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Frost Damaged Brickwork – How to Avoid

Brickwork is a very durable material. but with the coming of winter it starts to get  its annual attack from frost. Durability of brickwork is well established, many building still standing today are many centuries old and still in great condition.

In the early times where just sun baked clay blocks, but over the centuries the process of making bricks has become very sophisticated. Modern machinery has honed the process to produce a variety of shapes and colours, textures and finishing`s. Bricks today are a lot more durable with modern firing techniques that create a very durable veneer and can contribute to thermal value when used in conjunction with a well-insulated cavity wall system.

Most problems that cause damage to brickwork are due to water ingress, if your brickwork is kept well pointed and maintained this would not normally cause any problems and is just part of the bricks life. Problems can occur where water is allowed to saturate the brickwork, mainly due to poor maintenance of the building. Water can ingress for many reasons

Poor care of down pipes

• Poor care of guttering

• Poor care of your bricks pointing

Frost Damaged Brickwork

How to avoid frost damage

There are many places where water to ingress into your brickwork, especially around the areas listed above. Other areas of your building will be proned to damage and these can be normally be around windows and cills or any area of brickwork that protrudes out from the normal line of the building (areas marked in red), these features just need extra attention. Your brickwork should be checked over annually at all levels just to check it`s condition. The use of a pair of binoculars is a good idea to check the higher levels and there is normally no need to hang from a ladder to check, unless you have visible damage or damp patches occurring on the interior of your building.


Another cause of damage is the use a high pressure hose, especially on older buildings. Be very very careful when considering this as huge damage can be caused. Always contact a professional when considering this.

In modern construction of buildings today, great attention is paid to the strength of the bricks used and their suitability for a certain position on the buildings. The use of bricks with a very dense structure and high durability to water ingress should be used around ground level if possible and for all brick cills and special feature bands. Most problems will occur where you`re building if of some age or reclaimed bricks have been used and not suitable for the task.


Spalling on brickwork

Spalling is a term used to describe brickwork that has a look of the face being blown away, this is normally caused by excessive water ingress into the brick face, allowing it to retain the water. This water has frozen and expanded, causing the brick to fracture and over time the face has flaked away.

Another reason for Spalling in older Brickwork which has needed re-pointing is the wrong type of pointing. You must seek advise on the brickwork’s original type of mortar used for the pointing when it was first constructed; the use of modern cement based mortar can have a dramatic effect on a building that was originally pointed with a lime mortar.

Older bricks were not as strong and the lime mortar allowed some movement and would not crack the bricks, if you use a modern, very strong mortar this will in nearly in all cases create Spalling and damage the brick veneer very quickly. Another problem with using strong mortar is that it does not allow the water to seep through the mortar joint, instead the water comes through the bricks after they have been saturated through rainfall of damaged drainpipes.



One Comment

  1. Hello, very useful website so thanks.

    I have a 1920s semi-detached house with a south facing rear. The rear and side of the house have been built from a different brick type to the front. The back and side of the house have several areas where the pointing needs reworking due to water ingress and frost damage. Some bricks also need replacing.

    I was planning to attempt some of the work on the lower brickwork to reduce costs before calling in professionals to tackle the high work, and have a few questions:

    1 Would the difference in brick type be the reason why the pointing at the back and sides has deteriorated compared to the front? The side and back are built from a light yellow brick, whereas the front, where the pointing is still good, is built from more common looking red brick with flint decoration.

    2 I've noticed previous attempts to patch up the pointing by past owners and it is these areas that seem to have suffered the most. The original pointing is an ugly grey material. Replacement mortar is the more common sandy colour. How should I go about selecting the right mortar mix to ensure what I do does not fail a few years down the road?

    3 Frost damaged bricks. I s this something I should consider repairing or would it be wise to call in a pro? I was considering reclaim yards to source the bricks, but are these reliable.