Patio

Top 20 Ideas To Make Your Patio Like New Again

Everyone loves a great patio. They’re the perfect place to comfortably relax outside, whether it’s with friends and family or by yourself. 

Because it’s outside, it’s easy for your patio to fall into disrepair. Regular wear and tear combine with the outdoors to damage your patio, regardless of what it’s made of or how often you make repairs. 

However, it’s never too late to make your patio look new again. With a little time and effort, you can turn your old patio into the perfect outdoor space. 

Patio Repair vs. Patio Restoration – What’s the Difference?

The first step to fixing any patio, no matter what it’s made of, is to decide if you need repairs or a full restoration. Let’s cover the difference between the two, so you know where to start. 

Repair

patio repair

Repairs are meant to fix up small areas of damage. Every structure loses some structural integrity as time passes, especially something that’s constantly outside, like a patio.

Basic repairs help your patio maintain its functionality and stay structurally sound. They get your existing masonry back into good shape so that you can use it comfortably. If your patio isn’t in too bad condition, you might be able to get by with some minor repairs rather than a full restoration. 

Restoration

Restoration is usually more intensive than repairs. While the restoration process might include repairs, the goal is a little different.

If you’re restoring a structure, you’re bringing masonry back to its original look. Typically, restoration involves replacing old materials with new ones to make a structure look brand new again. Repairs support and maintain functionality while restoration focuses on revitalization. 

How Much Does It Cost to Renovate a Patio in Canada?

If you’ve decided you need to renovate your patio, you might be considering how much it’ll cost. While you can do some basic repairs yourself, restoration almost always requires the help of a professional. 

Like every type of repair or renovation, the exact cost of renovating your patio will vary depending on your patio’s size, the materials used, your location, and the amount of work needed. For general estimations, the average cost for patio work in Eastern Canada is about $60 per square foot.

These are the average costs for deck work based on materials in Montreal and Toronto according to RenoAssistance.

Material Montreal Toronto
Fiberglass $17 to $21/ sq.ft. (without base structure)

$30 to $40/ sq.ft. (with structure)

$21 to $25/ sq.ft. (without base structure)

$36 to $55/ sq.ft. (with structure)

Treated wood $40 to $50/ sq.ft $50 to $60/ sq.ft.
Cedar $50 to $60/ sq.ft $55 to $66/ sq.ft.
Roasted wood $50 to $60/ sq.ft $60 to $85/ sq.ft
Composite wood $60 to $70/ sq.ft $75 to $85/ sq.ft.
Concrete $60 to $70/ sq.ft. $75 to $85/ sq.ft.

 

Contact your local masonry repair professional for a more exact estimate of your costs. 

How To Repair A Paver Patio

Like we mentioned above, you can do some minor repairs yourself. If you have a paver patio, most repairs require the same simple solution: replace the brick. 

paver patio.
Image Source – https://davislandscapeky.com/3-major-advantages-of-using-pavers-for-your-patio/

Paver patios are incredibly popular in colder climates as they allow for fluctuation with the changing seasons. While other materials might not be able to withstand harsh weather conditions, paver patios are perfect for anyone who lives somewhere snowy and sunny. 

To get the most out of your paver patio, no matter the time of year, you should ensure that it’s in good shape. The three most common problems with paver patios are sinking, loose, or crooked bricks. Luckily, all three require the same solution. 

What You’ll Need

  • Sand
  • Level
  • Small pry bar or flat screwdriver
  • Broom
  • Rubber mallet
  • Water 

How to Replace a Paver Brick

  1. First, you need to remove the bad brick. You might have to wet the surrounding sand to loosen it. 
  2. Use your pry bar or flat screwdriver to wiggle it loose and take it out. 
  3. Now you can add in the sand for the new brick a little at a time.
  4. Smooth out the sand and tamp it down well. Use your level to make sure you have an even, solid base. 
  5. Put the new brick in and check that it’s the same height as the surrounding bricks. Use your level again to ensure it’s even and avoid trip hazards.
  6. Add more sand.
  7. Use the rubber mallet to tap the brick securely into place.
  8. Check the evenness with your level one more time. 
  9. Add more sand, using the broom to sweep it into the crevices surrounding the brick.
  10. Wet the sand, so it sinks into the cracks. 
  11. Repeat steps 9 and 10 as needed. 
  12. Sweep away excess sand.

How to Repair Cracks in a Concrete Patio

Concrete patio cracks
Image Source – https://turnbullmasonry.com/common-concrete-patio-repairs/

Concrete patios are a little harder to fix, but you can still do some minor repairs yourself. Small cracks are the easiest to fix yourself, and you want to repair them as soon as possible. It doesn’t take much for small cracks to turn into big ones that can cause permanent damage.

While you can repair small concrete cracks yourself, there are a few things you should know before you begin. First, you can’t fix it with concrete. 

The crack needs to be flexible to adjust with shifting concrete. The polymer-based filler you use in this fix allows for minor shifts while maintaining structural integrity.

Second, any crack wider than ½ an inch, or missing or tilted concrete, needs professional repair. You’ll have to find a masonry contractor in your area that can fix it for you. 

Finally, the repair will always be visible. You might be able to hide it with paint if you use a paintable filler, but there will always be a patch on your patio. 

Now that you know the basics, we can cover how exactly you fix a small crack in your concrete patio. 

What You’ll Need

  • Caulking gun
  • Hammer
  • Heavy-duty flat mason’s chisel
  • Wire brush
  • Shop vacuum
  • Safety glasses
  • Hearing protection
  • Putty knife
  • Utility knife
  • Polymer-based concrete crack filler
  • Solid crack filler (This can be a closed-cell backer rod or clean sand and a funnel)

How to Fix a Crack in Concrete

  1. First, you’ll need to widen the crack. With your safety glasses and hearing protection on, place the edge of your masonry chisel into the crack. 

Keeping the chisel at a 45-degree angle, tap the back of it lightly with a hammer. Force it about ¼-inch into the crack, following the outline of the crack as you tap. Ideally, you want to create a v-shape for easy filling.

  1. Use the wire brush to brush out the crack and dislodge small particles. 
  2. Take the shop vac and thoroughly clean out the crack. Any leftover concrete particles can compromise the repair, so you want to make sure you get every last piece out.
  3. If the crack is deeper than ¼-inch, you’ll have to add some solid crack filler and bring it up to ¼-inch depth. Either dispense clean sand through the funnel or use the closed-cell backer rod.
  4. Now you can add the concrete crack filler. Cut off the application tip and place a bead of filler into the crack.
  5. Draw the filler along the crack and make sure it fully settles. To avoid gaps, squirt a small amount onto a piece of cardboard to get out air bubbles and reach the thicker filler. 
  6. Use the putty knife to trowel down the putty. Draw the knife in the direction of the crack.
  7. Add more filler if needed and trowel it down.
  8. Allow the filler to cure for at least 24 hours before using your patio or painting or surfacing the patch. 

