Restoring Old Brick Buildings in 2021

Brick buildings can be the most spectacular and beautiful structures. Though brick is durable and relatively easily maintained than cut stone or wood, some maintenance is necessary to keep the brickwork looking optimal.

Many older properties lack the upkeep necessary to preserve their appearance. For these buildings, restoration may help keep the buildings in good condition, improve neighborhood appearance, and improve resale value.

PLANNING FOR RESTORATION

If you have a vintage brick building that needs restoration, you’ll need to plan before starting the project. You should first assess your building’s state and determine whether the mortar that holds the brickwork together is worn out. This is something that frequently happens.

Brick mortar can begin receding, cracking, or spilling between the joints of bricks over time. If not attended to, the mortar can fully break and lead to the collapse of the wall.

MATERIALS NEEDED

Before starting on a project like this, you’ll need to make sure you have all the materials necessary. Assembling all the materials before you start will make a difficult project much easier.

  • Safety glasses
  • Dust mask
  • Waterproof gloves
  • Mortar mix
  • Brick trowel
  • Hammer
  • Wheel rake or jointer tool
  • Flat utility chisel
  • Contouring tool
  • Pointing trowel
  • Whisk broom

If you lack these tools, don’t try to bumble through the job on your own without them, and don’t be afraid to call a professional before that happens!

RESEARCH

Brick restoration can be more complex than you might think, as different brick structures are made of varying materials. Thus, a one-size-fits-all approach to restoring brick buildings is not suitable.

It would help if you took the time to make sure that you have the right specialized cleaning products to clean your brickwork. Soap and water will not be sufficient, and the average hardware store might not have salespeople with the expertise needed to point you in the right direction. Most masonry companies sell the cleaning products that you’ll need.

The replacement mortar will need to be compatible with the historic mortar to prevent a stark difference in color or mortar joint size after re-pointing. Mortars that are incompatible not only look dissimilar, but they can also damage brickwork through cracking spalling (deteriorating brick), and interior rotting of the mortar.

SAFETY FIRST

Before beginning, make sure you have safety equipment to minimize harm. This will include proper clothing, shoes, gloves, mask, and glasses. Always prioritize safety.

CHIPPING OUT OLD MORTAR

Using a hammer and chisel, about an inch of the old mortar will need to be removed. If there is damaged mortar that runs even deeper, chipping may need to continue until a solid base is reached.

In the worst situations, bricks may have to be removed and re-set with a new mortar. Cases with cracked mortar can also require careful procedures, including relief cuts made with a chisel or angle grinder. After the old mortar is properly removed, loose particles should be brushed out with a whisk broom before moving on.

NEW MORTAR

Mortar should be mixed until it’s similar in consistency to peanut butter. It should rest for at least 10 minutes before being remixed. It then will be ready for use. Small batches should be mixed at a time, as the mortar starts drying out after 30 minutes.

You can use a trowel to push the mortar in between the bricks, filling the horizontal sections before the vertical ones. Use small amounts of mortar, as using too much can get it on the brick face. The mortar should be packed tightly, and deeper joints can be filled in multiple stages.

After the first stage, a wheel rake or jointer can be used to even out the mortar or add more as needed. Once that’s done, excess mortar on the bricks should be scraped away with a mortar brush.

DON’TS OF BRICK RESTORATION

There are many ways that brick restoration can go wrong, some of which involve inappropriate cleaning methods. These are just a few to keep in mind:

Don’t sandblast. This is a cleaning method that uses a machine to propel sand, glass, and other abrasives onto a hard material. Sandblasting can be used for concrete, but it’s one of the worst things that can be done to brick structures.

Although it would remove dirt and grime, sandblasting can destroy the brickwork and irreversibly damage the building. Some contractors argue that dry abrasive cleaning is harmful, but that wet abrasive cleaning is safer. This is not true–abrasive cleaning is never a good preservation option.

Don’t use high-pressure spray. Like sandblasting, these can also harm your building. This can be appealing because high-pressure water cleaning can seem like an effective way for one person to clean a building, but the high pressure can loosen the old mortar. Masonry can also be stained when cleaning chemicals are pushed too far into the brick to be rinsed out.

Don’t use chemical or water treatments during times when temperatures can go below freezing. This can introduce moisture into masonry surfaces. When liquid freezes, it will expand, which can cause cracks in your bricks.

Don’t use waterproof coating everywhere. Though waterproofing is essential in small increments, too much waterproofing can trap water inside the masonry. Waterproofing is not in itself a full solution for your brickwork.

 

UNIQUE INDUSTRIES BRICK RESTORATION

 

Brick buildings can look brilliant when they are properly maintained and cared for. Restoration can be done on your own, but it’s a work-intensive process, and you can damage your intricate brick structures if you don’t do it properly. At Unique Industries, we can help with your restoration and provide help with ongoing maintenance to keep your brick building looking majestic and stately.

If you are not sure about how to approach brick restoration, contact Unique Industries for assistance! We can help you find solutions for your brick problems, prevent costly mistakes, and make sure the job is done the first time correctly.

Contact us and trust professionals with your bricks!