Traditional buildings are usually built of stone or brick with lime-based mortars. The materials are natural, durable and breathable. In such buildings, dampness is controlled by the building’s ability to allow moisture to evaporate. Lime mortar is softer than cement and will eventually be eroded by the weather and fall out. This is part of the normal life cycle of the material. It is often repointed with cement, which is a harder material and can trap moisture in the wall, which can cause the brickwork to erode and fail. It can also give rise to internal damp problems.
What to look for:
- Decay of mortar joints. Is the mortar coming loose or missing?
- Loss of brick faces
- Areas of staining or vegetation
What to do:
- Establish the cause of deterioration e.g. continuous saturation caused by leaking gutters, the use of a cement-based mortar, and rectify the problem before carrying out any brickwork repairs
- If repointing is required only re-point the eroded joints, use a traditional lime mortar on older buildings as using a cement mortar can accelerate decay in the brick
- Only bricks that are severely damaged should be cut out and replaced. Sometimes it is possible to turn existing bricks round and refix them
- Control vegetation growth
- This is a specialist craft skill and you should seek professional advice before carrying out this work
When carrying out an inspection it is important to stay safe. Carry out an initial assessment and decide whether it is necessary to arrange for specialists to carry out a more detailed investigation, particularly if maintenance works require working at height.