Masonry Repair Services - Common Areas Of Cracking in Brick and Mortar

Masonry Contractors to Masonry Repair
Alamo Masonry Repair (AMR) began as a local masonry contractor performing new construction and specializing in custom stone works building patios, waterfalls, archways, retaining walls, fireplaces, and other new masonry structures including brick and stone homes and commercial block buildings with brick and stone veneer. Around '97 or '98 Alamo Masonry Repair started to lean away from the new construction and specialize in repair of masonry cracks and damage as we saw the need for masonry repair services that focused on the details and made a true effort to do masonry repair right, and not just a patch over the cracks. When we specialized in masonry repair, we changed our name to this focus. As with any major transition, it was not easy focusing on masonry repair. We had a lot to learn.

Matching Mortar for Masonry Repair
We quickly realized that there was far more to matching mortar for masonry repair than just adding some pigment to color the mortar. What we found is that most mortars had faded or darkened from their base tone of grey or white. This seemed easy enough to compensate and perform the masonry repairs, but we quickly found problems with the masonry repair industry standard of mixing some from a bag of grey mortar and some from a bag of white mortar to adjust this tone. While the blending of grey and white is the only way to match this tone, Alamo Masonry Repair learned that we could not do this with the pre-mixed bags of mortar without changing the ratio of binding materials and mortar type. This was evident in changes of color and hardness in one batch to the next on the same masonry repair project where we knew that we had measured the exact same amounts from each container.

When we found this, we began research into how this could happen, and the answer was simple. The binding materials have dramatically different weights, and when placed into a bucket and vibrated in transport, these materials separated into layers inside the bucket that we could not see. These studies led us into other research to better improve the industry of masonry repair, but we identified that to blend the grey and white tones you must mix the binding materials in proper proportions for the mortar type ratio on your own and not use pre-mixed bags to blend.

As Alamo Masonry Repair (AMR) continued to research, I was reminded of my formal studies in chemistry and lab works. I had finally found a way to apply the things learned in school to the career I grew up in.

Masonry Repair Services
Alamo Masonry Repair began offering mortar analysis and matching services to our customers to accurately identify the mortar type and compressive strength of their mortar in addition to the color matching services. Over the next ten years, we became not only the first to specialize in nothing but masonry repair, but as we gained competition, we became the most trusted name in masonry repair due to the practice of matching mortars completely and the professional masonry repair services we provided.

While the goal of Alamo Masonry Repair was to provide quality masonry repair, we also wanted to improve the industry and provide all customers the highest level of quality for masonry repair, and realized this was not possible on our own. We could only train so many crews to do masonry repair the right way. So in an effort to reach more customers and provide them the best in masonry repair, we opened our lab services to our competitors and homeowners. This quickly took hold, but it began to create a conflict to compete in the local masonry repair industry.

Masonry Repair in Dallas Fort Worth
This led Alamo Masonry Repair to change our name to AMR Labs, release our masonry repair training manual and bags of custom made premixed pointing mortar to the public, and step back and out of onsite masonry repair services allowing us to provide AMR products and services nationally. We have leased our website for local masonry repair in the Dallas Fort Worth area to a young promising business that seems to put forth the effort to providing high quality masonry repair services and competitive pricing.

For masonry repair services in the Dallas Fort Worth area, visit: and request an estimate.

Copyright © 2018 James R. Nech/Alamo Masonry Repair (AMR). ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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Granbury, TX 76048

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Common Areas Of Cracking in Brick and Mortar

Common Areas Of Brick Cracking

Common Areas of Cracking

Some of the most common places to look for cracks and loose brick include:

  1. Above and below doors and windows

  2. In the angles of bay windows

  3. Around corners

  4. Along the edges of coined corners

  5. Archways-above, in the corners, and in the center

  6. Above garage doors

  7. Throughout walls over 25 feet long without expansion control joints.

  8. Fireplaces and chimneys

Area Specific Issues

There are several reasons why mortar cracks occur at doors and windows. The main reason for this is that they are the weakest part of the wall and pressures release at these locations easily. Brick receives its strength from the inter-locking of the brick by staggering each course instead of just stacking them. At the edge of a door or window, the brick stop and do not inter-lock. This edge creates a cold joint between the brick and framework of the door or window that allows brick to shift more easily.

Bay windows disperse their weight unevenly due to their design. The steel does not flow straight through them preventing even distribution of pressure. Though connected, the separate panels carry their weight independently; this allows them to shift. As they shift, the pressures increase. As with the doors and windows, the angles of bay windows are not inter-locking and have a cold joint of mortar. These cold joints tend to separate or crack.

Generally, the corners will be the strongest part of the masonry structure. The reason for this is that the corners are supported from two directions. This prevents them from pushing in easily; however, this also makes them vulnerable to cracking because if one side of the corner becomes loose due to a crack anywhere on that wall, it will pull on the other side of the corner; causing a break and cracking. Another reason for corners to crack is their initial construction. Sometimes as the brick veneer is being laid, the bricklayer may place excess mortar behind the wall filling the gap between the brick and the wood behind it. This will make the corner stronger if and only if there is a proper water barrier protecting the wood. Brick and mortar absorb moisture. This moisture soaks through the masonry, the excess mortar behind the brick, and into the wood. Wood swells and gets larger as it absorbs water. As this wood swells, it pushes out on the brick. Eventually this pressure will break the bricks and mortar around them and up the corner of the home.

Coined corners also require a water barrier but do not always have one in place. They can absorb water causing swelling and ultimately cracking. They also are susceptible to many of the problems like doors or windows because they do not interlock with the wall. The coined corner steps out away from the original line of the wall.

Archways face many problems that cause them to fail. One of the most important is gravity. Although gravity is the primary thing that holds an arch together, it can also pull it apart. When the supports at the ends of an arch become loose, the gravity pushing down on all of the weight above it will force the arch to spread. Pouring a concrete beam inside of the arch can prevent this. This does add weight to the arch, but it serves as a backbone as well. Before the weight can spread the arch, it must first break the beam. Sometimes, bricklayers or builders try to cut corners and support archways with a wood beam. This is fine, but creates a problem when they fill in the gap with mortar. Again, anytime you fill in between the brick and wood, you need to have a water barrier to prevent swelling.

The reasons for cracking above garage doors are the weight above the door, length of the lintel, gauge of the lintel, number of (if any) lags to support the lintel, and if one or more sides of the lintel are supported by a corner. There is generally a large amount of weight suspended above the lintel on a garage door. The longer the door, the longer the lintel needs to be, and the weight increases. Therefore, the longer the lintel, the more support it will require for carrying the weight above it. These supports are the lag-bolts that tie the lintel to the wood beam behind. The more lags in the lintel, the more rigid it becomes. Without them the lintel is allowed to bow and flex. The gauge or thickness of the lintel will help, but will not support it alone.

The wood and sheetrock in a house has a large amount of flexibility. This allows it to move or bend without cracking. Masonry has some flexibility, but is much more rigid. It can only flex slightly before it breaks. People talk about using a softer mortar to allow for more flex. Softer mortars are still mortars, but have a lower crushing pressure. This means that it will crumble easier, or potentially fall down. The proper way to allow for the flexing in masonry is not to use a soft mortar, but is to utilize expansion control joints. These are cold joints that have no rigid obstructions such as mortar in them. They are filled with a flexible material such as caulking or polyurethane that moves with the brick as needed. Walls over 20-25 feet should have expansion control joints. As this is a fairly new process (about 20-30 years old), not all homes have them.

Copyright © 2007 James R. Nech/Alamo Masonry. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED