Five Signs of Early Damage: Masonry

October 19th 2019

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Masonry work... it is “working with brick, concrete block, glass block, tile, terra cotta and stone using mortar to put them together.” according to the definition of the Ontario Masonry Training Centre.

If your house, condo or commercial building has brick or stone walls, you’ll need a mason at some point — especially in Canada where exposure to the elements can significantly damage the brick or stone wall structure over time.

Depending on the severity of the damage and where it is, masonry issues can lead to disastrous consequences for you as a homeowner or business owner: anything from leaking to extreme loss of heat to foundational problems that could make your house or commercial building unsafe.

How will you know when it’s time to call in a residential mason or a commercial mason? Look for these five signs of early damage:

1.  Bowed Brick / Bulging brick

This is when the bricks in your outer wall either jut out or cave in around a certain area. Most of the time, this is caused by moisture that has seeped in behind the brick. That moisture either warps the concrete and the bricks and forces them to push out, or it softens the wood or plaster behind the brick casing the brinks to sink in.

This is a sign that something untoward is happening behind your wall and needs to be sorted out.

2. Vertical corner cracks

Vertical cracks are the least troublesome. If you see a crack in your foundation within +/- 30 degrees of vertical, you don’t have to worry about your wall collapsing. Thankfully!!

This kind of crack is normal and is a function of natural expansion. The problem with vertical cracks is that they’ll let water seep in during heavy rains, and that can lead to bulging brick or, if left unfixed, damage to the inner wall. Yikes!

3. Compacted bricks

Compact bricks are easily detectable. You'll know this because it will have lost its original shape. It can appear bowed or even cracked. This is a problem for a few reasons... firstly, it opens up a hole in the wall for water to get through. But more than that, one compacted brick will almost always lead to more because it no longer provides the bricks adjacent to it with the pressure they need to stay true.

So like a virus, one compacted brick will affect others around it until you have a serious problem.

4. Spalling

A shelf angle is a long L-shaped metal piece that gets installed behind a row of bricks on a wall. It splits the weight of the bricks between the ground and the house. Essentially, the house is bearing everything above the shelf angle because those bricks are sitting on that shelf angle.

Spalling is chipping of the facing of the brick, and it can be caused by a corroding of the shelf angle behind it. It can look ugly, but it’s also a sign of potential danger!! If the shelf angle is corroded, it may lose its strength, which would unify the entire weight of the brick and mortar. Depending on how old your walls are and how healthy the soil surrounding your home or building is, this could be very bad!!

5.Efflorescence and staining

Wondering what that means? Efflorescence is the presence of soluble salts rising through concrete, coming out the outer pores and presenting as stains. Unfortunately, this is something that is extremely common. It's causes are natural: low temperatures, moist conditions, condensation, rain and dew.

Wondering how to treat it? Early stage efflorescence can be fixed with a thorough pressure wash. Don't let it sit too long though! That’s when you’d have to call us in and we'd have to use with special chemicals, including Muriatic acid, which can be quite dangerous!

Although this may all seem overwhelming and a bit scary, we are here to help! If you want to learn more about Masonry Rock, email us at [email protected] and we will answer all of your questions.