As the owner of a historic brick home, you know the inherent charm of the house is the result of the craftsmanship that went into building it. With proper maintenance, these homes were designed to stand the test of time, although many homeowners don’t know that maintaining the brick isn’t only about cosmetic upkeep. The brick your home is built with is your house's entire structural support and foundation. Tuckpointing, or repairing and replacing the mortar, is critical to maintaining your home’s structural integrity.
The Importance of Structural Brick
Today’s basements are typically made from poured concrete, and the structure is built from wood or metal capable of supporting the weight of the floors and roof. The load-bearing walls are sometimes given a brick façade or a brick covering, but it is frequently used for aesthetic purposes only. When they are structural, they are generally used in combination with other types of supports.
Historic brick homes, especially those built before 1920, do not contain any additional load-bearing supports. Without reinforcement, your bricks are the only structural support from the basement to the roof. This in and of itself isn’t a problem, however, maintaining these old bricks requires knowledge of the appropriate tools and techniques.
Historic brick was laid in such a way as to “lock” the structure together. This type of construction required precision craftsmanship and resulted in a finished house that could last hundreds of years. However, the brick’s exposure to the elements and pressure from the ground around the foundation means brick and mortar can, and will, deteriorate. Thankfully, even if your home’s brick and mortar has been neglected, a historic brick expert works with a professional team of tuckpointing specialists who are capable of correcting the problems presented by the old brick.
What Is Tuckpointing?
Tuckpointing, also known as “repointing,” removes and repairs the mortar between bricks and replaces it with fresh material. When done using the traditional techniques and proper materials, such as lime mortar, tuckpointing will ensure the structural integrity of your historic brick home and dramatically renew its appearance. Spot tuckpointing can be used to repair problem areas, however, a complete tuckpointing job is needed every few decades to ensure that the mortar is performing its important job of protecting the brick and maintaining the strong underlying structure of your historic house.
Why It’s Crucial to Work With Historic Brick Experts
Since tuckpointing is critical to the structural stability of your historic home, you should contact a historic brick specialist to complete the work. Historic brick was fired at lower temperatures than modern brick and is relatively soft. Their strength is in their softness—they absorb and release moisture well, which allows them to expand and contract without damage. However, they don’t work on their own.
Historic brick relies on a traditional lime-based mortar mixture, which is softer than today’s concrete counterparts. The lime-based mortar’s composition cushions the expansion and contraction of the bricks. This cushioning prevents cracks, crumbling and spalling (when pieces of brick “pop off”.) Mixing the lime-based mortar and applying it correctly requires significant expertise, and with that expertise comes the peace of mind of longevity and structural integrity. That said, when your home requires tuckpointing, you must consult with historic brick experts in order to ensure the job is done right.
Does Consulting a Tuckpointing Specialist Provide Other Benefits?
Absolutely! Aside from their expertise in tuckpointing, historic brick specialists such as the team at Renaissance Development can help ensure the overall structural integrity of your home. Historic brick experts can perform inspections and spot the need for minor repairs before small defects turn into major repair work. If you have already damaged brick, they can source the type of brick you need to ensure it has the right compressive strength and matches your home.
Renaissance Development, experts in tuckpointing historic brick homes in DC, offers many other services that can enhance the functionality and beauty of your property, such as retaining walls, patios, front steps, urban gardens, iron work, and wooden fencing. Contact us and ask about our special Winter Promotion.