A red brick wall is covered in a light scattering of powdery snow

Brick and masonry repair and new masonry projects are not typically recommended during the winter months. Generally, it’s best to work with these materials when the temperature is at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer.

In this article, we’ll cover why masonry projects are more difficult in cool temperatures, how brick repairs are performed in the winter, and how to prevent damage during the colder months.

What Happens to Mortar & Masonry in Cold Weather?

Masonry materials like mortar and bricks are affected by the weather.

Here are some key facts to keep in mind:

  • Bricks are porous.
  • Water expands when frozen.
  • Mortar is made of cement, sand, and water.

The chemical and physical properties of water and masonry materials change when the temperature drops. Lower temperatures disrupt the curing process of the mortar that binds the bricks together. Curing primarily starts within the first 24 hours of application but takes a couple of weeks to finish. If the weather is too cold, the curing process will significantly slow or even stop.

Water volume also begins to increase as temperatures drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. As water volume increases, mortar expands to contain more air and less water content. When this happens, the curing process is slowed, and the final strength of the product is significantly diminished. Freezing temperatures can also cause ice to form on brick and other masonry materials, which decreases their binding power and potentially causes cracks.

Finally, aside from affecting the materials, remember that masons are negatively affected by colder temperatures, as masonry work is more challenging to perform in the cold, and more steps are required to ensure high-quality results.

How Brick Repair Is Performed in the Winter

Repairing brick and masonry structures during the winter is possible if it’s an emergency. If it’s not an emergency, waiting until spring or warmer weather is probably better. Here’s what you should remember as a homeowner if you need exterior masonry repairs when the outside temperatures start to drop.

  • Cold temperatures make all types of outside work more challenging and less safe. As a homeowner, that’s important to remember when you need professional services. Expect winter projects to take longer than usual.
  • Cold weather not only slows down reaction times between masonry materials but also makes working with mortar and curing times take longer.
  • When temperatures drop under 40 degrees Fahrenheit, brick masons must use special equipment and take extra precautions to keep the materials from becoming too cold to work with. This can include covering and insulating the work area, thawing/heating materials, ensuring consistent temperatures to allow mortar to dry evenly, covering finished products with plastic tarps, and using other specialized equipment to ensure product integrity.
  • Masons have to wear bulky winter clothing to protect themselves in freezing or near-freezing temperatures, which makes performing masonry work even more challenging.
  • Completing brick and masonry projects in cold temperatures will typically cost more than doing them in warmer weather. This is because the masonry company will have increased overhead due to specialized equipment and extra safety precautions required to complete the project successfully and safely.

Preventing Damage in the Winter

A crack in exposed concrete on a brick wall

Unfortunately, there’s no reliable way to prevent masonry deterioration other than by protecting it and catching signs of damage or excessive wear early on.

That’s why it’s smart to perform routine visual inspections of brick and masonry structures throughout the year. We also recommend having your structures professionally inspected in the late summer so you can address any necessary repairs before winter hits. Generally, if you notice cracks, loose bricks, or spalling, you should contact a masonry specialist.

In addition to scheduling inspections, we recommend removing dirt and debris with a stiff-bristled brush and periodically applying more polymeric sand to the mortar joints if the sand is gone. Polymeric sand helps stabilize joints to reduce shifting and movement over time and prevent weed formation and insect damage, so it’s especially important to ensure your walkways, patios, and porches have polymeric sand.

Don’t Ignore Masonry Problems in the Winter

Although cold-weather brick masonry projects can be more challenging and costly, you shouldn’t ignore problems when they appear. Some masonry issues, especially ones that can result in severe structural damage, should be remedied as soon as possible. In some situations, waiting for warmer weather will only exacerbate damage that’s already progressing. If you’re not sure if a particular problem is an emergency, please consult a masonry company like All Brick.

All Brick is a family-owned and -operated masonry company serving homeowners throughout Southeast Michigan. We can help you repair, restore, and install new brick structures. If you’ve noticed excessive brick deterioration or spalling, please contact us today to schedule an inspection—we can schedule repair work even in the winter. Our top priority is protecting you and your family!

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