20 Ideas to Make Your Patio Look Like New

Outside of minor repairs, there are a lot of ways you can make your patio look brand new. Freshening up your outdoor space with some new plants or furniture can have a huge impact on the overall look of your patio. Here are 20 ways you can revitalize your patio, whether it’s made of concrete, wood, paver bricks, or something else. 

1. Clear out the weeds.

Clearing the weeds growing around your patio or between bricks is a small change that can make the space look a lot cleaner. 

2. Use a concrete re-surfacer.

A concrete re-surfacer allows you to make your concrete look brand new. They’re easy to apply, and you can pick whichever shade you want. 

3. Address minor damage.

Taking the time to fix small cracks or slightly uneven bricks not only helps your patio look better but also makes it safer. You eliminate trip hazards and prevent the damage from affecting your patio’s structural integrity.

4. Give it a good wash.

Don’t underestimate the power of a good wash. With the help of a good power washer, which you can usually rent from your local hardware store, you can get out deeply embedded dirt. 

5. Add shade. 

There are a lot of options for adding shade to your patio, from awnings to umbrellas to canopies. Even if it doesn’t get particularly warm where you live, coverage from the sun protects your skin and allows you to stay outside longer. 

6. Add a pergola.

If you’re looking for a more decorative structure, you can always add a pergola. While they don’t offer much shade, they can take a basic structure and turn it into a beautiful outdoor space. 

7. Get some greenery.

Native plants take any outdoor space to another level. With some easy-to-manage greener, whether it’s around the edge of your patio or in pots, you can add some color and life to your space. 

8. Add more color.

While plants can add a touch of lively green, you can also add some more color with furniture or paint. Try to match the outside of your house for a great overall look.

9. Find an outdoor rug.

Adding an outdoor rug is the easiest way to bring life to your patio. Find one that you love and place it on your patio for a splash of decor. 

10. Paint your concrete.

If you have a concrete patio, but you’re tired of the same grey, you can paint it. While you can always stick with a single color, you can also paint a pattern for a unique look.

11. Use deck flooring. 

Deck flooring is an easy way to change up your patio. Just find the flooring you love that matches your home and place it down. 

12. Add a border.

No matter what your patio is made of, a border of a matching material can add style. You can use railing, low walls, or even a small paver border to outline your patio. 

13. Repair old furniture.

If you have some outdoor furniture that’s seen better days, you can easily fix it up with some paint and a thorough clean. As long as your furniture is in decent condition, repairing it can let you use it for a few more years. 

14. Get new furniture.

If your outdoor furniture is past saving, look for new pieces in secondhand stores or online. You can always fix up lightly used furniture, and you might find some pieces in great condition. 

15. Add outdoor cushions.

Adding a few cushions could be the thing that brings your whole patio together. They make your furniture more comfortable and help your outdoor space look better.

16. Hang lights.

For nights spent outside, hang some outdoor lights that you leave up year-round. 

17. Add a small fountain.

A small fountain can make your patio feel more relaxing and add an elegant touch to your outdoor space. 

18. Get a fire pit.

If it’s safe for you to have one, a fire pit can let you use your patio even when it’s cold out. Just make sure you’re following all safety precautions and maintaining distance from your home.

19. Put up torches.

Torches are another option for lighting that can add flair to your patio.

20. Hang a bird-feeder.

To bring in some natural wildlife, hand a bird-feeder near your patio. An easy way to relax is to sit outside and watch the birds, no matter the weather. 

Final Thoughts

Your patio is a great place to relax outside. With some repairs or restorations, you can make your patio look new again and create the perfect outdoor space. 

Brick & concrete repair

The Ultimate Guide to Brick and Concrete Repairs

Like every other material, brick and concrete start to require repair over time. Depending on the environment and use of your masonry, might be more prominent, leading to more damage. Anyone with masonry in their home or on their property needs to know the basics of brick and concrete repairs. While you don’t need to make the repairs yourself, though you can in some cases, you should understand when you need to get bricks repaired, what the process entails, and how much it will cost you. 

1. Can Broken Bricks Be Repaired? How?

Broken bricks
Image source – https://dodsonfoundationrepair.com/are-cracked-bricks-a-sign-of-a-broken-foundation/

The good news is that you can repair broken bricks. You don’t have to write off the whole structure because of a few damaged bricks. In fact, we’ll even tell you how to complete a basic brick repair. But before you get out your chisel and mortar, there’s more you should know. You need to figure out some things first, like how bad the damage is, what’s causing the damage, and if you can repair it yourself.

How Bad is the Brick?

First, find out if you’re looking at a simple solution or if your brick needs more work. Isolated cracks or chips that are only on a few bricks can be fixed pretty easily. You can probably repair the structure with a few replacement bricks. However, some structures might require a lot more work. If your structure is load-bearing or has more than a few bricks that need to be replaced, you should consider hiring a professional. It’s better to get help from an expert than risk hurting yourself or damaging the structure.  Here are some common causes of brick damage that go beyond standard wear-and-tear. 

  • Underlying expansion or contraction 

Different bricks and types of mortar can have different expansion or contraction rates. If you have multiple types of materials with conflicting expansion rates, that can lead to cracking or structural instability. 

  • Salt damage

People that live in cold areas probably use salt in the winter to keep their sidewalks and driveways safe. However, that same salt can damage brickwork. Salt damage can erode bricks and concrete, usually leaving behind white marks on the masonry. 

  • Water damage

Water damage is another common cause of brick deterioration. Regular water running over brick or concrete can slowly erode the material, eating away at masonry. Typically, water damage on masonry looks like the bricks have been half-dissolved. 

  • Foundation movement

A settling foundation can cause a lot of damage to homes and buildings. To see if a moving foundation is the reason for your broken bricks, check for a staircase-like crack coming from the base of the structure. If you find one, call a professional, as the stability of the structure might be compromised. 

  • Grade level changes

The grade level of brick is supposed to be a foot above ground level in most areas. However, some home projects, like adding a deck, stairs, or soil, can change the grade level. Bricks trapped near ground level are likely absorbing water, leading to erosion and brick damage. 

How to Complete a Minor Brick Repair

If your bricks don’t fall into the above categories, you might be able to make your repairs yourself. As long as you’re only replacing a few bricks with minor damage, you can probably get the project done without hiring a professional. However, if you’re not comfortable with masonry or DIY projects like this, it’s better to reach out and ask for help than risk injuring yourself or damaging your structure. 

