HOW WE REPAIR CRACKED BRICK WORK
Cracking is most commonly caused by expansion and contraction of the soil beneath the home, although occasionally, it’s caused by other factors. Regardless of the cause, this can become a serious problem over time. Unfortunately, one crack can lead to peripheral cracking, water penetration and damage, or insect and rodent infestation if left in disrepair.
When the decision has been made for getting repairs done, our Advantage Masonry team is prepared. Between the time your job is contracted and the time we arrive to begin the repair process, we are already working hard on your project. At the time of your appointment for a price quote, your salesperson will indicate specific materials necessary for your project, such as sand texture, brick type and color, and mortar color.
While you’re anxiously waiting for your repairs, our team is tracking down and obtaining your replacement brick, etc. Most of the time, we don’t have to look far because we have one of the best selections of old and discontinued brick. However, if we don’t already have the brick, we either find it or we make it.
The first step to repairing a crack in masonry is to cut out any damaged material. It’s important to remove the damaged material in order for new materials to gain proper adhesion. Think of this process in the same way as a dentist repairing a cavity. To begin the process, we use a 4 ½ inch angle grinder with a tuckpoint diamond blade to saw out any cracked mortar joints as well as to saw around the outer edges of any broken brick along the crack.
Next, we use a larger saw in various sizes, depending on brick type and thickness, with a segmented diamond blade, to cut through the mortar above and below any broken brick. This separates that brick from its surroundings to prevent vibration from transferring energy to surrounding brick.
A hammer drill is then used to break out the broken brick and clean out the hole to prepare it for a new brick. It’s important that this step is not overlooked. If this step is not completed, it could result in having to replace additional brick that become damaged in the process of removing one.
Obviously, this creates more work, but the unplanned consequence would be a larger area of repair. The larger the area of repair, the more difficult and more costly it becomes to blend it to the original brick work. In some situations, it may be necessary to realign the brick along a crack to achieve even spacing in the mortar joints and straight lines in the brick work. In rare circumstances, an entire segment of wall may need to be removed and replaced to obtain proper stability.
Once the damaged materials have been removed, the crack is cleaned to remove dust or mold that may also prevent good adhesion of new materials. Then it’s ready to go back together.
The next step in our process is to install matching replacement brick for any broken brick we’ve removed. Simultaneously, we prepare a batch of new mortar to grout the cracked mortar joints that have been taken out. To match the mortar, first we blend different sands using the Advantage System sand texture matching system that we developed to create the right sand texture.
This step doesn’t receive the recognition that mortar color gets, but I assure you, its importance is equal. Once sand texture is established, it will be sifted and measured to ensure the exact amount necessary for TYPE N masonry, which is brick mortar. After sand is loaded into the batch, we calculate your home’s primary mortar color using the Advantage System mortar color matching system that we developed.
The Advantage System employs pre-cured samples of mortar color. We have over 4,000 different mortar colors within our system. The Advantage System is as simple as one, two, three.
- Compare samples to determine sand texture
- Compare samples to determine mortar color
- Select the recipe that matches and mix
Once the batch of mortar is mixed, we prepare and cure a sample of that specific batch to compare to the house. Think of this step as an additional guarantee that your new mortar will match the existing mortar. If you’re home, we’ll even show you our sample before installation.
Once we’re satisfied that the new mortar meets our strict standard for quality control, we inject the mortar into the areas that we previously removed. The mortar is injected under pressure to ensure a good connection with the original mortar but also to increase its density for additional strength.
The mortar that has been injected into the wall is allowed to rest for a period of time to allow the curing reaction to begin. Curing is caused by molecules within the ingredients reacting to one another. The process makes heat and is fueled by water, which is contrary to conventional thinking.
Often we hear the question, “Does mortar dry out and get hard?” If this were true, it may get soft again every time it rained. Have you ever wondered how a concrete bridge sets up in the middle of a lake? It’s actually a physical reaction of the hydrogen and oxygen in the water combining with the other ingredients.
The curing reaches 98 percent in 28 days under normal conditions. The remaining 2 percent cures forever. Effective masonry gets stronger with time if made properly, unlike other building materials like lumber that will decay over time.
Once the new mortar has cured to a certain point, we begin the striking process. This process consists of three steps: (1) Jointing: the process of using a variety of different tools to further compact the mortar as well as give it a basic shape. (2) Wire brushing: the process of using a particular type of wire brush to abrasively remove excess mortar from the face of brick that surround the mortar joint. (3) Soft brushing: the process of using a specific type of soft brush to remove excess mortar from the mortar joint.
When the striking process is complete, we allow the mortar to continue to cure until it has reached a point of being stable enough to perform the final washing process known as the acid wash. Acid isn’t always used, which is a bit contradictory to the name of the process.
Most brick will be cleaned with a milder chemical, such as Sure Klean 600. Modern brick cleaning solutions like Sure Klean combine detergent with mild amounts of muriatic acid to produce a chemical that is specifically tailored to clean brick without damaging peripheral materials as well as the brick itself.
NOTE: Don’t wash anything white or concrete brick with muriatic acid because immediate damage will likely occur. Utilization of hazardous chemicals should be left to professionals with the proper training and equipment. An acid wash will not permanently damage nearby plants when done by a professional.
After the acid wash is complete, we perform our final clean-up duties. We do not leave our mess behind for our customers to clean although a bit of dust is common considering the nature of the work.
NOTE: We require access to electricity and water and ask that you not run your lawn sprinklers within 24 hours prior to our arrival to reduce the risk of lawn damage and electrocution. Please don’t clean your windows or park your Lamborghini out front before we come. If you have a swimming pool, you should plan to clean the filter after we leave. The dust created by sawing out mortar joints will get in the pool water and be cleaned by the filter, raising the pressure in the filter.