Tag: masonry rebuild


Masonry Restoration Versus Rebuilding

For residential and commercial building owners that have brick, block, or stone exteriors; a common question is “can I get away with repairing the surface…. This can be a loaded question because a mason understands that the client likely hopes to minimize costs, or genuinely is unsure whether repairing a particular masonry surface is the right job or not.

The answer can be yes, no, or both. There are factors which must be considered in order to arrive at the correct solution.

The factors to consider from the point of view of the mason, performing any such work are as follows:

1) Will the result provide a lasting solution for the client?
2) Is this a job I can warranty/stand behind?
3) Is the sub structure in sufficient condition?
4) Are there hidden issues which could arise when engaging in such work?
5) Are the materials able to be sourced, to provide a seamless looking job (example brick or stone type)?
6) Is the client willing to pay for the correct job, or simply looking for a “band-aid solution”?
7) Although a repair may be structurally sound, will the appearance of the work look poor when finished?
8) What liability would I inherit if the client insists on a minimal solution?

The experienced and ethical mason would ask him or herself these questions in some fashion, and would typically complete due diligence by way of inspection and possible research, in order to honestly fulfill such a request for service.

Experience teaches that client’s memories can fade over time. At the time of sale, a budget solution may have been requested; but down the road if the solution has not lasted; what clients remember is that they spent their money, and now are faced with doing the project again, or defaulting to the re-build solution.Chimeny-2

Invariably, they likely won’t remember the mason in a good light, although they pushed for a cheaper approach. Lesson learned- do it right the first time, and do it the best way possible, or best not to get involved the job.

Generally from a technical point of view; the condition of the structural element is the key determining factor.

One example can be a brick chimney. If more than 50% of the brick surfaces are shaled; it makes better sense to rebuild the chimney, and from below the roof grade. Cheaper solutions that may be offered to a client could involve rebuilding from the metal flashing up. The result could be that there are damaged bricks below the roof grade which remain unidentified. The cheaper job may look good and save hundreds of dollars in the moment; but the result could be wasted expense if the chimney leans in the future. In other words the job would have to be re-done again.

If however; the chimney had a few top brick courses, or some individual bricks that needed to be sawn out and replaced; and a few mortar joints that were void; repairing would be a viable option that would give the client many years of future performance. The affected bricks would be replaced, a new cement cap would be installed, and all deficient mortar joints would be pointed.

It is therefore important for the person responsible for the investment, to understand the reasons behind the quoted scope of work. Photos which document the particular condition of the structure are an undeniable reference point that a mason should be willing to provide to their clients, because many people are not comfortable at heights, or qualified to be on roofs to investigate for themselves.

When considering brick, block, or stone walls; there are added clues one will inspect for, to determine the structural suitability of same, and to judge whether or not a repair is a valid option.

Warning signs such as bricks which appear to “belly out” from the adjoining wall surface, may signal that the brickwork is not tied in properly to the wall surface substructure beneath the brickwork. The sub-surface could be blocked, beneath a brick veneer, or it may be a wood wall. It could also have something to do with water ingress from behind the brick over many years.

Age can be another consideration. As an example; if bricks are porous; that is to say that the glazing has worn off, and the bricks can become saturated over time, after rain events; a case can be made that replacing the surface with new brickwork may be the best long-term solution. Some may attempt a waterproof coating strategy, likely using silicone based sealers; Chimeny-1but that does not always provide a bulletproof solution.

For historic and heritage properties, where original aesthetic is the primary criteria; such an approach may be the preferred strategy, simply because they just don’t make bricks from 1865 anymore. Under such circumstances, the mortar joints may be re-done with a tinted mortar to replicate existing mortar colours, and badly deteriorated bricks may be replaced. The building owner would have to understand that every decade or so; the process may have to be repeated in adjacent areas. As with many restoration projects of this nature; work may be scheduled over a number of years until the project may be deemed complete.

Other signals of possible structural concern involving bricks or block, can be the observation of a saw tooth pattern which appears along associated, descending brick/block courses. This could result from a shifting or previously settled foundation beneath, which often will be the root cause. Patching the specific mortar joints in the saw tooth area, could be a cheaper temporary fix, but ultimately won’t solve the structural problem; and therefore may result in the same result a few years down the road.

When waterproofing foundation walls constructed of block; often overlooked is the fact that the mortar joints below grade need to be re-pointed. Foundation coating and membranes may hide such deficiency, but a superior lasting job results if the time and care is taken to repair this structural element first. In fact a clean surface of parging over the block, allowed to properly cure, may serve to create a superior surface for water-proofing materials to adhere to. Of course, this may cost more than a budget option, as it involves more time and materials to complete.

