Stories From the Field

Stories From the Field

Post: Masonry Restoration Work & Cold Weather Considerations (#1 in a Series)

Friday January 20, 2017

Winter weather in Chicago is anything but predictable. Last year the balmy late-season weather allowed our masons to work until just a few days before Christmas. This year, the first cold snap arrived shortly after Thanksgiving, followed by early December snows, followed by a lovely stretch of balmy January weather. (I saw lightning in the skies last night, and this weekend’s temperatures are predicted to reach the mid-50s!)

If your masonry wall or chimney is being rebuilt (“brickwork” as we say in the trade), then all of that fresh mortar needs a minimum of two weeks of above-freezing weather day and night in order to cure properly. If your mortar joints are being restored (i.e., ground out & tuckpointed) then a minimum of three days of above-freezing weather day and night is required in order to cure correctly.

If the mortar freezes early on during the curing process, then chances are very good that it will not perform as expected. Yes it is legal to add mortar conditioners like anti-freeze to prevent the mortar from freezing and accelerants to hasten the curing process, but as far as we are concerned their use is entirely unethical since they have the effect of reducing the integrity (and therefore the longevity) of the mortar by a significant amount. How would you feel knowing the longevity of the mortar used to restore your building was reduced by 50% because the mason used season extenders?!?

AAA-1 Masonry only performs cold weather work if the job site is heated around the clock. That means the job site remains above-freezing at 5:00pm when the masons pack up for the day, at 1:00am when the masons are fast asleep, and 7:00am when the masons return to resume their work. In order to achieve a heated work site 24/7 the site must be wrapped in tarpaulins or plastic, and heat piped to the site. Other than AAA-1 Masonry, I have yet to see any masonry restoration company go to these lengths to ensure their mortar does not freeze during the colder months. (Typically, masons turn off their worksite heaters at the end of the day when they leave and fire them up again the next morning when they return, guaranteeing that the curing mortar freezes every night and thaws every morning. Shame on them!)

In the photo at rightabove AAA-1 Masonry & Tuckpointing completely enclosed this commercial building’s facade and piped in heat in order to ensure the January worksite temperatures never dipped below 45 degrees day and night. Our extra effort allowed the brickwork to cure correctly and should last for generations.

Should your next masonry project extend into the colder months, make sure your contractor understands the importance of maintaining above-freezing worksite temperatures day and night.

- Rob


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