Outdoor Masonry Mortar Damage Guide

Whether it's used for patio paving, retaining walls, or low garden barriers, masonry and brick are a common sight in many landscapes. Mortared brickwork is sealed together with a cement-like mortar, which holds the bricks in more securely compared to dry-fit methods. Over time, though, the mortar can fail.

Causes of Mortar Damage

Age and moisture are the main things that lead to damaged, failing mortar. As the mortar ages, it can develop small hairline cracks or chips. The settling of the brick over time speeds up the process, which is why it is important to prepare a strong base before installing any type of brick. Eventually, water seeps into these small cracks, where it makes the damage worse. If the water freezes and expands, the mortar becomes fractured from the inside out and begins to crumble.

Other damages can also lead to mortar decay. Cleaning with harsh abrasives or chemicals, for example, can weaken mortar and lead to crumbling. Even pressure washing, if too high of a pressure is used, can cause the mortar to break down.

Damage Problems

Crumbling mortar is unattractive, but this isn't the main issue. Without mortar, the structural integrity of the brickwork is at risk. This is especially true for upright structures, like a retaining wall or outdoor fireplace. The bricks themselves will begin to buckle under the weight of the structure of the mortar is no longer in good repair.

Missing or crumbling mortar also allows water behind the bricks where it will dry slowly. The water can then be absorbed into the porous material and cause cracks or crumbling to affect the bricks as well as the mortar. Eventually, the combination of missing mortar and water damage will cause brick paving to become uneven and brick structures to lean or even fall down.

Repair and Restoration

Mortar is relatively simple to repair. Your brickwork service will use a technique called tuckpointing. This involves carefully scraping the old, damaged mortar out from between the bricks one section at a time. New mortar is then mixed up and tucked in between the bricks to create a new, undamaged joint that water won't seep through.

If any bricks have already suffered damage, your brick worker will need to replace them. Keep in mind that finding a match can be difficult, though, so it is best to schedule mortar repairs before damage begins to affect the bricks.

Contact a brickwork service for more help with your landscaping brick.