Masonry 101: What Experts Look for When Analyzing Your Brickwork

masonry Toronto If you own an older house that contains significant amounts of brickwork it behooves you to have that brickwork assessed from time to time to determine its structural integrity. Cummins Restorations are the #1 choice for the analysis of masonry in Toronto. We identify potential areas of concern in order to stave off problems and identify and fix small problems before they blossom into serious ones that could undermine the integrity of the home itself. But just what are some of the signs we look for that indicate a problem exists or may develop?

Analyzing Masonry in Toronto Homes to Stave off Problems

There are a number of things expert masons look for when analyzing the health of your home’s brickwork. They include:

  • Deterioration of the bricks: During a masonry inspection we may discover your bricks are cracking or otherwise disintegrating prematurely. Some possible causes for this include excessive moisture entering the brickwork through failed mortar joints, the house settling unevenly and a mortar used in previous repointing efforts that is harder than the brick itself.
  • Erosion of the brick: If you’ve had your home pressure washed or sand-blasted this can weaken the integrity of the bricks and hasten the process of erosion. Bricks often have a kind of crust to them that protects the softer interior from the elements. Sandblasting or power washing the brickwork can strip off this protective coating and expose the brick to erosion.
  • Degradation of the mortar: On many older homes the mortar between the bricks will have come loose and even fallen out completely in some places. Repointing the mortar is then called for and carried out by properly trained stone masons. Finding and fixing degraded mortar is a major component of our masonry Toronto brickwork analysis and repair.
  • Assessing the seriousness of dirt, debris and moss coverage: There is no way to prevent exterior brickwork from getting dirty and from attracting moss and mold. The thing the brickwork analysis is looking for is whether the degree of dirt and moss has somehow compromised the surface of the bricks. If it hasn’t it will likely be left as is. If it is found to be somehow damaging the brickwork it should be removed in a non-destructive manner.
  • Structural issues: An inspection of your home’s brickwork will also focus on identifying any real or potential structural issues within the brickwork itself. Is the brick wall bowing outward? Even slightly? Are there stair step cracks in the brickwork? Have some parts of the exterior brickwork collapsed? Following the analysis the masonry expert will provide recommendations for prompt repair and restoration of your home’s brickwork.

Cummins Restorations has been helping homeowners across the GTA maintain the long-term health of their brickwork, and by extension their homes, since 1991. We’re the masonry Toronto experts more residents choose than any other and we’re proud of the fact. Give us a call on (416) 992-7965 to find out more about having your home’s brickwork analyzed or to discuss an upcoming masonry project. We’re here to help.

Why Chimney Repair Work is So Urgent

Chimney Repair TorontoThe chimney is one of the most visible features of the home. It serves a variety of functions from providing a focal point for the home’s exterior design to venting smoke and gases from the fireplace and/or furnace safely into the outside world. But because they are basically little more than tall columns of stacked brick they’re susceptible to a variety of forces that can cause their structural integrity to deteriorate and require repair. When that happens you’ll want to effect repairs promptly lest a relatively minor problem mushroom into one that’s difficult and expensive to remediate.

Chimney Repair Toronto: Don’t Put it Off

While bricks are an incredibly resilient building material they’re still susceptible to wear and tear; especially in a city like Toronto with such an extreme and unforgiving climate. Eventually that wear and tear can become so pronounced that you’ll have to call for chimney repair. Toronto homeowners need to know the warning signs that indicate repair work is urgently called for. Those signs include:

  • Water infiltrating the chimney: Water that enters the flue can mix with creosote to damage the damper and eat away at the brickwork. Besides the flue there are a number of other ways water can enter the chimney structure including settlement cracks and a poorly designed flashing. Water infiltrating the chimney structure can also cause damage adjacent drywall, wiring, paint jobs and more.
  • Compromised mortar: Mortar holds the stack together and prevents water intrusion and worse. Compromised mortar joints can lead to bug infestations and water freezing and thawing inside the joint, creating even larger and more serious structural problems down the road. Repointing the mortar joints is an important part of chimney maintenance and should never be delayed if you notice visible gaps in your chimney’s mortar work.
  • Cracks: Cracks, particularly those inside the chimney structure, can be a serious fire hazard for the house. That’s because creosote can gather in cracks until one day it’s ignited by a stray spark or ember rising from the fireplace. It’s vitally important to keep the chimney free of cracks by having regular inspections performed and having any cracks that may be found repaired immediately.
  • Damaged flue tiles: The tiles that form the lining of the flue are important for keeping the outside out and smoke and gases moving properly upward and out of the house. Not pursuing cracked tiles with vigour can result in compromised draft in the chimney and the backing up of the aforementioned smoke and gases into the home. If you notice small bits of broken tile in your fireplace don’t hesitate to call for chimney repair in Toronto.

