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Historic Brick Might Need Some Love

By Evelyn Crofts


There are many elements of our historic homes that are beautiful, and sometimes there are elements that need some maintenance. What’s heartbreaking is when a historic element seems to be beyond repair - but many times, it’s a matter of having the right knowledge. How about those bricks on your porch, chimney, or decorative element that are getting pitted or breaking apart? Historic bricks are softer than modern bricks, so this sort of breakage is either due to using mortar that is too hard (causing the brick to crack when the building breathes) or from moisture intrusion. When the face of the brick falls away to expose the softer interior part of the brick, this is called spalling.


But hope is not lost! Spalling can be repaired, or individual bricks can be replaced without having to re-do the entire brick structure. According to thecraftsmanblog.com (one of my favorite resources for old home repair), you can repair an individual spalled brick using a product called Lithomex to re-shape the brick. You could also replace a brick by scraping out the mortar around it, removing the damaged brick, cleaning the area, then applying new mortar and a new brick.


So what can you do to avoid spalling brick? The first thing to do is to make sure you have no sources of moisture directly on the brick: broken or mis-aligned sprinklers or gutters that don’t protect the area.


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