To learn more about masonry and related subjects; contact www.avenueroadmasonry.com or visit them on Facebook™ or Instagram™.


Best Time To Conduct Masonry Repairs And Rebuilds?

There is an old phrase which is Toronto-centric, but could apply to virtually any city in North America.

That phrase being: “It is either winter, or it is construction season”; could literally apply to any city or country that experiences an extended winter season. Specifically where it concerns the masonry business, winter is generally not conducive to such work.  However; the fact is new construction and high rise development continues throughout the entire year.

So a more accurate statement would be that certain types of masonry work can be done in winter months, providing that certain environmental considerations are prepared for in advance of completing such work.

Encapsulating a work space with plastic tarps and providing auxiliary heaters is a method used for chimney-rebuild-3-afterpouring interior concrete floors or laying block and or brick in winter months. The idea being to have consistent heat so that mortar does not freeze, and that installed masonry can cure. Although not ideal conditions, scheduling requirements of new construction often demand such solutions being used. And obviously when heavy snow or bitterly cold temperatures are present, such  exterior work simply cannot be done.

Having said this, chimney rebuilding and or tuck pointing work, and certainly any exterior concrete related work is most ideally completed during the warmer months only. In fact masons working in our firm typically insist on it.

There are valid projects which can be done in colder months such as installing or remodeling interior fireplaces and hearths. The key is having a heated space, or the ability to heat a space such as a garage, where one can insure mortar can be mixed appropriately.

In colder weather, it is the practice of some to mix anti-freeze into the mortar mix, which is not an ideal situation. It often results in white marks showing on the surface of a completed chimney. This again, is not a practice our masons will subscribe to; preferring to defer such work until appropriate spring temperatures appear.

From a masonry installer’s perspective; having cooler dry weather is far more pleasant to work in,rather than the high humidity often occurring during summer months. The show must go on as they say, so in spite of these weather nuances, there are enough days filled with heavy rain, severely cold temperatures and the like, that teams must forge on and get the work completed.

From a consumer purchasing masonry services; point of view, the winter can represent the best time to secure pricing and booking of services. Because masons in North America are in short supply, (* the average age of a skilled tradesman being fifty- two); their roster fills very quickly, and combined with a limited ideal installation season, can get backed up quickly.

Other weather considerations in relationship to certain types of masonry work, have to do with frost leaving the ground. As an example; having to excavate, to complete water proofing of foundations, or pouring concrete footings for retaining walls and masonry structures, is dependent on the ability to dig below the frost line, and for the proper compaction of base aggregates used in the process.

In the context of the Toronto market (but could equally apply to most eastern North American cities); the ideal time for planning and doing masonry work would be the following:

  • Receiving and finalizing estimates (particularly for larger scope projects); January, February, March. This represents the period of time for which skilled masons have time to think and work out logistics for such projects, and to allocate their labour requirements.
  • April through mid November represents the best time to complete such work as tuck pointing and chimney rebuilding. These projects tend to be shorter duration, and not completely reliant on ground conditions.
  • Stone work such as walkways, patios retaining walls, exterior facades, etc. are best completed from June to November, as ground conditions tend to be stabilized, and rain tends to be less likely; which can interrupt pouring footings etc.
  • Outdoor Pizza Ovens, stone patio kitchens, fire and water features are best started in May because of coordination requirements with gas and water utilities, and can represent good mid-season type jobs, that can be completed in time to enjoy the summer season. Such projects can usually be completed before larger exterior terra projects are scheduled.
  • Waterproofing and parging work, associated with foundations, typically is completed from April to mid November; and is generally more critical in nature as water ingress can be a damage issue for consumers.

Of course these guidelines assume normal weather patterns, and each year presents its own challengesparging-1-after pertaining to climatic conditions (ie: wet summers, etc). The morale of the storey is to select your mason and plan your project well in advance of anticipated delivery.

Further to note is that southern and desert climates tend not have as many complications relating to scheduling and the weather, and that many of these projects can be undertaken at virtually any time in such climate regions.

Finally; when considering your masonry project as it relates to need, or adding beauty and value, or restoring heritage; realize that your mason does not control the weather. He or she works with it, against it and around it, so having patience and good nature, helps you receive a superior finished result, regardless of what Mother Nature dishes out.

To learn more about masonry contact www.avenueroadroofing.com