Chimney repair for Toronto homes is serious business. Poorly designed and built chimneys, along with chimneys that have been damaged by weather or some natural disaster or another all need to be repaired as quickly as possible to ensure your family’s safety and security. Call Cummins Restorations on (416) 992-7965 to schedule chimney repair work or to discuss any masonry related project you may be ready to undertake.

Masonry Repair: Here’s Why It’s No Laughing Matter

masonry repair torontoAs the properties in which we live age, they can fall into a state of disrepair. Some tasks, such as repainting interior walls or replacing worn carpets are done mainly for aesthetic reasons and postponing them will not have a detrimental effect on your home. Masonry repairs, on the other hand, are a different matter entirely. If you want to protect the value and the structural integrity of your Toronto home, you need to attend to them at the earliest possible opportunity.

Why You Should Never Postpone Masonry Repair in Toronto

There are a number of outcomes, none of which are particularly pleasant, that could result from the unnecessary postponement of masonry repairs in your home.

  1. Chimney Repairs – If the mortar joints between the bricks in your chimney have deteriorated over time, water could penetrate them and cause even more damage. In the worst cases, this can lead to total collapse of the chimney.
  2. Repairs to Brick Walls – The mortar joins in your Toronto home’s exterior walls can also degrade over time and if neglected, bricks can eventually come loose, threatening the structural integrity of your property as well as posing a danger to yourself and your family. Damaged bricks should be replaced, with new mortar to hold them in position.
  3. Parging Repairs– If the surface of your exterior walls have large cracks running through them, parging (the application of a new layer of plaster or mortar) can restore them to their original condition. Leaving them as they are could result in the rapid deterioration of these surfaces as water and ice are able to penetrate the walls.
  4. Tuckpointing – Removing the outer layer of mortar from between bricks and replacing it with fresh mortar is a common masonry repair in Toronto and can help to ensure that brick walls remain in excellent condition. Crumbling mortar, if left to its own devices, could eventually threaten the stability of the wall in question.

If your property is showing signs of age and you are looking for a company that is capable of carrying out high quality masonry repair in Toronto, call Cummins Restorations today and tell us what you need. We have many years of experience in the industry and a first-class team of tradespeople ready and waiting to restore your property to its former glory so please do not hesitate to call, whatever your needs may be.

Brick Repair 101: Essential Points to Consider

brick repair torontoHomeowners in Toronto know how hard the climate can be on their properties and do not need reminding why they should ensure that the exterior walls of their home are maintained in excellent condition. If the exterior walls of your home have exposed brickwork, you will eventually need to have that brickwork repaired to ensure that it remains in good condition.

Signs That May Indicate the Necessity of Brick Repair for Toronto Homes

There are a few signs you can look out for before you contact a local contractor to talk about repairs to your brickwork.

  1. Crumbling Mortar – If the mortar in between the bricks has started to crumble, it is time to have the joints tuckpointed. Leaving them as they are will only result in further deterioration of the condition of the mortar, which could lead to the second sign to look out for below.
  2. Loose Bricks – One of the most common reasons that people contact us to enquire about masonry repair in Toronto is because they have noticed that some of the bricks in their walls have come loose, or even been dislodged completely. This is a sure sign that the mortar between the bricks is in a very poor state.
  3. Cracked Bricks – There are a number of reasons that the bricks in your walls could develop cracks but whatever the underlying cause, they will need to be replaced with new bricks to ensure that the walls in question remain stable and sound.
  4. White Deposit on Surface of Bricks – This is almost always salt, from the mortar in between the bricks. If you see it on the surface of the bricks of your Toronto home, it is a sign that water is penetrating the wall and the bricks themselves. As the water evaporates, the salt is left behind on the bricks. The water could be penetrating your walls due to crumbling or cracked mortar, or perhaps cracked bricks. Either way, repairs will be necessary.

