Mortar Quality

While inspecting the exterior of a strip mall, which was built a year ago, I saw lots of cracks going through mortar between bricks. They are all over the place. In some areas, where decorative masonry was laid, it looks like mortar is attached to one brick and another brick is just laying there. It looks like “legos”. The corners are really bad with already deteriorating mortar. Most of the mortar looks like sand, kind of coarse. The walls have many other issues, such as unevenly laid brick, bowing and uneven walls, cracked bricks with early signs of spalling. I’ve never seen masonry work being so bad on a new construction. My main question is: Is it possible that mortar is bad quality, bad mix? How can it be explained besides builders being drunk on the job?

I have seen it a couple times, sounds like the contractor put to little cement in the mixture and too much sand in each batch of masonry mix. I was a cement “Mixer” one time for a masonry company, and it is a classic to much sand problem in the mixer… Greg B. Clayton

I agree with Greg they try to stretch their dollar by adding to much sand sometimes.

Was it built when the temps were below freezing?

Looking at the timeline of this particular construction process, the walls may have been built in Spring 07. So, there might be a couple of days of freezing temperatures, but not more than 2-3 days. You never know with Chicago weather. I also, noticed that a number of bricks were cracked and the mortar was intact in some locations. As far as I know, this means that mortar around those bricks was too hard. Anyway, I think that the “cement mixing professional” and other “laborers” had too much Tequila… or their bosses are too cheap and wanted to cut every corner on that project. Thanks for your advice guys!

Soil conditions?

Prep work before the brick was laid.