Is It Better to Repair or Replace Damaged Brick?

9/13/21 2:06 PM Christina Wilson

Many homeowners have a common question: “Is it better to repair or replace damaged bricks?” Typically, the answer to that question lies in answering another question: Is structural stability at risk? Discovering the reason for damaged bricks is essential in determining the best solution. You must fix any structural concerns before you can proceed with an aesthetic fix.

Plus, there are other questions to consider. For instance, is the brick damaged or just the surrounding mortar? Has the mortar surrounding cracked or spalling brick been spot-pointed with Portland Cement or another hard mortar mix? Are the brick walls leaning inward or bulging outward? Is it unstable?

When water gets behind the brick due to the natural thaw and freeze cycle, it can cause bowing and bulging. If caught early, tuckpointing can fix this issue to keep moisture from getting behind your brick. However, you must correct the structural problem first. 

The answer to the above questions is vital to deciding between repairing or replacing bricks, especially when the bricks in question are part of an old brick home. Even more so, when it is in a historic district or on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), as some of those built before 1930 are.

Think about that for a minute. A home built before 1930 is nearly the century mark. Therefore, some of the bricks might need to be replaced. This will be especially true for homes in which deferred maintenance built up as they aged; it may also be a sign that some projects were taken on as DIY when it would have been better for the structure to hire a professional. Bricks on an older home can be challenging to replace. However, experienced masons and established professional tuckpointers may keep stocks of historically appropriate bricks or have sources from which to acquire a match.  

Why Tuckpointing?   

In most cases, bricks will last for around 100 years, but in most cases, the mortar’s lifespan is approximately 25 - 30 years. Therefore, you should expect to replace cracked or disintegrated mortar with a process known as tuckpointing; sometimes called repointing, or just pointing.  By any of these names, the method used to replace old, crumbling mortar with a historically age-appropriate mix of lime-based mortar is determined by the original style and methods used on the building. Experts in historic brick restoration know what they are looking at and the right way to proceed with each job.

The tuckpointing specialist removes the old, deteriorating mortar and replaces it with a match that is historically accurate to the building’s period.

Professional Repair

Before you repair an old brick home, you must check to see if guidance and permission from your local building inspector’s office, your homeowner’s association, if any, or the NRHP is necessary. Professionals like Renaissance Development know the guidelines and take care of obtaining all the necessary permits for each client project.

To preclude a costly misstep in the Washington, D. C. area, get a free comprehensive consultation from Renaissance Development, the Capital’s leading masonry contractor known for expertise and excellence in the restoration and repair of historic brick buildings.

When You Should Repair the Bricks

Before replacing one or more bricks with any curated from an outside source, the mason may consider whether the side facing inward looks good enough to use it for the exterior facade. If the brick is still structurally sound, this may be the simplest solution for ensuring a good match with a fresh, clean look. A brick restoration professional can best determine whether this solution is appropriate and will not compromise structural integrity.

Professional masons can repair, remove, or replace damaged brick with a near-match to create a flawless restoration, then repoint the rest of the building to make it “like new” or "like old" in the case of the historic building. 

Final Thoughts

The best course of action when you consider replacing or repairing brick on your old brick home’s walls, chimneys, fences, or walkways is to consult the professionals at Renaissance Development. Once we find and fix the issue causing the brick’s damage, we can repair or replace the brick and repoint the mortar if necessary. See our portfolio of restored homes in the Washington, D. C. area. 

Our knowledge of historic brick buildings in  Old Town, Alexandria, Georgetown, and Washington, D.C. is unsurpassed. What’s more, we are licensed, insured, and OSHA certified.     

 Renaissance Development professionals are experts in restoring and maintaining historic brick homes and structures. Contact us for a consultation regarding the care of your brick home or structures today. 

Categories: Repair, Historic Preservation, Restoration, Exterior brick, Spot tuckpointing

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