Prior to the 1940s most of the mortar in the Denver area was
made mostly from lime and sand. Portland cement was not as
available and thus the mortar is very soft. Usually you can
rub a mortar joint with a finger and sand will come off of
it. This soft mortar is able to be washed out by lawn sprinklers
hitting the house or by leaking roof gutters and downspouts.
The settling of the house will cause cracks in the mortar. Moisture
from various sources will sit in these cracks and then in the winter
it will freeze and thaw. This freeze-thaw cycle will cause the
cracks to widen and the bricks will loosen and begin to move. Chimneys
and porches are less protected and thus will decay faster than
the rest of the house.
The first thing necessary is to adequately prepare the surface
to be repaired so that the new mortar bonds properly to the
brick. Next it is vital that the new mortar be a similar type
as the old mortar. If you use a hard modern mortar it can be
harder than the old soft bricks and as the house moves (due
to the ground contracting and expanding) it can ruin the brick.
We make our own mortar from lime and sand that is very close
to the original mortar.
These old homes usually had a very white mortar when they were
new. However, after a hundred years of pollution and being
baked in the sun the mortar isn’t white and yet it isn’t
gray either. Some homes have a mortar that was originally very
black but has been bleached white by the sun. Houses made in
the 1890s often have a red mortar color. We have become very
good at combining available materials to match the current color
of the mortar so that the repaired area looks as good as possible
and blends in with the rest of the house.
We work in such a way that we don’t create smears of mortar
on the brick faces themselves. We try to avoid chemicals if possible
because they could harm the brick or the environment. Often times,
if we need a cleaning agent we will only use vinegar and water.
When we’re done with a job we’re careful to clean
up after ourselves and not leave a mess.
We expect the tuckpointing work that we do to last for a good
number of years – but because of environmental factors such
as leaking gutters and misdirected sprinklers we cannot give a
blanket warranty. However, if a job we did does not last a reasonable
length of time we will repair it at our expense. We also don’t
expect anyone to pay for a poorly done job. If we honestly
cannot satisfy a customer or do a job right, we will not charge