I’ve been working with brick and stone and mortar for over 20 years. In fact, it was 21 years ago when I started building a cabin in southeastern Ohio on a piece of land I had inherited from my father.
That experience of building with hand tools and natural materials was what later motivated me to learn stone walling as a trade. Stone captured my attention both as an art-form and a useful skill.
Mortar was always a big question mark for me, even 20 years ago. Mortar is just the stuff between the stones (if you decide you don’t want dry laid walls), but it’s the stuff you can’t just go gather in the woods. Unless you use mud or soil, mortar is a manufactured product that takes infrastructure and technology to produce.
And that bothered me. It bothered me that I couldn’t make it myself (I am a diehard DIY-er), and it bothered me that the science behind it was obscure and hard to find, even with the internet.
Well, the science behind mortar is coming to light and becoming more widely talked about, and it’s not something that can be manufactured readily in one’s backyard.
You have to have a kiln. The photo at the top shows one.
It is a fairly simple process, as manufacturing processes go. After all, we’ve been making the stuff for thousands of years.
It requires a kiln, a recipe and some know-how, and a deposit of high-calcium limestone (with quarry equipment).
Like most other manufactured goods, the industrial revolution changed mortar. The way it was understood and produced, the choices available in the marketplace–it all changed.
In today’s world, mortar is thought of as cement. Mason’s generally know portland cement, Type S lime, and sand. Small variations within those products. Masonry cement is just portland and lime blended in a bag, and mixing with sand gives you mortar.
But in yesterday’s world, before the World Wars especially, mortar was understood as lime and sand. Sure, cement was widely used by that time, but it took a long time for cement to reach the point of dominant market share as compared with lime for making mortar for residential construction.
Cement was required for concrete and for constructing tall buildings and industrial works, but for homes, lime and sand was the best mortar for masons to use to build brick and stone walls.
And it still is.
That’s why our name is Brick and Lime. Not Brick and Cement.
Lime is 8% of Earth’s crust.
Lime has been used by itself as the binder in mortar for thousands and thousands of years.
Lime is the primary component of the best plasters in the world.
In other words, lime is the forgotten star of masonry construction and restoration.
Lime is what we admire about all the old homes and neighborhoods, where people say, “They don’t build ’em like they used to.”
It is a superior product for residential construction. For plaster. For mortar. For stucco. Even for coatings.
Longevity in masonry comes from lime.
Brick and Lime. It’s how America was built.
My name is Jonathan Arn, co-founder of Brick and Lime. Stay with me, and together we will learn more about lime and how to use it in today’s world to solve our problems in the construction and restoration of our homes.
Brick and Lime provides masonry construction and restoration services, including pointing, structural walls, stucco, plaster, chimneys, and fireplaces. We use all kinds of mortar and masonry units, depending entirely on what the situation requires.