Different Types of Mortar and When to Use Them

If you own a home made of brick, you have two things that you need to take care of. First is the overall integrity of the bricks themselves. To inspect your home properly, you need to make sure that the bricks are still strong, aren’t shifting, and have no visible signs of damage. You’ll also need to make sure to keep an eye out on the mortar—the cement-like material that’s used to fill between the bricks. Mortar and bricks work together to create strong foundations and when either of them are having problems, the structure of your building can be at risk. In this article, we wanted to take a minute to go into more detail about something that’s usually not given as much attention: the different types of mortar and when to use them.

Mortar Ingredients

There are three main ingredients that every single type of mortar is comprised of. When combined and mixed with water, they work to create the five different types of mortar used in every tuckpointing jobs. While the three ingredients below are always used, masons may add different additives for weather, color, and strength.

  1. Sand – sand is an aggregate that helps give the materials something to bind to. It also helps determine the strength of mortar.
  2. Cement –cement is the binder itself. It compacts everything together and keeps the ingredients stable.
  3. Lime –lime helps determine how long it takes for the mortar to set or harden. This is knows as its bonding ability.

Different Types of Mortar Mixes

There are five types of mortar that are used for all tuckpointing jobs. They all include the same ingredients listed above, but each type is made using different combinations and ratios of the cement, lime, and sand. The different ratios of each all contribute to how the mortar will turn out. Each mix varies in flexibility, strength, and overall bonding. The type of mortar used depends on the project specifications.

Type M

Due to the amount of cement used, this is the strongest mortar that can be made. It can hold up to 2,500 pounds per square inch (PSI) and thus is most often recommended for structural support or even driveways. Masons will use type M mortar on load bearing walls or to help reinforce foundation. It has a low bonding ability due to the small amounts of lime so it’s rarely, if ever, used for tuckpointing.

Type S

This is still a relatively strong mortar that holds up to 1,800 PSI. It’s made with a little less cement and sand than type M, which allows for more flexibility. Type S mortar is mostly used to help withstand large loads and soil pressure, which makes it perfect for laying foundation or other projects that fall below the grade.

Type N

Type N mortar is one of the most flexible, which makes it perfect for tuckpointing. It can hold up to 750 PSI and has a good strength for compression. It’s recommended to use type N on exterior walls because it handles heat and fluctuating weather conditions well. This is the most commonly used type of mortar by tuckpointing professionals and homeowners.

Type O

Finally, type O is the weakest mortar used by masons and holds up to 350 PSI. Most masons use this indoor and only on non-load-bearing structures to avoid problems.

Type K

While this type of mortar was primarily abandoned due to low strength, we still wanted to include it on this list. It was mainly used on softer bricks or inside a home.

Finding a Professional Masonry Company You Can Trust

At the end of the day, tuckpointing is a very precise job that requires a level of skill that only comes with years of training. If you own a home with brick and notice that any of the mortar, or bricks, has started to deteriorate, don’t hesitate to call a professional. The sooner you get brick and mortar problems fixed, the less likely you will be to incur further damage and pay higher rates. Taking a proactive approach to your tuckpointing is the best way to save you money and keep you and your family safe. Not to mention, keeping your tuckpointing pristine will boost property value and create a more aesthetically pleasing structure.

Choosing the right masonry company is just as important as calling one in the first place. The key is to find someone you trust and that you work well with, like the professionals at Chicago Tuckpointing Inc. All of our masons have over 20 years of experience and the skills you need for a job well done. Our projects are completed with integrity and transparency so you know exactly what’s going on from start to finish without any hidden fees. For all of your masonry needs, call Chicago Tuckpointing Inc. today at (708) 942-1951.