All brick and stone masonry structures need to be restored eventually. There are a few signs to pay attention to in order to know when restoration is necessary. Sometimes it can be as simple as replacing only a few units that have been damaged, but sometimes more serious restoration I needed, which is the case when you notice flaky, missing, cracked, crumbled or discolored mortar.
Missing mortar, such as in spot holes and open spaces around bricks, is a clear sign that mortar is falling out, which affects the stability of the structure. Any discolored mortar can be caused by a faulty re-pointing job and usually means that there is a weak point present. Sunlight has a negative effect on the cement material that is between the bricks and stones causing flakiness of the mortar.
It is worth mentioning though that sunlight is not responsible for most issues. In fact, moisture is the number one enemy of masonry structures. When moisture gets inside, freezes and then thaws, the material expands and contracts at different rates causing a breakdown in all of the material. When you notice any of the above signs, immediate action is required in order to prevent further damage. Finding the source of the moisture is the first step. A professional can help you determine if it can be fixed or if it’s best to replace the entire wall or structure.
Unfortunately, unstable foundations and foundation failures are not uncommon. If this is the case, you can notice the mortar on the brick or stone structure pull away from the brick or stone units, which leaves gaps between the mortar units or vertical cracks in the mortar or brick units. The foundation will first need to be repaired before any restoration can take place.
Masonry constructions are known to last between 50 to 100 years. They can last even longer without requiring attention and repairs if you keep an eye on the aforementioned signs and if you hire an experienced professional that gets the job done right.