Removing and Replacing a Brick

What You Need

  • A replacement brick that matches your other bricks in makeup and appearance
  • Mortar mix 
  • A mortar mix pigment if you need to match it to the rest of the structure
  • Cold chisel
  • Hammer
  • Wire brush
  • If you have one, a power drill can make the process easier.
  • Pointing trowel
  • Joint strike tool
  • Eye protection
  • Leather work gloves

Removing the Brick

First, you have to remove the brick. Make sure you have on your eye protection and leather gloves to protect yourself from possible injuries. If you’re worried about dust, you can also wear a basic face mask to keep from breathing in debris.  Start with the cold chisel and a heavy hammer. Break the brick into pieces to remove it, but be careful not to damage any of the other bricks. If you’re removing multiple bricks, start with the top one and move down. Once you’ve removed all the old brick pieces, chisel out the old mortar. Try to make it as clean as possible. When all the old mortar is gone, clean the joints of any that’s left with a wire brush. Use a vacuum to clear out the entire opening, then rinse it with water. Now, you can put in your new brick.

Replacing the Brick

Mix your mortar along with pigment if you need it. Take your pointing trowel and put mortar on the bottom and sides of the brick opening. You want to have about one inch of mortar. Slightly wet your new brick to absorb the mortar better, and then apply mortar to the brick’s top and sides. Slide it into the opening, and don’t worry. Mortar’s supposed to ooze out. Tap the brick into place until it’s flush with the rest of the bricks. If you need it, apply more mortar with the pointing trowel. The mortar should be full to the face of the brick. Then, you can tool the mortar joints with the joint strike tool to ensure they match with the adjacent mortar joints. When the mortar is almost dry, use the wire brush and clear away the excess mortar.  Finally, one of the most important steps is to make sure the new brick stays moist to help it cure. Spray the whole repair with water after finishing with the mortar.  For the next three days, make sure the brick remains moisturized. Some people cover the repair with a plastic sheet to help it retain moisture, though you don’t have to do this. 

Fixing Loose Mortar Joints

Loose mortar joints can let moisture into your interior walls and the surrounding mortar. That’s why it’s so important to make sure all the mortar joints in your brickwork are fixed with a process called tuckpoint.

What You Need

  • Mortar mix
  • Mortar mix pigment if you need to match to the existing brickwork
  • Cold chisel
  • Heavy hammer
  • Sharp, small trowel
  • Scrub brush
  • Eye protection
  • Leather work gloves

How to Tuckpoint?

Tuckpointing
Image source – https://www.chimneyrepairdetroitmi.com/blog/use-tuckpointing-and-repointing-to-extend-the-life-of-your-masonry/

With your eye protection and leather gloves on, use the cold chisel and hammer to remove the old mortar. Cut at least a half-inch into the crumbling joint and remove all loose mortar.  Then, rinse the joints with fairly strong water pressure to make sure you got all the loose mortar and dust out. Mix the new mortar, but before applying it to the mortar joint, wet the joint again. Use your trowel to fill the joints with mortar and pack it in tightly. You don’t want any air holes or gaps.  Like with the brick replacement, you need to keep the mortar moist for the next few days. Mist it regularly to ensure it cures properly, and when it’s completely dry, use the wire brush to remove excess mortar. 

2. How Much Does Brick Repair Cost in Canada?

There’s no shame in hiring a professional! When it comes to masonry and construction projects, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you aren’t comfortable completing projects yourself or your bricks are significantly damaged, do some research and find qualified experts in your area. If you’re wondering how much money you might end up spending, you’re not the only one. The cost is a top concern for anyone looking to hire a professional. However, the cost can vary significantly depending on the severity of the damage, how much needs to be repaired, the type of work being completed, and your location. According to Reno Assistance, the average rate for masonry work in Canada is about $120 an hour. Home Advisor reports that brick repair in America can range between 710 and 2,287 USD, about $885 and $2,853 in Canadian dollars.  Of course, those numbers include everything from minor brick repairs to restorations. If you want to hire a professional for brickwork, you’ll have to look at your local masons. Find someone that you can trust to complete the work and ask for a quote. To get the best idea of how much something will cost, try to get quotes from a few different people. 

3. Brick Repair vs. Brick Restoration – What’s The Difference?

If you’re looking into brick repair yourself, you’ve probably seen the word restoration somewhere. But what’s the difference between the two?

Brick Repair

Brick repair is a much more functional project, taking damaged sections and replacing them with new materials. These projects patch and plug gaps and cracks or remove and replace outdated materials that may have lost their structural integrity. The purpose of repairs is to take existing masonry and get them in good condition. 

Brick Restoration

Restoration, on the other hand, is a more intensive project. While it might include similar work to repairs, the purpose of restoration is to bring the masonry back to its original look.  For structures from older eras, restoration uses period-appropriate materials to ensure the brickwork remains standing and matches the rest of the structure. This often involves removing old masonry, replacing it, and refinishing it.  While repairs often focus on a specific area or piece of masonry, restoration is usually for an entire building. Improving a building’s structural integrity requires a lot more work than a few repairs. 

The Difference

If you’re trying to figure out if you need repairs or restoration, remember that repairs fix while restoration replaces. Though repairs might involve replacing bricks or concrete, and restoration often involves repairs, the overall purposes of the projects differ. Repairs are focused on small fixes, and restoration is for overall improvement. 

4. What are the Types of Brickwork?

To figure out what type of repairs your masonry needs, you also need to know the type of brickwork you have. There are two different categories, one of which has three classes.  The first is brickwork in mud. This is the most basic and cheapest type of masonry, where bricks are joined together with mud. Typically, people in North America don’t use brickwork in mud for anything more complex than short walls. The second category is brickwork in cement, which uses cement to join the bricks together. There are three classes of brickwork in cement, each defined by the type of bricks and the purpose of the brickwork. 

  1. First-class brickwork uses cement of lime mortar and bricks with sharp surfaces and edges. These bricks should be regular in shape, made of completely burnt good earth, and a deep cherry red or copper color.
  2. Second-class brickwork uses ground-molded bricks, which have a rough and irregular shape. They’re usually burnt in kilns, and they offer great durability and strength. 
  3. Third-class brickwork is made with poor quality bricks that are rough with unfair edges. They’re ground-molded and burnt in clamps and are typically unusable for areas that experience lots of rain. 

You likely have first-class brickwork, as this is the best option for permanent structures. First-class bricks are the strongest and most durable type of brick, though the other classes have their uses. 

Final Thoughts

Brick and concrete repairs seem like they’d be complex, but they’re not as difficult as they look. With the right tools and a good understanding of how to fix bricks, you can easily make some basic repairs yourself.  If you need a professional’s help, make sure to find someone with good reviews that asks for a fair price. While you might be able to do some repairs yourself, don’t risk injury or damage. Hire a professional if you don’t feel comfortable making the repairs or if they require a lot of work. 

retaining walls

Everything You Need to Know About Retaining Walls

If you ever walk past a house that seems to have come right out of Jane Austen or imagine yourself strolling through a countryside lane in Middle Earth, chances are that there might be a stone wall somewhere in there; perhaps pushed up against the side of a hill. This is called a retaining wall. 

