Signs of Poor Masonry Work

Updated December 6, 2011

When it comes to masonry, it’s often the building materials rather than the workmanship that is lacking. Watch out for signs of poor masonry work like cracks, parging, faulty alignment and sand line mortar.

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Though many people would consider brick the ultimate building material, some practices may make its use hazardous. Many organizations provide vocational training, ongoing education and certification in masonry construction, yet it’s often the building materials rather than the workmanship that is lacking.

Here are some signs of poor masonry work to watch out for:

Parging: Bricks that are structurally unsound sometimes are covered with a layer of this material that resembles a smooth stucco to hide defects. 

Sand lime mortar: This kind of mortar was used in many buildings throughout the 20th century. Because it's water-soluble and can be rinsed away due to water exposure, it has a higher risk of failure.

Wooden beams and lintels: Earlier building practices often included wooden frames, which weren’t always able to support the weight of bricks. Those wooden lintels and beams are more likely to burn, which can lead to a potential collapse in a fire.

Cracks: Whether vertical or horizontal, cracks are never a good sign. They usually indicate some form of weakness. Heavy vertical cracking may be a sign that the foundation has settled.

Faulty alignment: Chances are the bricks were relatively well aligned when the structure was built. However, sometimes the mortar reacts to water in the environment and expands, pushing them out of alignment.

If you own a home that is in need of masonry repair, consider hiring a highly rated Washington D.C. masonry contractor. There are currently more than 800 masonry contractors on Angie’s List in the D.C. area alone. Sign in today to read trusted consumer reviews.

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