Masonry Restoration

Masonry restoration is the phrase used for working with any form of masonry on an existing building or home that does not mean actually building it. Restoration anything from tearing the masonry down and rebuilding to cleaning and sealing. Typically, masonry restoration is thought of in terms of tuck pointing, which, in itself, is a misnomer. Tuck pointing is a term for adding to a joint and it’s not what is typically thought of in the restoration process. There is a great deal of debate among technicians about the definitions, but it is to say, the proper term for removing a certain amount of mortar from a joint, and then replacing it with new is, technically, called repointing.

Top Hat does many restoration jobs on chimneys and other brick and stone surfaces and has expanded out into historic restoration. Performing normal brick repair and tuck-pointing to perfectly color matching mortar THC can satisfy you on any level of repair. Just about every home's to do list includes the need for tuck-pointing. Yet, few people who are told they need this repair seem to know just what tuck-pointing is. Well, tuck-pointing is just a fancy word for replacing the mortar that has fallen out from around your bricks – usually in the foundation, chimney, or porch steps. It's important to get this repair finished before winter, when ice conspires to tear your bricks further apart. Today's high Portland mortars are the cause of new masonry not lasting the test of time. New mortar sets extremely hard and doesn’t expand during freezing temperatures, so the more softer bricks begin to fall apart. Just take a look around at your local shopping centers brick entrance signs. Most are showing signs of deterioration whether it has spalling and broken bricks or heavy efflorescence. All are signs of deterioration at some point. Now take a look at old brick and stone structures say at least 75 years old and they for the most part are in good shape. Today's new construction will not last that long without the need of costly repairs. If you are beginning to see the signs of damage to the masonry at your home or business don't wait to call THC. The longer that damage goes unrepaired it will only get worse and more expensive to correct. After too much time repair will be out of the question and rebuilding will be the only correct method to fix problem area. We often have to take down and rebuild masonry areas that are too far gone to repair when only having it maintained would have saved the masonry area.

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  • color matched tuck pointing
  • historic rock pointing
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  • masonry restoration
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  • front porch repair

A good restoration mason is a magician, or so it seems. He, or she, can take an old, worn-out building and make it look as good, if not better, than it did when it was new. Though masonry is probably the second oldest profession there is, the methods being used in this trade are not all that different from the masons’ of the Roman Empire. The primary change is how much more easily the materials get to the job site, and the method by which the masons get to the wall. Not long after the first masonry structures were built, masonry restoration began.

Broken (or spalled) bricks are one of the most noticeable types of damage. This is most commonly seen when the front of the brick has either broken or fallen from the masonry. Spalled bricks are primarily caused when mortar with an incorrect compression rate is used. Mortar is made to absorb the expansion of brick during freeze and thaw cycles. If the mortar is stronger than the brick, however, this role reverses. As brick isn’t meant to be squeezed by expanding materials, it can quickly deteriorate. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to fix spalled bricks. Removal of the spalled bricks and replacement with strong new bricks is necessary. If the spalling is caused by poorly calculated mortar, repointing with correct mortar may help to prevent the problem from spreading. An unexpected source of damage is sandblasters and high pressure sprayers. While these might make cleaning a hands free experience, they do so at the expense of your masonry. Brick is made such that the edges are hardened to prevent absorption of water. Sandblasting and even high pressure sprayers can reduce this hardened edge and allow water into your bricks, drastically reducing their lifespan. If you suspect your masonry might be made with bricks that can’t stand up to your weather, or if you have sandblasted or pressure sprayed your masonry, we can apply a waterproof sealant to help the longevity of the bricks.

Brick Staining

Top Hat offers brick staining to fix mix matched areas or change the look of a masonry structure it can even be used to restore faded pavers. Updating the color of your brick works wonders for your home’s curb appeal. Not to mention, it can potentially increase resale value since brick is valued as a durable exterior surface. When it comes time or your brick revamp, you have the option of either painting brick or staining brick. A paint and a stain are similar in the sense that they are both composed of the essentials: a carrier (water, in the case of water-based coatings) and solids (binders, pigments and additives). After this point, however, the brick paint and stain part ways. Many of our customers ask us “what’s the difference between painting brick and staining brick,” and why we choose to only stain brick?

