If your house, condo, or commercial building has brick or stone walls, you’ll need a mason at some point. And with Canada, where exposure to the elements can significantly damage the brick or stone wall structure over time, this is especially true.
Depending on the severity of the damage and where it is, masonry issues can lead to disastrous consequences for you as a homeowner or business owner: anything from water infiltration to extreme heat loss and foundation problems could make your house or commercial building unsafe. It’s important to know the signs of masonry wear and tear, so our Renovation Advisors have gathered the six most commons ones for you.
Why is the health of masonry important?
Most masonry issues are caused by the soil settling or shrinking over time. A building’s foundation alignment relies heavily on strong pressure from the earth surrounding it. So, if this pressure lessens over time, it’ll put more force on the brick and mortar. Since these materials aren’t malleable, they’ll start to bow and break.
In Canada, this is very common because of the freezing/thawing cycle we experience. The thaw causes settling to happen much faster as soil turns to mud in the spring before the summer heat has a chance to dry it out. Because of these conditions, there are many masonry problems that can occur. As the outer layer of your home, sturdy, well-maintained masonry is essential. Cracks, damage, or buckling can lead to a host of problems, such as air or water infiltration, damage to interior walls, and overall compromising of the structural integrity of your home.
1. Bowed brick (bulging brick)
Bowed brick occurs when the bricks in your home’s exterior either jut out or cave in around a certain area. Most of the time, this is caused by moisture that has seeped in behind the masonry. That moisture either (1) warps the concrete and the bricks and forces them to push out or (2) softens the wood or plaster behind the brick, causing the bricks to sink in.
This is a tell-tale sign that something concerning is happening behind your wall and needs to be sorted out.
A mason will remove the affected bricks, assess and fix the damage behind them, replace any water-damaged bricks with new ones, and rebuild that section of the outer wall.
2. Vertical corner cracks
Vertical cracks in your foundation are the least troublesome. If you see one that’s within 30 degrees of being a straight vertical line, don’t worry – your wall won’t collapse. This type of crack is very normal and occurs as the structure expands and contracts throughout the seasons. Unfortunately, vertical cracks do let water in during heavy rain, which can lead to bulging brick or damage to the inner wall if left untreated.
Fortunately, a mason can fix this issue rather easily by filling the crack with urethane or epoxy and, if necessary, installing an expansion joint to take some load off the corner. This type of work is inexpensive and well worth the cost, especially since it’ll prevent more serious issues down the line.
3. Compacted bricks
This issue is easy to spot – compacted bricks have lost their original shape and can appear bowed or cracked. They leave holes in the wall, allowing water to get through, and will compromise adjacent bricks over time. One by one, they’ll all start to fall apart.
A mason will replace the affected brickwork and may recommend that you have someone underpin your foundation with push piers. It’ll provide extra support to your wall and help prevent this issue from recurring.
4. Spalling at the shelf angle
A shelf angle is a long L-shaped metal piece that gets installed behind a row of bricks on a wall. It splits the weight of the bricks between the ground and the house. Essentially, the house is bearing everything above the shelf angle because those bricks are sitting on it.
Spalling is when the surface of the brick starts to chip or peel. It’s caused by a corroded shelf angle. In short, if the shelf angle is compromised, it’ll no longer divide the weight of the brickwork between the ground and the house. If you have old masonry and/or poor soil surrounding your home, this could end very badly.
A mason will examine the shelf angle for corrosion. If it’s not a huge problem, they will replace the spalled bricks. However, if the shelf angle is significantly corroded, it will have to be replaced. This is a big and expensive job.
5. Efflorescence and staining
Efflorescence is the presence of soluble salts rising through concrete, coming out the outer pores and presenting as stains. It’s extremely common because its causes are natural: low temperatures, moist conditions, condensation, rain, and dew.
Early stage efflorescence can be treated with a thorough pressure wash, and do take the time to do it. If you leave it for too long, the stain will transform into impervious-to-pressure-washing calcium carbonate. That’s when you’d have to call in a mason with special chemicals, including muriatic acid, which can be quite dangerous.
6. Mortar deterioration
This is exactly what it sounds like: the mortar between your bricks starts to buckle and/or disintegrate. With no healthy buffer between bricks, they start to loosen up and rub against each other causing damage and warping, which leads to very high repair costs that could be avoided by calling in a mason. Loose brick or stone walls can also become dangerous.
Called in time, masons can simply replace or reinforce the mortar, repointing or tuckpointing the mortar (cutting out old mortar to a uniform depth and placing new mortar in the joint), which is simpler, faster and cheaper than rebuilding the walls.
How to get honest quotes from the right masons?
We understand the difficulties that come with finding a reliable and high-quality mason for your project, so let us take away that stress! Our Renovation Advisors can invite up to three Verified masons to submit quotes for your renovation and help you decide which one brings the most value to you. Call us today or fill out our form to get started!