At Cummins Restorations, we have dealt with all of the above symptoms countless times over the years that we have been in business so please feel free to call us if you would like any help or advice. If you would like to take advantage of our in-depth knowledge of masonry repair in Toronto, we will be delighted to provide you with a competitive quotation for the work that needs to be done.

5 Reasons Why You Should Never Hire Uninsured Masonry Contractors

masonry contractors torontoWhilst low quotations for masonry work in Toronto can be very appealing to cost-conscious homeowners and businesses, they are not always as attractive as they might first appear. Some contractors are only able to offer cheap masonry services because they have cut their running costs to a minimum. There is nothing wrong with this in principle but if liability insurance was one of the victims of their cost-cutting exercise, you might want to think twice about hiring them

5 Reasons to Avoid Masonry Contractors in Toronto without Insurance

If you want to know exactly why you should not use the services of uninsured contractors, take a look at the five reasons below.

  1. Your Home Will be at Risk – A company that has no insurance will not be able to cover the cost of repairing your home in the event that they inadvertently damage it. Given the serious nature of the type of work that masonry contractors in Toronto and elsewhere often undertake, comprehensive insurance is a must.
  2. You Could Be Liable for Injured Workers – If a contractor’s employee is injured whilst working on your property, their insurance should cover the cost of any compensation. However, with no insurance policy, you could be sued for damages by the worker in question.
  3. Building Code Problems – A contractor in Toronto who is uninsured is most likely unlicensed too, which means they probably aren’t familiar with local building regulations. As the homeowner, it is you who would have to foot the bill for alterations if the local authorities object to any work done by your contractor.
  4. Bad Workmanship – There may well be some uninsured contractors whose work is of a high quality but the odds are that a firm with no insurance is likely to be sloppier in their approach to work than a firm with full cover.
  5. Lawsuits from Injured Guests – A guest of yours being injured by falling masonry while contractors are working on your home may be an unlikely occurrence, but it is a possibility and one that would be covered by their insurance policy, if they had one. If not, it’s you that will have to pay compensation once again.

As you can see, you should always hire an insured masonry contractor in Toronto because the alternative is fraught with danger. Cummins Restorations is fully licensed and insured, so you can hire us with complete confidence.

Why It’s Important Chimney Repair Issues are Dealt With Quickly

chimney repair torontoHaving a chimney adds a cozy charm to your Toronto home, but it is also very important to keep the chimney properly maintained and cleaned. Even with good maintenance, however, well-used chimneys accumulate creosote buildup inside their flues and, over time, gaps in the flue that allow heat damage to come to the brick area outside the flue. The effects can be dangerous and devastating, and there are many reasons a chimney should not be left to fester if it is in any need of chimney repair.

What is Creosote?

Most problems that can occur in a chimney are caused by a buildup of creosote, a tar-like substance caused by the chemical reaction of incomplete wood combustion with the liner of your flue. Creosote buildup can cause:

  • Chimney Fires – Creosote is highly combustible, and a combination of a lot of it building up and very high temperatures in the chimney could cause an explosion and a fire. The fire will undoubtedly damage your chimney and may even spread to the wood frame of the house, leading to injury or death.
  • Noxious Debris – The debris given off by hardened creosote residue can cause a myriad of very unhealthy effects, such as:
    • Higher risk of cancer or similar diseases.
    • Eye irritation, including itchiness and blurry vision.
    • Skin irritation leading to acne or rashes.
    • Respiratory problems, such as coughing or trouble breathing.
    • Issues with the liver or kidney.
    • Increased risk of seizures, confusion, or other mental problems.

What Other Problems Can I Avoid with Prompt Chimney Repair?

Having an expert repair your chimney the minute issues crop up will also help avoid:

  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning – Gasses trapped by a partially blocked chimney may find their way back into your living space. They include carbon monoxide, an invisible and odorless gas that causes blood vessel suffocation. In small doses, carbon monoxide poisoning causes headaches, nausea, and fatigue. In large doses, it can be fatal.
  • Animal Infestations – Chimney swifts and other small animals may take up residence in a run-down and unused chimney (not in the flue, where the smoke actually escapes), even after brick or masonry repair. Their droppings will fall into the fireplace, burn when a fire is lit, and emit fumes that cause respiratory infection.

