriors or high-rise buildings, the skill and precision of the mason can never be replaced by machines.
Masonry units such as bricks or concrete blocks can have a lifespan of a hundred years or more. When properly installed, mortar joints are serviceable for 35 years or more.
Continued exposure to the elements, however, may take their toll. Acids in rain, seismic movement, building settlement, freezing and thawing cycles, impact damage, and dirt can affect the condition of your structure. Restoration and repair is necessary to help maintain the integrity of masonry.
Common problems of masonry:
- Cracking – Cracks can be caused by foundation problems, deterioration, settlement, design flaw, poor workmanship or a combination of these factors. If left untreated, masonry cracks can lead to further damage due to structural instability and water leaks.
- Structural damage – Damage by vehicles, severe storms, and construction accidents may be purely cosmetic or be serious enough to affect the integrity of the structure.
- Leaning structures – Settling and shifting can cause structures like chimneys, columns and fences to lean over time. This may unbalance the structure, eventually leading to collapse. Leaning structures should be remedied before they become a severe problem for property owners.
- Leaks – Chimneys and walls are particularly susceptible to leaks. If left untreated, a leak can cause extensive damage to interiors and lead to other problems. Solutions include sealing cracks, installing flashing, and applying water repellants.
- Stains – Accidental spills, paint overspray, chemical reactions and environmental conditions such as mold, mildew and moisture can stain the porous surfaces of masonry. These stains can be removed either by pressure washing, redecorating the stained area, applying a chemical cleaner, or a combination of the three.
- Chimney problems – Chimneys and fireplaces develop a variety of problems due to exposure to the elements, age and use. Since they’re located outdoors, chimneys are prone to leaking, staining and leaning. Inside, the firebox is susceptible to mortar loss and collapse.
- Concrete damage – Concrete driveways and walkways take a lot of abuse. Traffic, ground settlement, tree roots and other factors cause damage to surfaces. These are not only unsightly, but pose a significant safety hazard.
A word about historic buildings:
Due to their age, many historic buildings can show signs of deterioration or wear and tear. Brick, stone or adobe exterior walls can be covered with a variety of stucco materials, weathering and decorative treatments at different stages in the life of the structure. To preserve the beauty and heritage value of such properties, proper repairing, matching, or replacing of stuccos or renders are essential to ensure that these historic buildings will continue to endure the test of time.
For more answers to your questions about masonry repairs, contact Freedom Restoration at 410-451-7110 or click here.