I undertake practical brickwork conservation projects, on a diverse range of traditional buildings and structures including small, rural vernacular cottages, boundary & garden walls, canal structures, Georgian and Victorian town houses - both listed and unlisted. My clients are sympathetic owners of traditional buildings, architects, building managers and conservation professionals who are passionate about their buildings.
They recognise the harm that inappropriate methods and modern materials such as cement mortars & renders have done, or can do, to traditional brick work and wish not only to retain the significance and character of their buildings but also to restore their functionality. Like me, they recognise the importance of an informed approach to the execution of repairs to traditional & historic buildings.
The vast majority of traditional & historic brick structures were built with solid walls and lime mortar in a way that in essence, had remained largely unchanged for centuries. Moisture enters the wall surface during periods of rainfall but then evaporates quickly through the porous lime mortar joints which act like a wick, soaking up moisture and allowing it to evaporate preventing the walls from becoming saturated whilst allowing the walls to breathe. The lime mortar is softer than the bricks laid upon it and to this end it is sacrificial, gradually decaying over many years but allowing the bricks to remain intact.
Lime mortars absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere when they cure. This means that traditional brick & lime mortar are environmentally friendly materials.
Modern cement mortars are commonly and successfully used for new build cavity wall construction. When applied to traditional solid wall construction, problems often occur. Modern cement mortars are much harder yet more brittle than lime mortars and can be prone, over time, to cracking. Hair line cracks in the cement can allow moisture ingress particularly by wind-blown rain yet can prevent moisture evaporation, trapping moisture against the surface of the brickwork inducing not only physical decay of the brick but can lead to the development of other agents of decay such as plant growth and colonization by insects. Moisture retained within the walls in this way can also lead to the presence of moisture inside the building.