Scope of Work
• Full repointing to the front of the building
• Partial repointing to the sides
• Install new metal egress stairs
• Replace header on window
• Improve curb appeal
Previous repairs to masonry gave the building a patchwork appearance. The building is located in a historic district and work had to meet commission approval. The building is typically rented to Boston University and Boston College students, so the mid-summer project had to be completed in time for fall occupancy.
Just the Right Cut
The key to repointing brick is to make just the right cut, according to consultant David Horton of Building Envelope Technologies.
Cutting needs to be thorough and precise, fully removing the old mortar from the brick at a consistent and proper depth – typically, one inch. Cut too shallow and the new mortar won’t have enough body to cure, and bond properly to the brick. It will crack and fall out after a few years.
Work too fast and you may miss some areas or accidentally damage the brick. When repointing vertical head joints, the mortar must be chipped out with a hammer and chisel, instead of being cut away with a grinder wheel, which could damage the brick above or below the joint. It takes a steady hand, the right tools and an experienced eye to do it right, according to Horton.
In addition, choosing just the right brick and mortar is crucial, as it must match the look of existing brick and mortar.
The difference between repointing the right way and the wrong way was evident from a glance at the two 16-unit buildings at 31-35 South St. in Brookline.
“Mortar joints had been repaired over the years and the building had a patchwork appearance, with different colors in different areas,” Horton said. “The mortar was failing again and cracking. As a result, the walls were vulnerable to water. Repointing was needed to protect the property from leaks.”
While the apartments had been renovated, the entire front of the building had to be repointed, not only to prevent water mitigation, but to enhance curb appeal.
Horton and Construction Manager Jamie Maloney identified six potential bidders for the project and narrowed it down to two before choosing Statewide, which had the best plan and the most manpower available for the job. Horton and Maloney also had worked with Statewide previously with positive results.
“I trust their workmanship,” said Horton, who has worked with Statewide for more than 15 years.
“Statewide took good care in cutting out the old mortar to the right depth, without damaging the brick,” Horton said. “That’s the key in repointing. If you overcut, it damages the bricks. If you undercut, the new mortar will crack and fall out in a short time and you’ll have to repoint again.”
Some bricks were also replaced to create a uniform appearance with everything being the same color, Maloney said. As the buildings are in a historic district, it was important to consider aesthetics, as well as performance.
Enhanced Curb Appeal
“There was a huge improvement in curb appeal and performance,” Horton said.
Maloney added that, “The quality of the work was exceptional. I did a recent project with another vendor and the work was not as good.”
One reason for the high quality, she believes, was the personal involvement of Statewide President Kieran Fitzgibbon.
“One thing that stood out is that Kieran visited the site every day to make sure quality was up to par,” Maloney said. “He was also there for weekly walk-throughs. If there were any issues, he would address them.”
Horton agreed, adding that, “Kieran is very personable. He’s easy to deal with and work with. Statewide is very professional and reasonable, and the quality of the work is really good. Pricing is good, and the level of communication and professionalism is high.”
Maloney also appreciated that Statewide completed the project in time for new residents to move in on September 1, when college students began returning to school.
“Statewide will be our number one choice on our next project,” she said.