The desire to own a piece of history - with the unique workmanship and features of an older homes - motivates many owners. Historical neighborhoods tend to be stable, with well-landscaped streets and close communities. Preservation of those unique architectural and design features is essential to maintaining the value and desirability of the individual dwellings and the neighborhood.
Historic DC brick homes aren't for everyone. They need regular maintenance and restoration. In many of DC’s historic sections, an important and visible maintenance chore is brick restoration and repair. When it comes to repairs on historic brick homes, the quality of the work is paramount to preserving the home's authenticity and value.There is a right way to handle the upkeep of a historic building’s masonry. Here’s what owners should know:
- Tuckpointing, when done correctly with traditional methods and materials, will ensure the structural integrity, longevity, and value of buildings constructed of brick during the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. After decades of exposure, the mortar joints between the bricks on historic homes begin to fail. Repair or restoration should be done by removing mortar between masonry joints and replacing it with lime-based mortar.
- Lime, a stone used in construction for centuries, is the core ingredient in traditional mortar. Its composition, texture, and strength/level of "hardness" are compatible with the original soft coal fired bricks used in the construction of these historic buildings.
- Cement or concrete, which are modern building materials suited for new construction, are too hard for the softer brick. If a historic building is tuckpointed with cement, the material's extreme density (or its level of hardness) will cause the softer coal-fired bricks to crack or spall. Even worse, the chemicals in cement act like acid upon coming in contact with lime mortar because concrete and lime are incompatible in both composition and molecular structure.
- Because of the era in which so many homes were built in Washington DC, tuckpointing brick in these historic buildings should be trusted to masonry contractors who are specialists in the correct application of traditional materials and methods. The right masonry contractor will have expertise in traditional tuckpointing, as well as knowledge of historic buildings and neighborhoods.
Renaissance Development, a leader in brick restoration and historic preservation, specializes in the restoration of a historic brick building’s mortar joints using traditional methods (tuckpointing) and materials. Contact us for a free site visit and project quote.