Like the best things in life, a retaining wall is both pretty and functional. If you have a need or a desire for one in your own landscaping to up the quality of your outdoor aesthetic, knowing more information will always help you to make the best decisions. This guide will help you know exactly what a retaining wall is and how it works, how much a retaining wall will cost, tips and tricks about retaining walls, how a retaining wall will add to your yard, and even some of the best and most creative retaining wall ideas out there! 

What is a Retaining Wall and How Does it Work?

retaining walls
Image Source – https://www.bobvila.com/articles/retaining-walls/

A retaining wall is a wall built of a material solid enough to “retain” (hold in place) dirt and soil behind it. These might be used in a front or back garden, flowerbeds, or any other landscaping structures to ensure that rain, erosion, and other natural issues don’t cause shifts in the soil and a spread or collapse of whatever it is you were trying to keep together. 

There are four primary types of retaining walls: gravity retaining walls, reinforced retaining walls, sheet piling retaining walls, and anchored retaining walls.

Gravity Retaining Walls

Gravity retaining walls

Gravity retaining walls tend to be a little bit shorter in height and rely solely on their own mass (and, ergo, the laws of gravity working with their weight) to keep soil in check. This allows versatility with the materials that can be used when building a gravity wall, and in general, they are a simpler structure to build, with the wall and perhaps a trench or concrete seal at the bottom being the only necessary ingredients. 

Reinforced Retaining Walls

Reinforced retaining walls
Image Source – https://www.hcgeosynthetics.com/geogrid/pp-biaxial-geogrid/geogrid-reinorced-retaining-wall.html

Also known as cantilevered retaining walls, reinforced walls are one of the stronger models because of the foundational support that they exhibit. The wall runs in an L-shape, with the main part being above ground and holding the soil in place, while the shorter part in the form of a slab goes beneath the bed. The weight of the dirt on top of this slab is what keeps it from falling forward. Some reinforced retaining walls have additional structural help in the foundation. 

Sheet Piling Retaining Walls

Sheet piling retaining walls
Image Source – https://surfcivil.blogspot.com/2012/11/sheet-pile.html

If you have soft soil and are tight on space, a sheet piling wall might be your best bet. Sheet piling walls are just a thin piece of material (usually steel, wood, or vinyl) that is driven into the ground by the soil. Sometimes there is additional support offered with a vertical corrugated structure. 

Anchored Retaining Walls

Anchored retaining walls
Image Source – https://vincivilworld.com/tag/anchored-retaining-wall-advantages-and-disadvantages/

An anchored retaining wall is when anchors are driven into the ground to support the wall, and then they expand while below ground through mechanical or pressurized means from above. Anchored walls can help support any of the other three types of walls, though are most typically used for either large sheet piling walls or a higher load. 

Geogrid

Geogrid isn’t a type of retaining wall, but rather a type of material that is helpful for adding to the strength of the wall. It’s a mesh of sorts that acts as a support to the soil that is being kept inside the boundaries. The soil grabs for the geogrid rather than pushing on the wall, and so it alleviates much of the pressure on the stones. Geogrid can be so strong that even sand castles can support concrete when using it!

How Does a Retaining Wall Work? 

Essentially, a retaining wall will take a sloping property and help make it functional and beautiful, leveling out certain areas for texture and aesthetic and protecting the yard from the damages of erosion.

Using a variety of materials (stone, brick, wood, concrete, etc.), a retaining wall can even be practical outside of keeping soil in, as it can provide things like outdoor seating or even some privacy if placed correctly. 

The materials are stacked or pushed into the ground to create a barrier around the soil bed that they are hemming in, and the soil cannot escape due to the strength of the structure. It makes dangerous land safe (and also makes them ideal for flower beds and gardens!).

It depends primarily on the material that you decide to use (plus labor and parts), but it can cost thousands of dollars to build even one retaining wall. But don’t let that deter you! They have a purpose beyond their beauty, but the fact that they have such an additional aesthetic appeal will add value to your life, and to your home. 

Ask your engineer for a price per square foot; on average it is:

  • Can $19-$38 for basic concrete blocks.
  • Can $18 for brick.
  • Up to Can $32 for wood. 
  • Up to Can $50 for stone or poured concrete.

So now, if you’ve decided that a retaining wall is right for you and your yard, let’s look at some practical tips for what to do – and what not to do – when adding one into your landscaping. 

The Do’s and Don’ts of Building a Retaining Wall

It can be exciting to add a new structure to your home! But keep in mind that retaining walls are not only meant to be beautiful but meant to be functional. Here are some tips to keep in mind while making decisions for your retaining wall. 

Do Get Help from an Engineer

It might be expensive, but it will be worth it in the long run to have a retaining wall that works. It’s not that you can’t DIY, but installing a retaining wall is more complicated than you might think (especially one taller than four feet) and checking over your plans with a professional could make things much easier.  

Do Check Your Materials

Is that geogrid, or snow fence? Are you sure that’s the material you want for your wall? Have you double-checked your measurements? It can save a lot of work, in the long run, to check everything before you make decisions that you can’t go back on. 

Do Confirm With Your Local Authorities

You might need permission and permits to build your retaining wall, so know of any potential problems before you begin construction! And don’t start digging before you have checked if there is a pipe or line where you’re planning to make a trench! Call DigSafe for your state to make sure that you don’t have any dangerous complications. 

Do Lay Materials Evenly

If you use, say, cinder blocks to make your wall and put the first row on a slope that goes down to the side, you will find yourself laying an entire wall that goes the same direction, which looks messy. If you need to, build tiers of walls rather than one large one, but make sure that the bottom layer of each wall is on even ground! 

Your wall should be sloping from top to bottom in a way that leans into the soil it is retaining! Just not from side to side. 

Don’t Put Your Wall Near Problematic Roots

The last thing you want is tree roots ruining the structure you’ve just built! A quality foundation is imperative to a good retaining wall, but Mother Nature can disrupt that if you don’t choose a good location to build. 

Don’t Forget About Water!

Water is the enemy of all structures. Groundwater can begin to make your wall unstable if you don’t plan for it ahead of time, so it is extremely important to build a drainpipe and gravel or another draining mechanism into your design to account for the flow. 

How Installing a Retaining Wall Will Add Beauty to Your Backyard

Retaining walls can be some of the most beautiful pieces in your landscaping if you design it right. Here are some of the primary things to consider when you are thinking aesthetically about your wall. 

Materials

The materials you choose should compliment your home, the rest of your yard, and whatever the retaining wall is supporting (garden, flowers, etc.). Below are the most common materials. 

Stone is timeless and popular for retaining walls as it adds a more grounded feel to them. Plus, they are lower maintenance than some other materials! 

Brick is low maintenance, too, and punctuates a lawn with a very intentional accent. Brick is cozy, clean, and clear – great for bringing attention to your walls! 