1. Painting brick requires maintenance. Staining is permanent.

The day you paint your brick is the day that paint degradation and maintenance begins. Not what you expected, right? According to the Brick Industry Association, you should expect to paint your brick every 3-5 years. This is mainly due to common adhesion failures associated to painting brick, like efflorescence. Efflorescence occurs when soluble salt deposits migrate to the surface during the evaporation of water. These stubborn white deposits essentially sit under the coat of paint, causing the paint to eventually lift and peel. As opposed to covering the surface like a paint, a brick stain is absorbed by the brick and ultimately acts like a dye. Silicate minerals travel deep into the masonry and form a chemical bond with the brick (which we’ll talk about later), tinting the brick for a permanent color transformation that doesn’t require any maintenance.

2. Painting brick traps moisture. Staining lets the brick breathe.

As a porous surface, brick must be able to breathe (painting 101 folks). Painting brick saturates the brick’s pores with paint, preventing the brick from effectively releasing water and moisture. Since the moisture cannot evaporate, it stays trapped within the surface and results in blistering and chipping. As more water can potentially enter the brick through these cracks and chips, more water stays trapped within the surface and can lead to water damage over time. Our brick stain is formulated with silicate minerals and maintains the brick’s physical properties intact, as if it were practically untreated, allowing it to successfully release water and moisture. When brick can properly perform its job of releasing moisture, you’re left with a superior, long-lasting finish without unsightly blistering, chipping and peeling.

brick staining before brick staining after

We color all porous masonry, brick, concrete surfaces including stucco! If it absorbs water it will absorb our water based product. This is not a coating like paint which sits on the surface and eventually peels off.

Our semi-translucent product absorbs into and reacts chemically to bond within the brick, masonry, or stucco surfaces.

This product leaves the brick, masonry, or stucco surface looking and feeling the same but with the desire color change.

Colors and formulations are created onsite and are geared to each project.

Your savings reflects a cost reduction of 50-60% the labor and materials for replacing brick or masonry.

We are at least 10-15 times faster that tearing out and replacing.

brick staining

3. Painting brick creates a film over the brick. Staining forms a chemical bond with it.

As previously mentioned, painting covers and coats the brick in a non-breathable film. On the other hand, our brick stain forms a chemical bond with the masonry and actually becomes a component of the brick itself due to a process of petrification. As opposed to a surface treatment, the stain penetrates deep into the brick and once dry, forms a durable bond with the masonry to permanently lock in color. The result is a permanent finish that looks just like brand-new brick.

4. Painting brick results in flat finish. Staining keeps its natural look intact.

Painting completely fills the nooks and crannies of the brick. As paint simply sits on the surface, it creates a noticeably painted, thick, flat finish which causes the brick to lose its natural look and feel. The opaque, slightly translucent finish of our stain in particular highlights and enhances the brick’s natural texture. If you touch the brick after our stain has dried, you’ll notice that you’ll feel brick and not paint. Available in a variety of different colors, you can lighten, darken or completely change the color of your brick to refresh and modernize the look of your home.

It looks like we have a clear winner when it comes to the battle of painting vs. staining brick! Staining brick is a permanent solution that not only looks more natural, but also allows the brick to do the one thing it’s meant to do: breathe! Not only will staining your exterior brick give your home an instant face-lift, it doesn’t require any maintenance like painting. Brick is one of the most durable siding options available, which is why it’s also one of the most expensive to replace. If your brick is in good condition, then you can save on the cost of completely replacing your masonry by staining it!

brick staining

Chimney Repair

Top Hat started chimney repair way back at our conception and that turned in to our masonry restoration side. Top Hat has fixed many chimneys where the homeowner was sure it was the roofers fault just because they had recently had a roof put on and was for sure it was the flashing. Often times they have called and complained and you have went out and checked or even sealed areas where you knew were not leaking. Top Hat has over 38 years dealing with these problem chimneys. Call and let us take care of these areas for you. You want be disappointed. And now through the end of April we are offering 10% off of masonry work. Just let us know how we can help you.

Reasons you need Top Hat

What the homeowner doesn’t use their fireplace? Or maybe they have switched to a gas insert or gas logs. Actually gas logs can speed up the
deterioration. They think they no longer require inspection and an annual chimney sweep, how do you know if they need chimney repair. Here are 5 things you can check on your own to determine the state of your masonry chimney condition and structure.

