If you need to get a tuckpointing job done, or are looking to add new brick or cement structures to your home, you’ll likely start the process by contacting a professional masonry company. During the initial conversations and consultations, your masonry company will ask you a number of questions. Using these questions, a professional will make the decision between using firebrick and refractory cement or regular brick and mortar during their tuckpointing and repointing jobs. But what exactly is the difference between the two and when should you use either?
Firebrick, as the name suggests, can withstand extremely high temperatures and is thus mainly used to line fireplaces and furnaces. They’re made from refractory ceramic materials, which make them different from the bricks used to line your sidewalk or driveway. The thermodynamic qualities of these bricks mean they can “withstand temperature up to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit.”1 Firebrick is an extremely stable building material, which is why it’s often preferred in areas that will be exposed to soaring temperatures.
Firebricks are heavier than traditional bricks and have lower porosity—meaning they’re denser than regular bricks. The composition is also different. They include metallic oxides and the chemical bonds are much stronger than those of regular brick.
In terms of aesthetics, firebricks are primarily white but the color can be changed using tints, stains, and dyes during manufacturing. Essentially, firebricks are completely customizable so you can easily match it to your interior décor and overall color scheme. Because of the ability to change the colors, firebrick is considered more customizable than regular brick and offers more control when building from scratch.
Finally, the thermal conductivity of firebricks is much smaller than regular bricks. This means that temperatures aren’t transferred from one brick to the other, which creates an insulating effect. This is why firebrick is most commonly used in kilns, furnaces, or other areas that reach extremely high temperatures—both in home and industrial settings.
Refractory cement, also known as refractory mortar, is what’s used to secure the bricks together and create the desired structure. It has an improved thermodynamic property in comparison to regular mortar, making it the perfect compliment to firebrick. In fact, this cement has grown in popularity and history has proven it to actually be safer and more effective than traditional mortar. Because of this, masonries have transitioned to using refractory cement on jobs even when they won’t be exposed to scorching hot temperatures. Installation tends to be faster, it meets codes more efficiently, and the preparation is easier than regular mortar. You can even get a premixed refractory cement to use for at home jobs.
If you are planning to build a structure that will be exposed to high temperatures, leave it to the professionals. It’s not worth the safety risk or the potential stressors to the integrity of your building’s infrastructure.
Brick and mortar, on the other hand, possess no inherent resistance to high temperatures and will quickly decompose, deteriorate, and eventually crumble if exposed to temperatures above 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. While a fire won’t necessary cause your walls to come crumbling down immediately, the longevity is not realistic. Brick and mortar will inevitably fail under increasing temperatures and thus is not safe to use.
If you own a home with brick and notice that your fireplace or furnace area is starting to degrade, call the professionals immediately. These areas of your home are very important to keep in good condition due to high temperatures and safety concerns. Taking a proactive approach to sensitive areas will save you money and help keep you and your family safe year round. Plus, the increase in aesthetics is hard to argue with. Do some at home inspections and always make sure to get a professional chimney inspection before the weather gets colder.
Choosing the right masonry company for the job is crucial as it’s important to find professionals that you can trust. Tuckpointing requires a level of patience that only comes with years of practice. At Chicago Tuckpointing, all of our professionals have the skills you want and need for a job well done. With over 20 years of experience, we work with the highest levels of transparency and integrity on every job so you can feel confident with our work. If you need help with firebrick or refractory cement tuckpointing, call us today at Chicago Tuckpointing Inc. You can reach us by phone at (708) 942-1951 or visit our website http://chicagotuckpointinginc.com.