Understanding and Matching Mortar

It’s important that your brick repair specialist understands mortar and mortar matching to insure you get a sound repair–and one that matches what you have now. You don’t want to end up with a brick repair that stands out like a patch…nor do you want the mortar to shrink (causing re-cracking) or expand (causing damage to the brick). Check some photos here on what to avoid.

While mortar is often likened to concrete, it differs in that concrete is itself a finished element, while mortar is designed primarily to bond masonry units (brick or stone) together.  Mortar has different characteristics, depending on the application. The most common three types of mortar are Type N, Type S, and Type M. All three generally consist of different proportions of Portland cement, hydrated lime, and sand.

The brand, color, and type of Portland cement and sand will drastically affect the color of the mortar, as will any approved color pigments that may be added to the mix.  Since no single type is best for all purposes, it’s important that the person specifying the mortar understands the properties and ingredients required for a given application.

Besides matching any existing work, a good mortar must be durable, remain capable of bonding the bricks together, and help resist moisture penetration.  Generally, Type N is used for non-load bearing walls, such as most brick veneer walls.  Type S is used primarily for load bearing walls, those requiring increased tensile strength, or walls exposed to extreme weather conditions.  Type M mortar cures the hardest, and may be used for brick paving or retaining walls.

A good repair mason should understand the basics of the different mortar types and be able to custom blend a long-lasting and reasonably matching mortar, while avoiding the use of non-approved additives such as latex.

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