For owners of historic brick homes, missing or damaged bricks in the building’s facades are a call to action. These stately exteriors require restoration to preserve their timely authenticity and to protect their structural integrity.
Tuckpointing is the process of replacing the mortar joints that support the bricks. Historic facades should be tuckpointed with lime mortar. Here’s why:
Old Bricks and Lime Mortar
Old bricks were fired at lower temperatures that modern bricks, making them softer. They absorb and release water, expanding and contracting in the process. The lime mortar used with them was even softer and able to cushion that movement. Periodically the mortar deteriorates and has to be replaced.
Structures in Washington DC and Old Town Alexandria, VA, built from the 1700’s until the 1920’s, have load bearing masonry walls consisting only of bricks and mortar. They contain no iron, steel, or any other reinforcing structural support inside their walls.
These load-bearing buildings were built of coal-fired clay bricks assembled with lime mortar. If cement mortar – more rigid and less porous – is used, water is trapped inside the bricks keeping them from expanding. The resulting pressure slowly causes the constrained bricks to crumble.
Tuckpointing Historic Brick Homes
If a historic building is not tuckpointed properly, it will eventually show signs of structural damage and interior water penetration. Because of the era in which so many homes were built in Washington DC, tuckpointing brick in these historic buildings should be trusted to experts whose specialty lies in the correct application of traditional materials and methods.
Renaissance Development, a leader in historic home renovation and 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.