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Lintel maintenance


barlyhop
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I could use some help recommending repairs regarding iron lintels above windows and doors.

When there is a rusty and expanded lintel which is causing mortar joints to crack above the openings, what is the recommended repair? I have tried to find information with little success. Do these lintels need to remain open so as to drain properly or can they be caulked? Is the moisture entering above the lintel causing the rusting?

Any information or direction would surely be appreciated!

Thanks

Randy

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Most of the buildings you'll find this condition on pre-date the use of flashings and weep holes over the lintels. It may be helpful to drill a couple of weeps into head joints at the level of the steel, hoping that they may offer some increased drainage (I would).

The absolute LAST thing to do is apply sealant between the brick and the steel lintels. The steel is rusting and expanding due to moisture in and possibly behind the masonry. If you apply sealant, it will trap moisture and dramatically accelerate the process. Remove, as best you can, any sealant that is already impeding drainage.

Then start studying the wall and roof surfaces above to discover and eliminate any possible paths of moisture intrusion.

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I could use some help recommending repairs regarding iron lintels above windows and doors.

When there is a rusty and expanded lintel which is causing mortar joints to crack above the openings, what is the recommended repair? I have tried to find information with little success. Do these lintels need to remain open so as to drain properly or can they be caulked? Is the moisture entering above the lintel causing the rusting?

Any information or direction would surely be appreciated!

Thanks

Randy

Veneer or solid masonry?

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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We talked about this once before however I think I was asking about the price to replace them though. Kurt said around 250 a pop if memory serves.

If they are rusted and expanding the only repair is replacement. The more they expand the more they will bust up the brick. Rust never sleeps.

And, unfortunately, unless you go to the trouble of having the mortar custom made to match, the repair will stick out like a sore thumb forever. Get a coffee can of the sand you intend to use along with a piece of the existing mortar you wish to match. Hand deliver or overnight them to the lab department of a mortar manufacturer. Martin Marietta in Front Royal, Virginia (formerly Riverton Corporation) provides that service and they're great to work with. I'm sure others do as well. They will send you bags of mortar custom mixed, so be sure to order too much, because you definitely don't want to run short.

It's best to do this right, which requires considerably more lead time, or not at all. The custom mortar will only be a few bucks more per bag, but the extra time involved in gathering materials, sending them off and waiting for delivery adds considerable time and expense, which need to be taken into account.

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We talked about this once before however I think I was asking about the price to replace them though. Kurt said around 250 a pop if memory serves.

If they are rusted and expanding the only repair is replacement. The more they expand the more they will bust up the brick. Rust never sleeps.

Oooooh noooooo.....

About a grand to $1250 per if one is doing several of them; a little volume discount. If it's just a single lintel, I doubt it'd be less than a couple grand.

Of course, one can find anyone to do anything for less than it takes to do something properly; I've seen $250 lintel repairs.......nasty, nasty messes they are........

If one is simply not up for mortar matching, one could use Type O; it's a little more sanded and "limey". It's going to stand out, but at least it will hold for a few decades. Not encouraging mind you, but I've seen it work OK for buildings where something's gotta be done but the owner is not willing to spend the dough for a custom mix.

Whatever you do, don't use a straight bag Type N mix from the big box(es).

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Whatever you do, don't use a straight bag Type N mix from the big box(es).

Isn't that the truth... That stuff doesn't even really rate as mortar to a mason. It's like trying to lay brick with miniature concrete. The aggregate is to large and inconsistent - not fun or pretty.

Another option similar to Kurt's for the person that wants to avoid mortar matching is Riverton C-81 type N, which has been around as a regular stock mortar at most masonry supply companies for probably thirty years. It's a straw color (a bit too yellow) and when cut with some extra lime or sand buffs out nicely to match, but you have to monkey around with it to get it right.

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We talked about this once before however I think I was asking about the price to replace them though. Kurt said around 250 a pop if memory serves.

If they are rusted and expanding the only repair is replacement. The more they expand the more they will bust up the brick. Rust never sleeps.

Oooooh noooooo.....

