Lime Mortar vs. Portland Cement: The Ultimate Rundown

Lime Mortar Vs Portland Cement - Masonry in New Jersey - Hamilton Masonry Contractors
Lime Mortar for Brick Installation

If you’ve ever done research about brick or stone masonry, you’ve heard the term “lime”. We’re not talking about the fruit, but a material that is used as the binder in mortar. Binders are what hold the sand together and make the brickwork last. There are many different binders out there, but the main two that are used in brick masonry builds and repairs are lime mortar and Portland cement.

The difference can sometimes be confusing to the layman because most Portland cement mortar actually contains a kind of lime called “mason’s lime”. Mason’s lime is what makes Portland cement workable and pliable. However, mason’s lime shouldn’t be confused with the high calcium lime that is used alone as the binder in mortar.

Portland Cement - Masonry Contractors in Hamilton NJ - Certified Brick Masonry - Chimney Repair Techs
Dry Portland Cement

So, to be completely clear: when we say “lime mortar”, what we’re referring to is the lime that can be used by itself to bind mortar and make it last. Basically, it’s able to harden without any other compounds being added to the mixture. Lime Mortar has been used for hundreds of years throughout history – almost as far back as masonry itself. And when something isn’t broken, there’s no need to fix it! Keep reading to discover three main reasons Portland cement is an inferior building material – especially for historical homes or buildings.

  1. Buildings move! When a building is constructed, it should be built with materials that will allow for those tiny movements. Portland cement as a material is extremely brittle, so when the building shifts slightly, tiny cracks can form which allow water into the building when it rains.
  2. Portland Cement traps water. In that same vein, after letting said moisture in, Portland cement doesn’t let water escape. So, the brick and mortar that are close to the ground are constantly damp – this can also cause dangerous mold growth inside of the building’s walls.
  3. It’s salty. Portland cement contains compounds which turn into salt over time. Salt is awful for masonry and can deteriorate brick or stone walls from the inside out. Salt dissolves into moisture inside of a wall, then re-crystallizes, the expands and breaks apart your walls from the inside.

Many people or inexperienced contractors think that because Portland cement is harder and harder is better, so it will last longer. But BR Masonry has the experience and education to know that the life-span of lime mortar is far superior to that of Portland cement. That’s why we use it every time for historical masonry build and repairs! After thousands of years in use, lime mortar remains the best option for repairing and building durable masonry.

If you’re ready to hire a masonry contractor, it’s important to hire someone who uses the best materials. Here at BR Masonry, we’ll do the research necessary to make sure your project or repair lasts as long as possible. Contact us today for a free quote, or to find out how BR Masonry can help you!

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