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Masonry Repair – Matching Mortar for Repointing

Masonry repair is essential to the overall maintenance of your home. Cracks in the mortar allow water and insects to enter your home, and can reduce the value of the home or prevent it from selling. However, no repairs will be made. If the mortar used to repair the cracks is not compatible, it can cause more damage to the wall and still have the same effect on the property’s value or sale. This is why it is so important to get the right mortar for the repair.

The right mortar for repairing masonry cracks and resurfacing is different for every home. This is due to inconsistencies in mortar mixing, different types of mortar used, and/or different mortar aging and staining. Even if you match the composition of the mortar and the compressive strength of the mortar, if the color of the mortar and the grade of sand do not match, the repair can look bad and show up.

Most professional masonry repairmen assume that they can only match the color of the mortar to the paint, and some even try to match the sand. While this may work for them most of the time, it only works because the client doesn’t know it was a mistake and neither party understands the problems this method can cause. This problem often occurs in right-of-way states where a license is not required for masonry repair and city codes do not set a repair standard that addresses this problem.

With that said, the only true way to identify your mortar and find a suitable repair mortar is through a mortar analysis.

There are different types of mortar analysis. The most commonly used is acid reflux which is limited to accuracy. In fact, all official personal testing methods have margins of error. Only through a combination of different mortar testing procedures can accurate results be produced. By gathering more information about the mortar, its adhesive strength, acid solubility, chemical reactions, weight loss, and combining these results with a calculation of the specific gravity of the aggregate and sand materials, the composition of the mortar can be more accurately identified.

Only after knowing the composition of the mortar can the color begin correctly. This is because many of the primary tones of the mortar color are a direct result of the composition of the mortar. For example, white sand with gray and black particles in a white mortar will give a bright white mortar with a slight gray tone in the light, but a blond sand with red particles will appear gray and pink in a white mortar.

Once the basic formula is determined, the color can be matched with small adjustments to the different colors of the base materials as long as the ratio and formula remain constant. Final adjustments can then be made with pigments or paints as needed.

With the right repair mortar, masonry repairs will bond better and last longer without damaging the wall.

And if you have a mortar that contains historic lime, you can still get the analysis from one of these sites, but you can order historic lime mortar from Virginia Lime Works using the mortar formula provided.

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