Masonry Restoration Explained

The term “masonry restoration” means working on any form of old masonry that is located on an existing structure. Restoration involves everything from tearing the old masonry down and rebuilding to cleaning and sealing.

Typically, when you reference masonry restoration it is thought of in terms of removing a set amount of mortar from a joint, then replacing it with new mortar technically, called repointing. (This does not make sense to me because a term that begins with “re” indicates to me that it has been done before, in theory.)

Never-less when masonry on a structure is restored, it’s the first (and you would hope the last) time it’s done. Therefore, I would say the term “pointing” is best to be used. I am also quite sure that some masons are going to debate me on this.

Building types

The true definition of a masonry building is when the floor and roof is held up by masonry, this is known as a masonry structure. These types of buildings are known as concrete block or (CMU) buildings. Typically, this type of structure does not pass two stories.

Restoration Types

A good mason who does restoration is like a magician. He, or she, can take an old, tarnished looking structure and make it look as good as new if not better. Though masonry is seen as the 2nd oldest profession, the methods being today are not that different from the Roman Empire days.

The main difference today is how easily the materials can get to the job site, and in the way, the masons get to the wall. Shortly after the first masonry structures were built, the process of restoring them began.

In today’s day and age, a good mason who does restoration knows the difference between buildings built 100 years ago compared to 50 years ago.

The thought process used today in terms of restoration is very different than that of 20 years ago. The interesting thing is, the more masons learn, the more they are going back to the old ways.

Not only does an excellent restoration mason know how to restore a 150-year-old building vs a 75-year-old building, but they also know how to make it as economically safe as possible when it comes to the value of the building.

Yes, it’s true, some buildings simply don’t deserve to stay up, either for safety or economical reasons, they just need to come down. Yes…even some amazing old, historic masonry buildings for the simple fact that they are too dangerous to keep up.

To seal or not?

There are debates as to whether a masonry building should be sealed. The opinion of the restoration folks is NO… They say, never use water repellents when working on any type of older masonry.

But, water repellent compounds have been getting so advanced over time and have been improved significantly over what they were even five years ago. There are even specific applications used on older masonry structures that significantly add to the longevity of the building.

There is a very fine line when it comes to restoring and harming a building. Let’s face it. They don’t build them the way they used to, and sometimes our best intentions are not what is best for future generations.