Concrete is heavy and durable, and while its aesthetic doesn’t fit everywhere, it gives a clean and urban vibe that invites imagination to collaborate with its blank slate. 

Finally, wood is a great choice for adding a natural feel to your yard and has a wide variety of options that can match many locations. 

In the Soil

Growing something inside your retaining wall will automatically elevate the elegance of your yard. Flowers of any sort will evoke Versailles when you see them peeping over tiers of block stone walls, and even just greenery will be sure to let people know that you are intentional with your choice of decoration. 

You can even plant small trees (with non-invasive roots, of course) near (not on) your retaining wall! To have an inviting yard is to tell people that you respect them and yourself, and the land that you live on. 

Twenty Cool Ideas for your Retaining Wall 

  1. A brown wood-tiered wall that only grows grass gives a sleek, modern look that almost turns your yard into gigantic steps of a giant. Another great idea for grass retaining walls involves grass-covered steps and gives the impression of a naturally occurring staircase! 
  2. Building a retaining wall around a centerpiece, like a fountain in a courtyard, takes the level of architecture from “pretty” to “dancing-in-Europe-at-sunset-gorgeous.” 
  3. Untreated steel, while not a conventional material, gives almost a post-apocalyptic vibe that can go well with desert homes or a rustic farmhouse. Or try marble for a grandiose display! 
  4. Using huge boulders as your material easily gives the impression of a wall built long ago that has remained standing for centuries. It’s whimsical and impressive at the same time. 
  5. Building benches into your retaining wall gives a romantic feel to the landscape, no matter what material you use!
  6. Putting a matching in-ground pool into the center of your retaining wall can look and feel like a garden oasis; who wouldn’t love that?
  7. Making tiers of steps that lead up your wall into a walkway or entrance to your home gives your house the feel of a castle, and gives your guests the experience of walking up to one!
  8. An intentionally uneven wall with carefully placed plants is the perfect opportunity to have a waterfall running down your retaining wall. Just be sure to have carefully placed pipes to handle it! 
  9. Basic concrete can sound boring, but hand your kid a box of sidewalk chalk and let them get to work changing that blank slate into mural after mural of colorful artwork!
  10. Draping plants lend a mysterious, Victorian appeal to a retaining wall – especially if it is so concealed by leaves that it looks more like a hedge than rocks!
  11. Large, flat rocks built as steps into a garden retaining wall are like building stepping stones across a magical pond. In other words, beautiful and desirable. 
  12. You can use shaped stones to create patterns on your wall, like rows of diamonds! It’s eye-catching and eye-keeping. 
  13. A latticed retaining wall, especially a tall one, has the opportunity for many different plants to grow out of it and show a vast vertical garden to your guests! 
  14. If you live in a place with gorgeous natural rock landscaping then you can consider using that to build your retaining wall and blend in with your natural habitat, making it look almost as though your home was raised upright from the ground. 
  15. Multiple high retaining walls can make little pockets of privacy – almost like house rooms in your backyard. 
  16. Multicolored materials make for a vibrant wall that pops out to the eye and brings charm to any yard. You can try making a mosaic with flat stones and lines in between – beautiful! 
  17. Textured material walls – interlocking blocks, overlaying blocks, even using garden planters as part of the wall – are a great choice for anyone looking for an artistic aesthetic that delights the eye!
  18. Using different materials for one wall (like stone and wood) is a cool way to mix vibes and give a unique flavor to your home. 
  19. Sleepers are materials that are used to keep a structure in place, like the flat railroad tie that supports the other two. Using vertical sleepers can add a very smooth look to your retaining wall, almost as if using a cookie-cutter on your grass!
  20. Lights. You can add lights to your retaining wall and give it a warm, adventurous look that is great for summer evenings around a grill or fire pit (which you can also build into your retaining wall!) 

Retaining walls are beautiful, practical additions to any home, and elevate the quality of life to anyone who experiences them. There is something beautiful about walls, grass, greenery, and flowers all mixed together to preserve soil and preserve elegance. Call your local engineers and landscapers and tell them about your dream retaining wall! They want to help you as much as you want to build it. 

 

Restoring chimney

What You Need to Know About Restoring Your Chimney?

A fireplace can be one of the primary centerpieces of a home. Whether it is used in your kitchen, a bedroom, or living area, the warmth and light that it exudes draws people near it for fellowship. If you’ve spent the money to install/maintain a fireplace in your home, then you know that it should work as well as it looks. 

The hidden yet primary worker of a fireplace is a chimney. When a fire is lit, it goes overtime to ensure that the smoke is funneled outside rather than filling your home. Without a properly working chimney, your fireplace will either be purely decorative or a nightmare when you strike a match in the firebox. 

When you set out to repair or restore your chimney, it’s best to get an idea of how much it is going to cost, how it can be done, and what sorts of repairs you might need. Here’s an overview of some basic knowledge that will help you make the right decisions for your home, family, and beautiful fireplace. 

How Much Do Chimney Repairs Cost? 

restoring your chimney

Costs will vary depending on what feature of your chimney needs repairs, but the average cost would be around $576. Your price will depend on the material your chimney is made from, the size, the kind of issues you are dealing with, etc. 

A basic brick-and-mortar repair could cost anywhere between $253-$2,532, and the price point will fluctuate depending on what type of material your chimney is built from. Brick repair will be a cheaper option, whereas stucco can easily go from $1,266-$5,064 if your repair needs are more extensive. Individual features (cracks, wood rot, etc.) can be as low as a few hundred dollars to repair if there isn’t much, but issues like spalling (broken or missing bricks and stones), repointing, or tuckpointing (replacing mortar, sometimes aesthetically) can cost much more. 

One of the most costly issues you could encounter is waiting too long to fix an issue (especially in the crowning) which could result in the need for a full replacement of the chimney. In that case, you could be paying well into the thousands instead of hundreds, so be sure to jump on repairs in a timely manner! 

And if you notice damage to your chimney, hold off using the fireplace until you can get it fixed! Working with a damaged chimney can cause even more damage and be dangerous. 

Are Chimney Repairs Covered by Insurance? 

Homeowners’ insurance tends to cover unexpected or unprecedented events (also known as “Acts of God”) such as natural disasters. If your chimney is damaged by a violent flood, earthquake, tornado, etc. then you have a good chance that your insurance will cover the repairs. 

However, if your repair needs stem from something a little less catastrophic – like old, worn-out materials or your contractor doing a bad job building it – then you might have a little more trouble filing a claim. Insurance companies need to see proof that the damage didn’t come from your own lack of routine maintenance or ill-chosen craftsman. 

The best thing to do is to check your fireplace and chimney regularly for issues and get people that you can trust to install anything that it needs. Then, know what your insurance plan covers and keep yourself up to date on what it offers. Do your best to find the plan that is best for your family! “Insurance is an investment,” says Pete Karageorgos, the director of consumer and industry relations at the Insurance Bureau of Canada “so you want to take the time and do it right.” 

