How Cold Weather Damages Masonry

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Many people think that masonry lasts forever without maintenance, but in reality, cold weather often damages it. In fact, in some areas, it is typical to have to get repairs, such as brick pointing/repointing (the repair and replacement of failed mortar) or even full-on reconstruction, done in the spring after outdoor masonry has been exposed to winter’s freezing temperatures.

How Does Cold Weather Damage Masonry?

Cracking and Splitting

The freeze-thaw cycle is one of masonry’s biggest enemies. The root of the problem is that masonry is porous. Both bricks and mortar absorb water whenever it rains, sleets, or even snows. This is a problem in the winter, because that water than freezes.

Since water expands when it freezes but bricks and mortar do not, the masonry develops cracks. The damage may be hidden at first due to the ice filling up the gaps. However, once the water thaws again, the structural damage becomes apparent. That’s when most people call us for brick pointing and other repair services.

At first, this type of damage may be unnoticeable, leading people to think that their masonry is still just fine. However, as the years go by, the damage accumulates until it is obvious. Eventually, structures like chimneys may even collapse due to freeze-thaw damage.


When water gets behind the surface of bricks and freezes, it can dislodge flakes of material from the front. The resulting damage may look as if someone scooped bits of brick from the face. This is called spalling, and when there is enough of it, it can degrade the structural integrity of the masonry just like other cracking and splitting.

Why You Should Get Cold Damage Repaired Quickly

Masonry that has been damaged by freeze-thaw cycles does not have the structural strength that it is supposed to possess. It also can develop leaks thanks to the now-open gaps caused by cracks and other damage.

Structural collapse is the most dangerous and expensive possibility that comes from a lack of repairs. If the structure is a chimney, there is also a possibility of a loss of fire resistance. When the structure is a house wall, a collapse can have even more catastrophic consequences. A failed wall can allow the roof to fall in, or the wall itself can fall on someone.

Usually, damaged masonry will progress from slight damage to major damage over the course of many years. During this time, you may notice water leaking through the bricks or mortar. The appearance will also be degraded, giving a “worn out” look from far away and an obviously-damaged look when up close.

Repairing cold damage right away will prevent it from progressing to the point of failure. If you see that your bricks or mortar have developed cracks or spalling, call us. We’ll repoint and rebrick to restore the structure to a safe and beautiful state before it gets worse.


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