One of the biggest bug-bears for professional re-pointers and building experts is finding a property that’s been incorrectly pointed in the past. Subsequently, this becomes one of the biggest headaches for owners of older buildings too. Whether they weren’t aware of the ‘correct’ mortar for their property, or bought a home that had been ‘incorrectly’ pointed in the past, the potential damage to an older building can be costly, and extremely damaging, if lime mortar isn’t used.
What is lime mortar?
Essentially, it’s an older building material than the cement mortar used in the construction of new build properties, and most homes since it became widely manufactured in the early 20th century. However, with a vast number of classic Georgian, Edwardian and Victorian properties still being called ‘home’ by people all over the UK, lime mortar is also still an essential option.
Lime mortar, which is made of sand, lime and water, is the ideal material to use with the stonework of older properties. It is softer and more permeable than cement mortar, and so allows for the natural movement of older properties, which were not built on the robust modern foundations of contemporary homes. So, when individual bricks move, albeit infinitesimally, the lime mortar around them moves too.
Why not concrete?
Concrete was built to work with modern bricks, which are more robust than older brick and stonework. So, concrete is designed to harden quickly, and fix the brickwork in place for decades to come. It was designed to work with buildings that never move, even slightly. If cement mortar is applied to an older building, over time two things will happen…
The cement will crack, as the building moves, and the brick or stonework around it will rub abrasively against it – most likely becoming damaged in the process. So, although lime mortar hasn’t been widely used in home building for nearly 100 years, it is still the best material to use for repointing the brickwork of properties built prior to the 1930s.
The solution to repointing brickwork
If you believe that incorrect repointing may have been an issue for your property, in the past, then it’s well worth seeking a professional pair of eyes. While there’s no danger of your home completely falling apart, if cement mortar has been used incorrectly, then damage over time is unfortunately inevitable – and could decrease the value of the property if you seek to resell it.
Your first port of call should be a professional builder, or specialist building and roofing company that have experts in several areas of home building. Findley, a building and roofing company in Newcastle, for instance, provide a wide range of expert services across the domestic sector – and there’s bound to be a reliable, multi-skilled service near you too.
If it is the case that cement mortar has been used, where lime mortar should have been, it needs to be carefully removed and replaced with the right material. And although this could initially be a costly process, it will pay for itself in the long run, as your classic property will be in the right condition to move and breathe again for decades to come.
Author – Simon Trelfa