Can a Roofer Repair a Chimney? 

Whether or not a roofer is the best choice to repair your chimney depends on what exactly the repair is! 

If your issue has to do with a leak, there are a couple of things to look into before hiring anyone. Water coming down your chimney can be an issue that stems from a broken cap or crown (what covers the chimney up at the top), or from cracks and broken bits in the chimney itself with the brick or stones. If these are the cases, then you should consider calling a chimney specialist rather than a roofer. Roofers won’t have the experience or knowledge to handle the problem the same way that someone whose expertise lies in chimneys will. 

A third option, though, is that your chimney might be leaking from the flashing. Flashing is a thin piece of metal that attaches the chimney to the rest of the roof around it. When it becomes warped or out of place (or maybe even attacked by wild animals seeking your chimney for a new home), water can come through what was once airtight. In these cases, a roofer is actually a good person to call because the process of replacing the flashing will require the removal of the roof around the chimney, and the ability to put it back together afterwards. Be sure to find an experienced roofer for this and one who will offer you proper materials for your flashing

Other issues with a chimney may require other specialists. Brick masons will be able to rebuild major aspects of your chimney, or even replace it completely if it came to that. And chimney sweeps do more than sing and dance through London: they play an important role in cleaning and maintaining your chimney, as well as fixing moderate damages in the brick and mortar. So while a roofer is great for flashing or other areas of your roof, in these other areas you will get the best quality work with someone who knows exactly how to deal with a chimney. 

What Are the Most Common Types of Chimney Repairs?

Like any part of a house, chimneys need a lot of maintenance and routine checks to make sure that they are functioning properly. And because they deal with fire and gas, neglecting to do these things can be quite hazardous for you and your family. Knowing what some of the most commonly needed chimney repairs are can inform and inspire you to take a look at your own chimney and determine whether or not it might be time to get someone out there to fix it up. 

Blockage

restoring your chimney
Image source – https://www.mychimney.com/blog/4-reasons-regular-chimney-sweep-services-are-so-important/

Blockage is anything that is plugging up the chimney and keeping it from releasing the smoke and gases properly. It might be anything from a bird’s nest to just a buildup of waste and debris, but either way, it is imperative to keep blockage out of your chimney! Unaddressed blockage can result in house fires. 

One of the most dangerous forms of blockage is creosote. As you burn wood in your firebox, both soot and black tar (creosote) will float up the chimney and get deposited in the lining of the flue. Creosote is flammable and is the cause of many chimney fires in homes. Like other blockages, creosote can also impede the escape of carbon monoxide out of the chimney. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, and colorless gas that is deadly to humans and frequently found in homes that have malfunctioning chimneys. When there is no airflow in and out of a home, a fire will devour what little oxygen there is, and then carbon dioxide; finally creating carbon monoxide which has nowhere to go if the chimney is blocked. The only option is for it to flow back into your home. 

Ensuring that your chimney is regularly checked and cleared of blockage (and NOT using it if you know that it is blocked!) will reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. But even so, it’s a good idea to buy a carbon monoxide alarm if you use a fireplace or any fuel-burning device in your home. Far, far better to be safe than sorry! 

Chimney Lining

restoring your chimney
Image source – https://www.kcsweep.com/chimney-liner-install/

The lining in your chimney (also called flue lining) is one of the most important pieces. It is what helps vent your chimney (and prevent things like carbon monoxide poisoning). A cracked lining could be extremely dangerous because it can also spread fires to parts of your home that could catch fire. 

If you do not have a stainless steel flue lining, consider getting one. Steel, rather than clay, is far more heat resistant and therefore damage resistant, and takes much longer to need replacing. Be sure to examine your chimney lining regularly (at least once a year) to ensure that all is working properly and to mitigate any damages! 

Caps and Crowns

restoring your chimney
Image source – https://theconstructor.org/tag/chimney-crown/

When you think about the fact that a fireplace/chimney’s primary function is, well, fire, then it makes sense that its most deadly enemy would be water. A chimney’s cap and crown are on the front lines against this enemy, and if they aren’t in top shape then the structural integrity of your chimney could pay the price. 

A chimney crown is a slab that seals off your chimney from water and the elements. If it is cracked or not as watertight as it is meant to be, then the water can trickle in and cause the mortar of your chimney to soften and begin to crumble. Crowns need to be checked frequently to ensure that they are working up to snuff. 

A chimney cap is a part that covers the flue and keeps everything from rain, debris, and curious wildlife from sneaking in. Without a proper cap, rust and decay can enter the chimney, and gases and fires could enter your home. 

Masonry

restoring your chimney
Image Source – https://www.mychimney.com/blog/4-major-types-chimneys-used-residential-commercial-buildings/

The structure of a chimney itself – the brickwork, stucco, stone, etc. – can actually be one of the most enduring elements of a chimney if the masonry was done right. But with time, erosion, and of course improper maintenance of the cap and crown, the chimney can need repairs just like any other function. 

If a brick is cracked or out of place, then “repointing” or “tuckpointing” can be done to fix the problem. Repointing is grinding out the mortar between bricks that is getting worn down and replacing it with fresh mortar. Tuckpointing is replacing the mortar and choosing that matches both the original mortar and the bricks to refine the lines and create an aesthetic approach to the repair. 

It is possible that you may have to replace entire bricks on your chimney if there has been too much damage done to them. This can be frustrating, but remember that it is cheaper in both the financial realm and in the peace of mind to pay someone to replace a few bricks instead of dealing with an entirely collapsed chimney. 

All of this may sound expensive, overwhelming, and maybe not even worth having a fireplace to deal with in the first place. But that does not have to be the case! Remember that fireplaces are an investment for you and your home, and keeping them that way can make your days in the house that much better, and also improve the value of your home. 

The best times to have an inspection of your chimney is right before and right after the wintertime (which is when fireplace use is the most prominent). It’s important to catch issues before they become dangerous or catastrophic events that can claim lives. It doesn’t have to be scary with some precautions and knowledge about how your fireplace works and what sorts of things to be aware of. And your inspector, of course, should know these things as well and can discuss them with you. 

A fireplace can be one of the primary centerpieces of a home. Whether it is used in your kitchen, a bedroom, or living area, the warmth and light that it exudes draws people near it for fellowship. Don’t let small issues detract from that fact, and give your chimney what it needs to protect the fireplace so that your house and family can enjoy all of the benefits! 

Signs of Impending Masonry & Mortar Failure

There is no substitute for a thorough and professional inspection; however, we encourage Burlington and Oakville masonry property owners to inspect their buildings regularly and check for signs of deterioration.

The masonry joints are a common starting point, as deteriorating mortar and gaps between the masonry units are easily visible and indicative of the need for maintenance and restoration. If the bricks have started cracking and damage or deterioration of the outside bricks is visible, it is highly recommended that you call a professional for Oakville and Burlington masonry restorations immediately – this is a clear indicator that repairs have been neglected for an extended period of time.

