Brick Repair/Mortar color Match

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Mortar Color Matching

Replace Mismatched Mortar Repairs

Mortar repair is the general maintenance of masonry siding, and will need to be performed periodically to keep the masonry walls in good condition. This is why so many companies exist to provide the brick repair services. However, it is common for these companies to be limited in their understanding and experience with masonry repair.

Masonry Repair

Most brick repair companies are owned or ran by someone who is not a mason. In fact many of the companies that provide brick repair services are handyman services, and have an even lower understanding of the brick repair procedures. This is why so many brick repair projects are completed with mismatched mortar.

Mismatched mortar is not only the color of the mortar or the color and gradation of the sand. These are only the more visible parts to matching the mortar, but don't even touch on the performance of the mortar and how it needs to perform to make a lasting repair.

It is often assumed that the mortar used is type N masonry because it is readily available and the repair mortar is matched using bags of type N masonry cement where small portions of different bags are used to match the mortar color. This practice is full of mistakes.

Common Mortar Matching Mistakes

First, even if it was remembered that the original mortar used bags of type N masonry cement, these are often modified during the mixing of mortar. Sometimes the change is not intentional, but rather a misunderstanding of how mortar works. Other times, the mortar is made softer or harder through an adjustment of the sand volume or adding of Portland or lime and other additives to the mortar.

Secondly, use of small portions from these bags are not likely to produce a type N mortar. To understand this, you need to first understand the composition of these bags. Each bag of masonry cement is composed of different binder materials and other additives. The most common are Portland cement and lime. These are the primary ingredients of masonry cement. Others include ash, retardants to slow the curing of mortar, flash or calcium chloride to accelerate the curing of the mortar, benzonite clay, and many more.

Each ingredient have different weights. For instance, the weight of Portland is nearly twice the weight of lime, and similar to the way that blood and other materials are separated through vibration, the Portland and lime and other materials separate inside of the bags during transport even if they had been completely mixed.

Therefore, the second thing for you to understand about this method is why it cannot produce type N mortar when using small amounts from a bag or combining multiple bags. This is because the bags have portions in an exact ratio for the whole package and require use of the entire package in the same mix to reach the specified mortar type. This information is provided on the back of the bags. When small amounts are taken from a bag, there is no way to determine which ingredients have been scooped out or their ratio, and in such, would be impossible to determine the mortar type that it will achieve.

The ratio of these ingredients will determine the mortar type, how it performs, and certainly how it bonds to the original mortar. These are far more important to a masonry repair than matching the color because if this doesn't match, the repair will not last and may cause more damage to the brick. After these details are determined and matched, the mortar color and gradation can be more accurately matched and are the next step in properly matching mortar for masonry repairs.

Mortar testing is required to identify the mortar type, performance, and composition. During the mortar testing, the color and gradation of sand is identified, and with all of these details about the mortar, matching mortar is easier and more accurate.

Most brick repair companies are attempting to match the mortar without matching any of the more crucial details about the mortar and are using a method and material that doesn't work for masonry repair. Therefore, as they mix the mortar with unknown ingredients, it will likely dry a different color from one batch to the next even if they scooped the same amounts from these bags each time. This is why there are so many brick repair projects that visibly have mismatched mortar, and even more that don't even know their mortar is not matched.

When mortar repairs are completed with mismatched mortar, it needs to be replaced with a matching mortar as quickly as possible to reduce the amount of damage that may occur to the brick if the mortar is too hard, or falling bricks if the mortar is too soft.

Mismatched Mortar

To replace mismatched mortar, you must remove the mismatched mortar and prepare the area for repair with matching mortar. This is often more difficult than repairing the damage correctly the first time, and takes more time to prepare the area for repair. Repairing the mortar correctly the first time only requires removing the cracked mortar and bricks and cleaning the old mortar out of the mortar joints.

To replace mismatched mortar, the mortar being removed is generally harder than the original mortar used and takes more time to remove the mortar, and wears out equipment more rapidly. This also tends to require that the mortar is removed deeper than the previous repairs were made. This means that any brick that were laid in the mismatched mortar will need to be removed, cleaned, and replaced again. Also, when there is mismatched mortar used to repair the mortar cracks, it tends to get on the brick faces and must be cleaned off before new repairs are made because it may require removing the brick and replacing it as well. Because it takes more time and there is more work to complete this mortar repair, it will take longer and cost more to fix than it would have the first time.

Tuck Pointing Mortar

After all of the mismatched mortar has been removed from the bricks and mortar joints, you can proceed with replacing the mismatched mortar. Clean out the dust and debris to finish preparing the area to receive new mortar that has been matched properly. Moisten the area to repair. Then mix your new mortar and begin the repair. Install all of the brick that have been removed and then replace the mortar. Tool it to the desired shape of mortar joint and pack the mortar tightly into the mortar joints. Then brush away any excess mortar and allow the mortar to dry. Once dry, you can clean any smears from the faces of the brick before the stain sets into the bricks.

Always remember that the mortar used for brick repair is going to be the most important part of the repair. The wrong mortar will not bond to the rest of the wall, and will cause damage to the bricks. This can be avoided by matching the mortar for mortar repair through mortar testing.

AMR Labs provides brick repair products mortar testing and mortar matching services that allow them to produce custom mortar pre-matched for each brick repair project.

Mortar Testing and Matching Services

As you can see, masonry repairs look much better when the mortar is tested and properly matched with our mortar matching services.

Before Mortar Matching Services After Mortar Matching Services