For all these reasons and more, it is vital to your safety to call a professional to perform maintenance on your chimney at the first sign of disrepair. We at Cummins Restorations are happy to provide tuckpointing and chimney repair services to keep you enjoying crackling fires with the family while staying healthy and safe.

The Importance of Mortar Matching During Do-It-Yourself Brick Repair

brick repair torontoWhen you choose to conduct chimney repair on your own, there are many details to consider. One of these details, which you will come across during tuckpointing or brick repair, is the exact mix of the mortar used to stick the bricks together. It is often impossible to find the exact brand of mortar mix used during the original construction of your chimney, so you have to take care mixing the new mortar to exact specifications.

What Considerations Should I Make Before Mixing Up a New Batch of Mortar for Brick Repair?

There are several, including:

  • Mortar Strength – Mortar made nowadays is not the same as the mortar made in the past. Modern mortar is stronger, more durable, and composed of tighter chemical bonds. When up-to-date mortar is spread in the joints of a chimney that is partly made up of older and weaker mortar, it can throw off the load factors by placing more weight on certain bricks (the ones covered by the old mortar) than others. This can easily cause bricks to deform or even break, an event that will likely lead to a chain reaction, destroying the chimney.
  • Mortar Colour – As you can imagine, the exterior appearance of a chimney loses a significant amount of its charming allure if half of the lines of mortar running between its bricks are cream-colored and the other half are pure white. This is why it is of utmost importance to carefully match the color of any new mortar to the exact color of the old mortar. You may have to get creative with masonry coloring to match a mortar that contains unusual tints.
  • Mortar Durability – Mortar is traditionally a mix of 1 part cement, 1 part lime (as in limestone), and 6 parts sand. Most mortar does not stick to this formula exactly, however, and even a slight differential in a mortar’s formula, like 1.05 parts lime instead of 1, can make a substantial difference in its durability. And we probably don’t have to spell out for you what will happen if parts of your chimney’s mortar structure corrode at a faster rate than other parts. Hint: it ends in a collapsed chimney.

Mixing mortar to the exact specifications put forth by your old mortar can be a nightmare, but the highly-trained brick repair and tuckpointing experts at the Toronto-based Cummins Restorations are happy to help.

Spot the Signs That You need Masonry Repair

chimney repair torontoThe chimney is one of the most overlooked household features in terms of being properly maintained. Many do not realize that chimneys are fragile mechanisms that require regular attention too, and one of the most important parts of a chimney to keep in good shape is the masonry. A chimney with deteriorating masonry can cause dangerous situations, as well as a significant decrease in value to the home it is attached to.

How Do I Tell When it’s Time for Masonry Repair?

There are two parts of your chimney that may require masonry repair: the visible brick exterior of the chimney and the tile lining of the flue inside the chimney. Below is listed how you tell whether you need repair for each.

  • Brick Exterior –Like the skull protects the brain, the bricks of a chimney protect the flue. Just like the skull, cracks in the brick exterior are dangerous, and need to be looked into immediately when they are noticed. The easiest-to-notice sign that the exterior is in need of masonry repair is when the mortar cracks in between the bricks widen or seem less sturdy than they were. This means that the mortar is disintegrating, and allowing this to continue could cause structural damage. Another sign that chimney repair is needed is when cracks are visible in the bricks themselves. Bricks last significantly longer than mortar, but they can deteriorate too, and the consequences of a cracked brick can be even more severe than those of thinning mortar.
  • Inner Flue – The flue is where the actual smoke and debris from fires filters through to escape the chimney, and it is made of tiled stone, which is extremely important to keep in good condition. One of the easiest ways to tell that your flue lining needs repair is by observing actual flakes of flue tile falling into the fireplace during use. Being exposed for years to moisture and corrosive chemicals resulting from combustion can make the flue tiles give out.

No matter what part of your chimney is experiencing problems, issues with masonry are very serious and must be dealt with immediately if any telltale signs are noticed. Masonry and brick repair can be hugely time-consuming and labour-intensive to deal with on your own, but we at Cummins Restorations are happy to assist anyone in the Toronto area with their masonry contracting and chimney repairs.

