Anyone who owns a historic home know the importance of proper maintenance. Whether your home is brick or stone, the maintenance of the exterior can be a daunting experience. Over the years, education on what we should do when there’s a problem has evolved. However, it’s widely accepted that the use of traditional materials and procedures worked when our ancestors built homes, and the proof is in the preservation of historical sites today.
If your home was built prior to 1930, it’s likely a solid masonry structure, which means that the joints in the brick or stone are there not only to hold the units and house together, but also to keep moisture out of your home. If we cover them up or use the wrong materials, we risk trapping moisture and deteriorating that beautiful façade we depend on for curb appeal.
Simple maintenance can ensure the proper function of these walls and ensure a lasting beauty throughout the ownership of your home. When it’s time to restore the deteriorated bricks or repoint the joints, there are a few simple guidelines to ensure you are getting the right contractor and the best value. You should always inquire with a contractor to ensure that they have experience with other historic properties and are using lime mortars (the latter being the most relevant point).
Lime mortar is the reason that century homes have stood the test of time. Lime has attributes that no modern cement has, and allows your wall to breathe as it was designed to. Lime also has autogenous healing properties, so should the mortar suffer a slight fracture, it will likely close on its own over time. Lime mortar is also softer than brick or stone and allows for the inevitable movement of the wall without damaging the bricks or stones themselves. These mortar joints will wear away over time and should only have to be restored every fifty to one hundred years. Bricks and stones in the wall should last decades later.
Your contractor should also know how to mix and apply the material correctly. Joints to be restored should be removed and prepped with proper restorations tools, not the tools we buy at our local hardware store. They should also be installed with hand tools, texturing the joints to match the original design. Poor workmanship throughout many repairs of these walls can actually speed up deterioration. Proper restoration of the joints on a historic home will be more labour intensive and costly than a modern home, but will certainly endure the test of time. Talented masons can also use techniques when repointing to make brickwork or stonework stand out and create that timeless beauty that was originally intended.
The key to maintaining the historical and monetary value of your century home is through the careful and well researched selection of materials, and a qualified contractor who specializes in this type of workmanship and restoration.
“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.” - Benjamin Franklin