There is a reason why homes constructed of bricks and masonry are often more valued and sought after than a frame home of similar size by many home buyers across the nation. In addition to not needing to be painted every few years, a masonry home resists infiltration by insects and can more easily resist damage from strong winds and weather. In fact, a masonry home originally built in 1639, and designated as a National Historic Landmark, is still standing strong today and has been refurbished for use as a museum. While your masonry home is sure to have been built far more recently than the Henry Whitefield House, mentioned above, it is just as important for you to understand why cracks and deterioration can occur in your masonry home and what you can do about them.
Watch for visual clues
Masonry walls, whether constructed from bricks, blocks or stones, often offer visual clues of damage or deterioration that should never be ignored. These include:
- cracking (cracks forming in either the mortar or the bricks, blocks, or stones, or both)
- spalling (surface flaking of bricks, sometimes extensive)
- bowing (a vertical bulge in the wall)
- sweeping (a horizontal bulge in the wall)
- leaning (a situation where one or more of the masonry walls appear to be leaning into or away from the home, instead of standing straight)
When to worry about cracks
Some cracking is normal in most any brick, block or stone building. This can be due to a wide range of causes, including settlement, soil issues, weather, issues with mortar quality, building practices, exposure to some type of stress or movement and many others. In most cases, hairline and minor cracks that do not become worse over time can be managed by simply monitoring them frequently for changes and addressing them as they occur.
Unlike minor cracks, those that are more severe or cause portions of the brick, block or stone wall to crumble, move or appear uneven should always be examined by a reputable professional masonry contractor or masonry restoration expert, such as Mara Restoration, Inc., at the earliest possible time. If left unrepaired, the home can be at risk of infiltration from water, insects and even rodents, as well as other issues. Additionally, major cracking issues can cause stress on the home that result in damage to the interior of the home, including plaster damage, sticking or cracked window panes and doors that become difficult to open and close.
Potential causes of masonry cracking and deterioration
When noting the formation of cracks or deterioration in a masonry wall, homeowners should examine the area for any issues that may be causing or contributing to the damage. Since excessive exposure to water can cause masonry walls to deteriorate, homeowners will want to make sure that the guttering is in good condition and is not allowing water to either run down the wall or accumulate against the foundation of the home. Additionally, it is important to direct water from the gutters away from the home through the use of landscaping methods or gutter extensions to prevent issues with saturated soil or frost heaving that can cause movement in the foundation and cracking or deterioration in the masonry walls they support.
Another cause of masonry damage or deterioration is the presence of any fences, posts or access points for wiring and cables that are attached or go through the masonry wall. These areas, along with windows, doors and vents, can cause a stress point in the wall that makes it more likely to crack. Trees, shrubs or vegetation that rub against walls or have extensive root systems that grow under the home can also place stress on the foundation and masonry walls.