How Masonry Contractors Can Protect Your Property

masonry contractors torontoMasonry contracting is one of the oldest forms of construction work on earth. Hiring a masonry contractor is not like hiring any other worker to perform a routine construction job on your house. No, these particular construction workers provide the full package of keeping your home and you safe while significantly increasing your property’s value.

Why Hire a Masonry Contractor?

Below are a few reasons why masonry contractors are a worthwhile investment.

  • They Are VersatileMasonry contractors are all extremely well-trained craftsmen and can perform more than just one kind of job. Maybe your patio and garden wall need brick repair and your chimney needs tuckpointing. Instead of hiring a different worker for each job, a single brick mason has got you covered.
  • Safety is Their First Priority – A masonry contractor’s most important job is making sure that the work zone is safe for the residents entering and exiting the property. The mason will also make sure the residents do not have to step over or otherwise inconvenience themselves with construction materials blocking their day-to-day routine.
  • They Are a Start-to-Finish Package – Unlike most construction workers or contracting companies, masonry contractors work totally independently. That is not to say they work alone – sometimes they use sub contractors at their own expense to help with particularly big jobs – but once they are hired, they supply all tools and other materials for the project without bothering the property owner. They will even fill out paperwork and arrange work permits when necessary. In short, they make the construction process as effortless as possible for the client.
  • You Know Your Project is in Good Hands – As stated above, masonry contractors are extremely well-trained. They are not just inexperienced laypeople who needed some extra cash and decided to apply to a construction firm. Instead, there are unions and national organizations that offer extremely competitive masonry contractor certifications. Only those who are extremely adept at a wide range of masonry procedures, safety regulation procedures, and landscaping design concepts can obtain the certification. When you hire a masonry contractor, you can be assured that he knows his stuff.

At Cummins Restorations, we are ready and eager to supply you with any kind of masonry contractor you need, be it brick mason, stone mason, concrete mason, or tile setter. For years, we have been supplying homeowners in the Toronto area with the right personnel to complete work on their homes, and we want to add you to that growing list of satisfied customers.

Hiring Professionals for Tuckpointing vs. Doing It Yourself

tuckpointing torontoChimney bricks themselves can easily last over a hundred years, but the mortar that holds the bricks together, a porous concrete mixture, is likely to begin deteriorating every 25 years or so. If this is allowed to happen, the chimney will eventually collapse, causing damage to the home it was attached to and necessitating a costly rebuild of the entire chimney.

A much less hazardous and less costly option is to invest in tuckpointing – the process of replacing the mortar on the cracks between bricks that look problematic.

What Benefits Does Tuckpointing Have?

By tuckpointing your chimney, you will:

  • Prevent water from seeping through old mortar and into the chimney. Said water can cause structural damage and cause mold or mildew, creating additional blockage and a bad smell in the chimney.
  • Increase the value of your home, as a chimney with healthy masonry is a big selling point.
  • Obviously, improve the structural integrity of your chimney, preventing the immediate need for chimney repair.

Can I Do it Myself?

Tuckpointing is a very complicated process that entails:

  • Meticulously scraping away any mortar that looks like it needs replacing.
  • Mixing new mortar that agrees with the type and exact color of the old mortar that is still good.
  • Carefully spreading the new mortar.
  • Cleaning up any excess mortar that has dripped onto bricks before it dries.

You can do it by yourself, in which case you may benefit slightly from a less costly and, possibly, more customizable experience. It is highly recommended you hire professionals for the task, however, for several reasons.

  • Doing it yourself can be extremely dangerous in a number of ways. Firstly, any job that requires you to climb over a story up on a ladder and perform a laborious but detail-oriented task while you’re up there means risking life and limb. Second, the mortar holding together chimneys is a hotspot for creosote and other toxic materials.
  • Unless the person performing the procedure is a trained expert, it is a very time-consuming task. The many hours you will save by hiring a chimney repair service to do it will more than compensate for the modest fee.
  • The chimney is a major attraction to potential home-buyers, and making mistakes while doing it yourself will devalue your home.

Luckily, the highly-skilled craftsmen at the Toronto-based Cummins Restorations are eager to perform your tuckpointing and keep your chimney safe for many years to come.