About a grand to $1250 per if one is doing several of them; a little volume discount. If it's just a single lintel, I doubt it'd be less than a couple grand.

Shite! Another good reason I shouldn't quote repairs.

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We talked about this once before however I think I was asking about the price to replace them though. Kurt said around 250 a pop if memory serves.

If they are rusted and expanding the only repair is replacement. The more they expand the more they will bust up the brick. Rust never sleeps.

Oooooh noooooo.....

About a grand to $1250 per if one is doing several of them; a little volume discount. If it's just a single lintel, I doubt it'd be less than a couple grand.

Shite! Another good reason I shouldn't quote repairs.

But, just think about how good you're going to become at replacing lintels... [:-propell

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. The more they expand the more they will bust up the brick. Rust never sleeps.

It has been my experience that after the initial start of heavy enough rust you see movement. You don't see move much movement after that as you have lost enough surface area around the lintel.

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Yes, I was talking about brick veneer, so, you are recommending complete replacement of these lintels? There is no suitable permenent repair for this problem in lieu of lintel replacement?

I guess that from now on, I will be spending more time evaluating the mortar over lintels.

How does moisture enter the masonry on a full wall of brick with 2 foot overhangs? Most problem areas seem to be over windows which have only a foot or two of masonry above them and most always the deep soffits above them?

Thanks to all for your input!

Randy

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Well, there really isn't any repair and it does not slow down. Of course, folks ignore them all the time, caulk them, "tuckpoint" them, and do all sorts of things, but they really do need replacement.

That doesn't mean you have to do it now, but it will never get any cheaper to fix than it is right now.

It can continue until brick starts cracking and bulging. Then you're going to be doing more than a simple lintel replacement.

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Yes, I was talking about brick veneer, so, you are recommending complete replacement of these lintels? There is no suitable permenent repair for this problem in lieu of lintel replacement?

I don't know much about full brick walls. But if the lintel on a brick veneer wall is rusted to the point where it's distorting the brick on either end, it needs to be replaced. The process is simple. You remove the bricks above the lintel. You replace the lintel. (use galvanized stock this time). You install proper flashing, preferably stainless and with end dams, and integrate it with the building paper. You reinstall the brick with weepholes above the flashing.

I guess that from now on, I will be spending more time evaluating the mortar over lintels.

How does moisture enter the masonry on a full wall of brick with 2 foot overhangs?

If the moisture in your part of the country is anything like the moisture here, wind blows in onto the brick and the moisture just wicks right through the brick.

Most problem areas seem to be over windows which have only a foot or two of masonry above them and most always the deep soffits above them?

They don't dry out up there.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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A very interesting, albeit a tad dry, read is the Building Science article on Capillarity in modern building materials.

It's amazing how much moisture sucks into modern masonry. The old lime mortars would retard absorption, but modern mortars don't have any autogenous (self) healing capability.

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The old lime mortars would retard absorption, but modern mortars don't have any autogenous (self) healing capability.

Why?

Also, do you have a line to that article Kurt? I checked the files here and didn't see anything.

The lime heals because it absorbs carbon dioxide from the air and converts it to limestone.

Here's an excellent article on lime mortars:

http://www.lime.org/BLG/Tate_Property.pdf

Also, for general information about how water works in buildings, pick up a copy of "Water in Buildings; An Architect's Guide to Moisture and Mold" by William B. Rose. Chris Bernhart turned me on to it and it's excellent.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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  • 4 years later...

A very interesting, albeit a tad dry, read is the Building Science article on Capillarity in modern building materials.

It's amazing how much moisture sucks into modern masonry. The old lime mortars would retard absorption, but modern mortars don't have any autogenous (self) healing capability.

I think one reason for that is the masons of recent years do not butter the ends of the bricks. The mortar is often only near the face of the wall at end joints.

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That's another issue; it has nothing to do with the performance characteristics of lime putty vs. modern mortars.

It is true that inadequately filled head joints are a major problem. It may be the most common problem. I find gapped head joints constantly.

Bed joints...easy. Head joints...surprisingly hard to butter and place without dropping mortar.

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