Cracks on a brick retaining wall, your home's siding, or on the chimney can be alarming. Fortunately, the problem can usually be repaired with the help of a good mason.
For many homeowners, the first concern with cracks is appearance. Cracks running through the mortar or affecting a brick can be very unsightly. Further, once cracks begin, more damage usually follows. The mortar will begin failing all along the crack line, and crumbling mortar is not an attractive look. On a chimney, the cracks are both unattractive and they can cause damage to the clay liner inside the chimney if they are ignored.
There are greater concerns than appearance, though. Cracks can allow moisture behind the bricks, which leads to water damage inside your home. This moisture also compromises the structural integrity of the brick, leading to further damage and crumbling. Cracks can also indicate structural problems, such as a sinking foundation, which will need to be assessed before major damage affects your home.
Most cracking is a result of age. Bricks age well, but the mortar that holds the bricks together has a more finite lifespan. Over time, the mortar begins to weaken and moisture seeps in. Temperature fluctuations cause the moisture to freeze and expand, thus forming the crack. Over time the crack becomes larger.
Settling can also lead to small cracks. Some settling is to be expected, particularly on new homes, so cracks are not a structural concern and a call to a masonry service is all that is needed. If very large cracks or extensive cracking appears, though, then settling may be an issue that will need to be addressed by a foundation service before you can have the masonry repaired. Attempting to only fix the masonry won't solve the underlying issue, so the cracks will keep reappearing.
Fortunately, cracks are typically a simple fix as long as there are no underlying foundation issues remaining. A mason will carefully remove the damaged mortar from between the bricks. They will then mix up new mortar to match the brickwork and apply it between the bricks. Once complete, the cracked mortar repair will blend right in.
If cracking has affected a brick, the repair may be more difficult because a matching brick must be found. On older walls this can be challenging, so often the best match is made but it may not be perfect. The mortar around the old brick is removed so the crack brick can be slid out. The new brick is fitted in and then mortared into place.
Contact a masonry service if you are concerned about cracking on your brick walls, siding, or chimney.