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Mankind has extracted building stone from the crust of the earth for thousands of years. Clays have also been extracted, then formed into desired shapes, baked, and used as brick or terra-cotta masonry. Over time, a variety of complex forces act upon masonry causing it to deteriorate, weaken, and crumble prematurely. Identifying the causes of masonry deterioration and recommending the most appropriate intervention is an important process best left to experts.

 
 




This masonry suffers from the expansion of soluble salts, known as efflorescence.

 



This clearly demonstrates what happens when an incorrectly formulated mortar is used for repointing.

 



Another example of deteriorated masonry.

 

   

Frequently Asked Questions
about Deteriorated Masonry:

Question: What causes masonry to deteriorate?

Answer: As indicated above, masonry is subject to a wide variety of complex forces. Among these are:

  • Expansion and contraction due to freeze/thaw cycles.
  • Efflorescence (expansion of soluble salts).
  • Thermal expansion and contraction.
  • Expansion of rusting metal contiguous to the masonry units.
  • Moisture trapped behind painted masonry unable to escape.
  • Masonry "sealed" with an inappropriate sealer.
  • Effects of acid rain.
  • Failure to properly repair mortar joints (repointing) soon after initial mortar failure.
  • Using an incorrectly formulated repair mortar for repointing.
  • Failure to repoint.
  • Incompatible materials with differing physical characteristics contiguous to each other.
  • Imperfections in the masonry units resulting from the fabrication or manufacturing process.
  • Incorrectly installed masonry units.
  • Poor detailing, design, and specifications.
  • Wind erosion.
  • Biological growth (plant life).
  • Rising damp (the vertical migration of water through masonry by way of capillary action).
  • Splash back (water falling from the roof line, hitting the ground, and splashing up on the masonry).
  • Being hit by vehicles, lawn mowers, and other such things.
  • Settling.
  • Birds and other animals.
  • Seismic activity.

Several of these forces often work simultaneously on the masonry. The best way to identify the causes of deterioration is to call on the expertise of an experienced and trained professional who has a keen understanding of masonry materials science. Only after the cause has been determined can the most appropriate and enduring intervention method be recommended.

Question: Why should I repair my deteriorated masonry?

Answer: Once masonry begins to deteriorate, the rate of deterioration grows exponentially. Repairing masonry as soon as possible costs much less in the long run and protects you from much greater damage and expense in the future.

Deteriorated masonry can quickly lead to more serious structural problems.

The masonry will look better repaired than it does in a state of deterioration.

 
 



Composite patching can result in a beautiful restoration to the original appearance of masonry, as shown below.

 



After composite patching.

 



Dutchman patches are used to replace small areas of deterioration with new masonry. They differ from composite patches in that they are usually created from the same stone as the host stone, or are very similar.

 



Removing and replacing entire masonry units with new masonry is sometimes an appropriate restoration method.

   

Question: How can my deteriorated masonry be repaired?

Answer: The cause and extent of the deterioration, as well as the environmental conditions the masonry is exposed to, determine the best way to repair masonry. Among the repair options are:

  • Composite Patching – Replacing the areas of deterioration with a specially formulated repair mortar that closely matches the color, texture, and physical characteristics of the host masonry.

  • Dutchman Patches – Replacing small areas of deterioration with new masonry that is carefully shaped to precisely fit the void created as a result of removing the deteriorated portion of the masonry. Dutchman patches are usually done on stone rather than brick or terra-cotta.

  • Remove and Replace – Removing the entire masonry unit, then replacing it with new masonry.

  • New Veneer – Removing the entire exposed face of the masonry to a predetermined depth, then replacing it with new masonry.

  • Retooling – Reshaping the masonry unit where it sits without removing any part of it.

  • Consolidation – Carefully removing the badly deteriorated masonry material, then applying various specialty treatments that strengthen and consolidate the remaining masonry unit. The masonry is not restored, but rather preserved in its existing condition.

Choosing the best method to repair deteriorated masonry is a critical decision that should be done by a trained, experienced, and competent professional. This will give you peace of mind that the repaired masonry will not only look good, but it will also endure the test of time.

Question: How can I prevent my masonry from deteriorating in the future?

Answer: Have an experienced, trained, and professional craftsman determine the cause of the deterioration, then make the appropriate intervention using compatible materials.

Since several of the above causes of deterioration originate from water coming in contact with the masonry, locate and stop the water contact.

If appropriate, consider having specialty masonry strengthening and/or consolidation treatments applied to masonry that is prone to deteriorate.

If appropriate, consider having a penetrating and breathable water repellent applied to your masonry.


The thoroughly trained and seasoned experts at Abstract Masonry Restoration are skilled, equipped, and ready to help you with your deteriorated masonry. Contact us for professional assistance with any deteriorated historic masonry you may have.

 
       
           
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