1. Check for a Chimney Cap

You want even need a ladder for this one, step outside and take a look up top. The chimney cap’s #1 purpose is keeping rain out of the chimney flue. Sometimes they are masonry or sometimes just metal of some type, but it's important to your chimney. Even though all new chimneys are supposed to have a cap put on when built most do not. Why is this a problem? Water. We all know water is the #1 source of deterioration of all home components, rot, mold, mildew, moss, freeze-thaw, etc., etc. Water in your chimney, or in your masonry is always bad news. Most people don't realize that moisture rots masonry just like woodwork it just takes a bit longer. 

before and after chimney chimney rebuild after moisture damage

4. Does your chimney have Efflorescence or White Staining on it outside or inside your home at chimney.

Efflorescence is the White discoloration on a chimney that is a sure sign of a moisture problem and a good indicator of needing THC to repair to your chimney. This is called efflorescence, it is the natural salts in the brick and mortar that are brought to the surface by moisture and then left behind when the moisture evaporates. This can be removed easily with warm soapy water, however, this won’t solve the problem. The most common causes of this is a missing chimney cap, a damaged or missing crown, and/or damaged mortar joints. Let your chimney repair technician know where you are noticing the white staining on your chimney for a more accurate diagnosis.

5. Is There Firebox Damage?

Are there missing mortar joints in your fireplace bricks? Are the bricks loose or already falling out. These are very common signs of once again, water leaks into the chimney. Your fireplace firebox is constructed of a very fragile type of brick called firebrick. Firebrick are designed to be porous to provide adequate insulation to prevent heat transfer. When these firebox mortar joints get wet and mixed with soot it attacks masonry. The mixture is acidic and masonry is alkaline so basically it eats away at the brickwork in until they turn to powder and fall apart. THC uses Saver Systems for many of their moisture repair/prevention jobs. Saver Systems is for over 25 years been THC first choice for weather proofing and restoration jobs and have corrected hundreds of moisture related problems with their products.For a complete evaluation of the chimney’s interior and exterior, along with suggestions for chimney repair or preventative chimney maintenance contact THC. Rest assure that we will advise the best way to repair and protect for years to come.

chimney repair where lightning struck

2. Is your Chimney Crown in Good Condition?

The chimney crown is the chimney’s second line of defense against moisture. The crown is supposed to be the 2″-3″ concrete or mortar slab that has been poured on the very top of the chimney. This is never the case most chimneys are just covered with what's left over and it's spread thin. The crowns job is to prevent moisture from getting in through the top of your chimney. But when the masonry is put on thin in most cases it cracks within a few days due to drying and shrinking. Once cracked the brick becomes saturated with moisture and is exposed to freeze-thaw, moss and mildew. During the freeze and thaw cycle moisture freezes and expands which in turn causes brick and mortar to begin to crumble. Just like chimney caps, when a chimney has an improper or damaged crown 95% of the time there is deterioration to the chimney structure, and you will need a chimney repair.

3. Do you need to have your Chimney repointed?

Do you notice failing mortar joints that appear to be cracked and/or falling out. Then you need THC to come evaluate your chimney and advise you how to correct the problems. “Tuck-pointing” is actually a verb and describes the process of repairing mortar joints, this is a common chimney repair service that THC preforms. And usually needs to be done on all chimney masonry every 30-50 years. So how will go you know when you need your mortar repaired? Well, since chimneys are half above the roof and half below the roof, they always deteriorate at different rates. Above the roof the chimney is exposed to harsher weather conditions, colder temperatures, wind, rain, ice, snow more than areas below the roof. Not to mention if your chimney is missing the cap or has a damaged crown, the damage will start at the top and slowly progress downward. Check your mortar joints above the roofline first. Away you can check for cracks is to take a screwdriver and scrape the mortar to see if it is soft or begins to flake a fall away. Good mortar will barely leave a mark when running your screwdriver across it. Bad mortar will fall away and leave a gouge. Chimney tuck-pointing can only be done to partially damaged mortar however. If the mortar joint is left unchecked for long enough it will fail completely through the joint and the bricks will be loose. Have THC check before it's too late and bricks become loose , once the brick work comes loose they will need more than tuck pointing.

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