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When Do You Need a Masonry Expert?

stucco and brick foundation

When you find a crack, break, or hole in your foundation, you promptly try to find someone who can repair it.  But the repairs you need may depend not only on the type of damage, but the type of material that was used to build your foundation.

Acculevel is a family-owned and operated company that specializes in foundation repair.  Since our start in 1996, we’ve helped tens of thousands of homeowners restore strength and stability to their homes.  Our goal is- and always has been- to help homeowners protect and preserve their homes.  

Unfortunately, there have been times when a homeowner requests an estimate, only to discover we cannot help them.  This seems to happen most when brick and mortar are involved, because most of our foundation repair methods are designed to work with concrete.  

Our goal in this article is to clearly demonstrate when you need a bricklayer or masonry expert instead of Acculevel.  Our hope is that this will save you time and potential frustration.  

 

Is Your Foundation Made of Brick?

Red clay bricks were a popular choice for home foundations for many years.  Concrete didn’t replace brick as the most common material until after WWII.  If your home was built in the 1950s or later, your foundation is more likely to be concrete.  But that’s not an absolute certainty, of course. 

The best way to know for certain?  Is to go into your basement, cellar, or crawl space and look closely at the foundation itself.  

FYI: All photos in this article were taken by Acculevel project advisors, during free estimate appointments.  

damaged brick wall
This brick wall is damaged, and needs to be rebuilt.

If your foundation is made of brick, you will need a bricklayer or masonry company to repair it.  If the damage is considerable, you may want to have the wall rebuilt using concrete.  In that instance, you should contact a construction company or general contractor. 

 

Do You Need Repairs to the Stucco on Your Foundation? 

Stucco is a cement-based variation of plaster.  Plaster, especially interior plaster, became very popular in the 1700s for use in crown moldings and chair rails.   Stucco is a rougher, stronger type of plaster that was often applied to the outside of brick homes to add insulation and protection against water.  It’s still used, though more frequently now for its aesthetic appeal. 

Stucco is applied with a trowel, and can be smoothed over the top of a surface vertically (from top to bottom).  When damaged, it will crack and flake. 

In the last section we told you the best method for determining your foundation material is by looking at it from the inside.  But if your foundation has been covered in a layer (or multiple layers) of stucco, it’s appearance can deceive you.  At first glance, you can mistake stuccowork for poured concrete.

stucco and brick foundation
The stucco applied to the foundation is cracked. 

The absolute best way to tell is to look for a section of your foundation where it has not been covered.  If this is not possible, you can (carefully!) scrape at the surface of the crack.  Stucco will flake off; concrete will be more granular or crumb-like in texture. 

If you need stucco repaired or replaced, you will again need a bricklayer or masonry contractor.  Most foundation repair companies, like Acculevel, use repair methods that are only applicable to concrete (poured or block).

 

Do You Need Mortar Replaced or Repaired? 

Mortar is a mixture of cement used to bond bricks or blocks.  Most walls are formed this way, by layering bricks or blocks with a thin coating of mortar between each one.  Sealing the individual pieces with mortar forms a cohesive structure that is secure enough to support a home.  

Regardless of brick or block, if you have mortar joints that are failing, you will need a bricklayer or masonry company to repair them.  In the photo below, someone attempted to DIY repair their foundation by stacking concrete blocks together.  

block foundation without mortar
These are cinder blocks with no visible mortar, which would keep the blocks together.

This section of wall needs to be redone by a professional.  (We never recommend DIY foundation repairs; the risks of greater damage are too high.)  In this instance, the homeowner can contact a masonry company for major repairs or a construction company for the wall to be rebuilt.  

 

Do You Need Masonry Repairs? 

You can ask friends or neighbors who have needed similar work to recommend a reliable repair company.  Your HOA or realtor may also be able to refer you to a good company.  You can also check with the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA) for a reputable mason contractor in your area.

If you have a brick foundation in good condition, but need waterproofing or encapsulation, please contact Acculevel.  Our water drainage and encapsulation materials are suitable for all foundation types and materials (other than wooden foundations).  You can learn more about our waterproofing systems from our Homeowner’s Guide to Waterproofing

We strongly recommend that you research any contractor that you plan to do business with; the Better Business Bureau is a great resource for all consumers.  And our FREE guide to Questions to Ask a Contractor includes a downloadable copy of questions you can use with any service provider, to help you make the best choice for you and your home. 

 

Kelly Kater

Over her twenty year career, Kelly has worked in a wide variety of fields: secondary education, nursing, biology, elder care, the postal service, multicultural development, and academia. She has developed a skill for translating industry-specific jargon into everyday language. Her goal is to share the knowledge and experience of the Acculevel team with homeowners, in a way that is both engaging and informative.

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