We also recommend scanning the building interior: cracking plaster on the walls, deformed edges along doors and windows, and moisture spots on the ceilings can often be traced down to masonry related issues. Maintenance of a masonry structure and its components is a preventative measure that yields significant long-run cost savings – we echo the advice of experts around the world that masonry building owners in Burlington and Oakville conduct regular and thorough inspections of their structures.

We are masons that have been serving the Hamilton, Burlington and Oakville regions for over 15 years with a code of conduct that is centered around the preservation and restoration of Ontario’s masonry heritage. We practice what we preach, and encourage our neighboring citizens to select masonry specialists that not only operate in accordance with the provincial building codes, but with experience in a sound craft and a love for the art of masonry in Oakville and Burlington.

Masonry Restoration and Repointing

As Canadians, we place considerable value and importance on heritage and masonry buildings in our country. Disappointingly, the same values are not always used to judge the work and quality of masons in our region, and due to the unregulated nature of the industry, repairs are often completed without adequate skill and regard for the underlying structure and its proprietor.

Our everlasting view on the matter persists: we have a fiduciary duty to the owners of Oakville and Burlington’s masonry buildings, and to the art of masonry as it has been practiced for thousands of years. As experienced masons – based out of the Hamilton, Burlington and Oakville regions – we have a responsibility to restore the historic and contemporary masonry structures which were built using skills refined over centuries of experimentation and tradition.

Repointing and Restoration

As with all other construction types, all masonry will eventually deteriorate. Points particularly susceptible to deterioration are located at the mortar joints – this is the sole reason why repointing masonry units with appropriate mortar is one of the most important features in a successful restoration. Finding the appropriate mortar can require considerable experience and industry know-how; even so, contracts are often rewarded to the lowest bidder.

To the residents of Burlington and Oakville, we stress the importance of repointing and it’s recognition as a technically demanding procedure, with considerations that include but are not limited to mortar that is: no stronger than needed; resistant to freeze and thaw cycles; with texture and color that match the existing mortar; and applied using a refined technique. Full contact between the existing mortar and the masonry units is absolutely essential in preventing water from infiltrating gaps and mortar must be selected with the worst possible environmental circumstances in mind. Our country’s unique and high varied climate often results in temperature fluctuations which catalyze the expansion and contraction of units, leading to cracking.

Criteria used by property owners and managers to evaluate masonry specialists in Burlington and Oakville must be stringent if we are to preserve our existing masonry buildings and our heritage.

Concrete vs. Clay Bricks

Clay Brick vs. Concrete Block

When compared to other forms of construction, the durability and resistance of masonry structures is seldom questioned. Masonry systems have stood the test of time, and rightfully earned a reputation for resilience against the elements. Considering even man-made perils, such as fire, masonry still consistently outperforms all other constructions; resisting against outright destruction which is characteristic of wood frame buildings, and outlasting the warping and ultimate collapse of steel-skeleton structures. Notwithstanding these irrefutable benefits, a masonry structure’s environmental and mechanical resistance will naturally vary and depend on the construction method and the materials employed.

Clay Brick

Undoubtedly one of the most fundamental and durable building materials ever invented, clay bricks have been used in construction for thousands of years. The method of construction and materials have been perfected over centuries, and the durability of clay brick is dependent on the following five factors:

1. The quality of the raw/fabrication material;
2. The manufacturing process and firing condition;
3. The resultant properties of the hardened brick;
4. The conditions to which the bricks were exposed since construction; and
5. The rate of maintenance and repair.

The naturally-occurring raw material known as raw clay consists of a complex mixture of minerals in varying proportions. Production begins with selection of the clay materials and ends with the firing of the clay units; with mixing, molding and drying occurring in between. Optimal proportions of sand, clay and water along with the drying and firing temperature are integral to the quality of the hardened brick.

The clay’s composition and the manufacturing process significantly affect the dimension and distribution of the brick’s pores which has a significant impact on its durability. Consequently, treatments to enhance durability after construction is reduced to acting on external conditions – as changing the brick’s composition post-production is not possible. Preventing the invasion of water in to the brick’s mass, controlling moisture and managing the brick’s salt content are the main methods of managing the brick’s exposure to harmful conditions and increasing its durability.

Concrete

Unlike clay brickwork, concrete block masonry is a relatively recent development which started being used as a building material in the mid-19th century. Concrete block walls provide sound structural resistance along with thermal and acoustic insulation all while accommodating for fast and easy installations – facilitated by the block’s precise unit measurements and modular characteristics.

Concrete blocks are composed of Portland cement, aggregates and water with production being highly automated in large industrial plants. The mix of materials is placed in a metallic mold, vibrated in to shape, and cured at an average temperature of 70°C for up to 18 hours. The durability of concrete block masonry is less dependant on externalities, and more on design and construction errors. While concrete can fall susceptible to things like efflorescence (the migration of salts from the interior to the surface material of the masonry) the effects are mainly aesthetic, and without compromise to structural integrity. Furthermore, pathologies can be prevented by deploying low-absorption blocks with high compressive strength and rebar protection.

While both concrete blocks and clay bricks can serve similar functions, skilled masons understand the inherent strengths and weaknesses which influence the conditions in which they are deployed.

Source: Ghiassi, Bahman, and Lourenc̦o Paulo B. Long-Term Performance and Durability of Masonry Structures: Degradation Mechanisms, Health Monitoring and Service Life Design. Woodhead Publishing, 2019.

Masonry in Hamilton

Along with Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Ontario is one of the original provinces, and in 1867 it formed part of the federated colony which was to become a sovereign nation. Although not known for its architectural qualities and still quite young compared to it’s global, sovereign confederates, Ontario is home to some of Canada’s oldest and most unique structures.
Among these historic and celebrated structures is Dundurn Castle, the 18,000 square-foot neoclassical mansion located on York Boulevard in Hamilton Ontario. The castle was raised over a period of 3 years -ending in 1835 – and its construction costs totaled $175,000; equivalent today to over $6,000,000. Established at the former site of a British military encampment, the castle’s heritage and stunning masonry façade overlooks the city of Hamilton, while the back graciously faces Burlington Bay. Hamilton’s masonry marvel is situated on grounds which feature many historically and architecturally significant structures; their heritage value lying in their Italianate, Gothic revival and Classical style design and in the prominent politician and businessman, Sir Alan Napier MacNab for whom they were built. The prominent and picturesque qualities of the buildings and landscape include the 19th century front entrance gates which were originally imported from England and the stone pillars which were cut from the Dundas Mountain. Purchased by the city of Hamilton in 1900 and receiving a significant investment for the renovation of its brick construction, the castle’s halls and rooms along with their characteristic panoramic views are now open to the public.

