Re-pointing Field Stone Walls Saves Further Issues

If you own a home with a stone foundation or with a field stone wall you understand the visual majesty of natural materials sculpted to fit complicated building practices.  The different colored stones and or combination of other materials such as granite, brick, marble and concrete can have a textured and often historic look that many people want to preserve.  Re-pointing and maintaining these styled walls can keep them lasting for many years to come.

 

Mortar that was used prior to the 1940s is about wearing thin, if not disintegrated all together by now.  Mortar plays a key roll in helping your wall to stay in one solid working structure. Mortar helps to solidify the stones together, filling up the natural gap between materials and helping to keep the interior fill of the stone wall together.  Without the Mortar keeping the joints closed the wall may look more natural, however, it looses valuable strength and cohesion, allowing for soil expansion to wreak havoc.

 

Bowing walls and collapsing wall corners and joints are all caused by different soil expansion and contraction rates. The wall’s ability to hold up against this over a long period of time without major damage is directly related to the health of the mortar and health of the foundation footing. Yes, wall anchoring systems, piering and other geo-tech solutions will help the more severe cases, but for someone with no major foundation issues on a historic house, maintenance is the key.

 

Re-pointing and updating the mortar to a more modern mortar are keys to your field stone house’s foundation.


It will add needed strength, tensile and lateral, close gaps and in some cases help to give a cleaner finish. Closing the gaps between the stones helps to limit the amount of direct contact with soil moisture, limit bug infiltration, possibly limit radon levels, patch up major leak points, add support to the stone to stone joints, and gives you a good starting point to limit the amount of water that is coming into your basement. Further work can then be done to address those issues; however, by directly addressing the structural needs of the stone foundation you drastically reduce the need for chaotic repair in the future

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8 thoughts on “Re-pointing Field Stone Walls Saves Further Issues

  1. HI.

    I would like to know which kind of mortar should I use to do a good and durable job on my outsibe basement wall. The house was build around 1895. It is exposed to a lot of stress such has, water, sun and freeze.

    The actual mortar is litteraly disintegrated, is it safe to remove it, a much I can remove, I sure don’t want the wall to fall.

    Thanks for your precious expertise.
    Mat

    • Most buildings now-a-days aren’t built with stone foundations. So the buildings in question are typically older than 20 years and will have substancial need to have the mortar updated.

      Most common mortars are more durable then ones on the market 20,30, and definately 100 years ago. Most likely there isn’t a bad choice for a DIY project. However, It’s always best to have a professional shoot a glance at it. If the foundation is in need of parging, give a local Mason a call.

      if you live in Rhode Island or Mass – I could get you in touch with someone. Let me know!

  2. I have an 1828 house with similar foundation issues. I’d be grateful for recommended services in the Providence, RI, area.

    Thanks!

    David

    • Hi David, I know that Pioneer Basement (www.pioneerbasement.com) does work with many different styles of homes in the Providence Area. I’m sure a Free Inspection could let us know if our services would fit your particular issues.

  3. I have 1750 sq ft of fieldstone basement wall to tuck point. Two internal walls, the whole shootin match…
    The old lime based mortar is dust, if there at all. Virtually 100% limestone was used. Have been advised to use a “soft” mortar. Explain, if possible, the effects of wall movement on mortar and how best to approach the problem. Also, the exterior above grade has parging. Hard, hard stuff. Is there a method for removal that does not include 40 years and a rock hammer?

    • Hi Matt, I sent you an email.

      From the extent of the job you describe I would highly suggest hiring a mason. There are many safety risks involved in replacing mortar in your foundation – not something i would recommend for a DIY project.

      Parging can sometimes be attacked with a chisel and hammer – depends on how hard/soft it is, where it’s located, and if any of the vibration could dislodge any of the stone.

      A mason would have all the safety equipment and liability insurance to handle a collapse – as well as be able to put it back together.

      Safety first.

  4. I know this is a bit long winded but remember that the techniques and materials used when your house was built are a lot different than todays. If you use the wrong materials you could potentially be doing more harm than good. The polymer render (which is relatively new) works as I have used it on a few listed brick buildings without any adverse effects plus the colours are pretty consistant and the ratio is as near perfect as you will get.

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