Hamilton’s ancient architectural implications extend to the English Gothic style St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church: designed by one of the founders of the Canadian architectural profession, William Thomas.  Receiving his architectural training in England, the Anglo-Canadian architect was renowned for designing some of the finest decorated Gothic Revival architecture in Canada. St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church – erected over the years from 1854 to 1857 – boasts a spire that now towers over neighboring structures at 180 feet, and the church holds the title for the highest steeple sculpted entirely out of stone in Canada. Features like the cut-stone masonry and meticulously-proportioned buttresses which reinforce the corners of the tower contribute to preserving its provincial and municipal heritage.  With most of the church’s grey limestone being sourced from Hamilton’s quarries, it is regarded as one of Hamilton’s finest masonry buildings, and was federally designated as a National Historic Site in Canada.

Hamilton’s lands bear some of Ontario’s richest stone-cut masonry formations, dating back to the early days of Canadian settlement, and confederation. With many locations being designated as National Historic Sites, the city has dedicated considerable resources to maintain, repair and restore its historically significant masonry structures.

The History of Masonry & Notable Masonry Structures – Part 1

The art of masonry dates back to the earliest moments in human civilization, when out of need, man sought to supplement the rare, naturally-occurring caves with artificial structures created from piles of stone. The natural availability of stones has been responsible for their early use and contribution to the oldest known structures in human history. This early form of construction was comprised of dry masonry rubble with stones of various sizes being stacked on top of each other to create walls; smaller stones were used to fill empty voids, with mud sometimes being used to bind the stones together. Over time, bricks were created from local clay and silts – as stones were not always available – and by the 4th millennium BC, ancient civilizations including the Mesopotamian people, were constructing palaces and temples of stone and sun-dried brick.

As human civilization continued to advanced, so did ancient masons and their mastering of the art to quarry, cut and hand chisel stone with increasing precision. We need not look far to appreciate the skill and fortitude demonstrated by ancient masons to erect some of the most impressive structures still standing today. The Egyptians, for one, constructed the pyramids at Giza roughly 4,500 years ago in the 3rd millennium, with the largest of the three towering over 480 feet, and built out of an estimated 2.3 million lime stone blocks, each weighing an average 2.5 to 15 tons. They used granite for the construction of the roofs and walls of the burial chambers, and gypsum as mortar, despite it having almost no binding properties.

The choice of masonry materials throughout history has been influenced mainly by availability and prevailing geological formations and conditions of surrounding areas. The ancient Egyptians relied mainly on limestone, sandstone, alabaster, granite and basalt, quarried from the hills along the Nile River, while in the last centuries leading up to the birth of Christ, the Greeks were sourcing materials for mud-brick locally, and also constructing temples of limestone and marble. Among them was the Parthenon, which was completed in 438 BC. With a limestone foundation and a roof covered with large overlapping marble, the Parthenon has been regarded as the finest example of Greek architecture and construction, with many aspects of the structure praised in terms of their precision and innovative design.

Our discussion would not be complete without a mention of the Great Wall of China, the construction of which began roughly around this same time period. Demanding transportation of over 100 million tonnes of brick and a labour force comprised of soldiers, peasants, slaves and animals, it remains today as one of the most impressive feats of engineering and masonry construction. As the longest building on earth (6,350 kilometers) the wall consists of several sections that differ in age and construction method. In its early construction, the wall was mainly built from rammed earth, stones and wood; however, during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), brick and stone started to replace tamped earth, due to the superior durability and protection it provided – most of the wall as it remains today dates from the Ming dynasty.
By 117 AD, control of Europe was ceded to the Romans and evidence of their stone, roman brick and concrete engineering remains scattered across their land and once-occupied colonies. Their meticulous masonry techniques can be seen in structures like the Colosseum, which was build mainly of travertine limestone with a core brick. In their ancient brickyards, the Romans produced fired clay bricks – replacing earlier sun-dried mud bricks –which featured longer and flatter dimensions than those of standard modern brick. Roman concrete also differed from modern concrete due to the incorporation of volcanic ash to provide fracture resisting properties, and create what some have called the most durable building material in human history.

Although advancements in masonry have been made throughout the millennia, the basic principles of stone, aggregate or brick combined with a binding material remain the same. It comes to no surprise that the most notable historical structures in human history still standing today were raised out of durable masonry materials. In the next part of our series, we will continue to explore how masonry construction has evolved throughout history, and dive in to the details of the industrial revolution, and its radical effects on the way modern masonry structures are built.

Masonry Structures in Property Insurance

As the most populous province in Canada, Ontarians are known for many things; unfortunately, low insurance costs is not one of them. Experts predict that the long, soft market for property insurance (a period of low insurance rates & premiums) is coming to an end, which will bring about a rise in property insurance rates, and ultimately higher premiums for homeowners across Canada. What can we do as homeowners, and property insurance buyers to lock in our rates with our insurance brokers, and possibly even see rate reductions on our policies?

To evaluate the factors affecting our property insurance premiums, it is first important to understand the underwriting process. Underwriting is the act of signing, and accepting liability, thus guaranteeing payment in the event of a loss or damage to an owner’s property. When an underwriter reviews a property risk – in our case as homeowners, our homes – they look at a number of aspects; among them, is what is called COPE information.

Construction – The construction of the property,e.g. wood frame, steel frame, masonry, etc…

Occupancy – The occupant of the property, e.g. residential or commercial.

Protection – Fire protection factors such as fire hydrants and fire stations.

Exposure – Neighbouring exposures that present their own risk to the property.

In this discussion, we will focus on Construction, and more importantly the class of buildings that are erected out of brick and mortar. This is arguably the most important factor in rating a homeowner’s insurance policy, and masonry structures stand out as some of the most reliable, and fire-resistive components in home building. Combined with a steel frame, and other fire-resistive materials, masonry structures can see significant savings when compared to wood frame properties with siding. It is not unheard of for insurance premiums on masonry built homes to be half of those on wood frame homes for the same insurance coverage.

Among other factors underwriters consider when pricing property insurance policies, are when the home was last updated. Updates to consider are electrical, roof, plumbing and structural tech-wonders. Updating your home to maintain its structural integrity can even qualify you for enhanced coverage, offering protection against a broader range of natural perils and hazards. Fixing chimneys along with porches and walkways can be a unique way to reduce your policy’s liability premium – the premium paid for liability coverage; in which the buyer is protected in case they become liable for a third party’s injury such as a slip and fall. Individuals are often asked to send pictures of their homes to the underwriters for review. A well-managed property, free of clutter and visible damage is likely to sit well with the underwriter’s criteria and be factored favourably in to his pricing.

Preserving the functional integrity of your property and restoring areas where signs of age and damage are apparent, can reduce the premium on your property and liability insurance coverage. Whether you are considering a new build, or contemplating renovating or repairing an existing structure, employing the right masons can have a significant impact on your home’s aesthetics, value and the costs of your insurance policy