Old brick is something to treasure, but matching it for an expansion or repair may seem a daunting task. With these helpful brickmatching basics, you can match older brick successfully.
By Don Foster
The goal when repairing or expanding a masonry structure is to have it look just like the pre-existing masonry. That means matching size, colors and texture, assuring the structures appear to “go together.” Picture a house and a garage, or a set of buildings on a university campus. The unity of two buildings can be destroyed when a repair is made, or a new wall is added using masonry that does not match. A small, mismatched repair scars the structure and reduces the value of the property, so don’t settle. Moreover, never opt to build or expand without masonry for fear that the new brick would not match the old. You simply need to know how to match brick.
How to go about finding the brick
You should begin your search as early as possible. You’ll achieve the best result when you have more options. First, find out if the original brick still is being manufactured today. If it is, find out if it is being made at the same plant. When a brick manufacturer stops making a type of brick (perhaps because of a plant closing) at one plant and moves it to another, the change in facilities means that the raw materials, machinery and manufacturing processes may have changed. Brick manufacturing involves many variables, any one of which can change the color or texture of the finished product.
The best way to know whether your tentative choice is a good match is to get a current sample that represents the complete range of color, size and texture. If possible, build a 40-brick panel, laid in mortar, requesting that the proper percentages of the various colors of the brick range be represented. The mortar color represents a significant portion of the wall, so it also will need to match.
Two or more types of brick can be blended
Sometimes, a single type of brick will not give you the full range of colors needed to match an original wall. To get the range you need, try blending two or more types of brick that work together. Creating a blend like this requires careful thought. In addition to matching the colors and the proportions of colors in the original wall, you must assure that your new set of brick types will work together. Check the face height, length and bed depth.
Matching sizes is essential for an attractive blend. The mason has a difficult job laying brick when the face heights and lengths of the brick are not compatible. The new wall can look irregular and sloppy. At times, it will not line up to the existing wall.
Color also is essential and must be right in three ways. First, each color that is a part of the blend must be right. Second, each color must make up the right percentage of the wall. Third, the colors must be arranged so as to mirror the way they are spaced and placed in the original wall.
Improve the match by staining when needed
If the brick is simply unavailable, look for a type that is the same size and texture and as close as possible to the original wall in color. Assure that the brick are good candidates for staining. All you have to do is assure that the surface is absorbent using a simple water test. Pour some water on the wall. If it absorbs some of the water and darkens temporarily, then you can incorporate proven masonry staining into your planning.
Using a proven masonry staining system has many advantages. The product will never hurt the brick or masonry to which it is applied. It also is applied artistically with a brush, one brick at a time, to maximize absorption into the masonry face. It is never sprayed or applied with a roller.
Another advantage of staining brick comes from the fact that the stain is translucent, which means you can change color, while retaining the natural variations in tone that give brick a natural look. In fact, instead of coating the brick with a single color, the stain actually mixes with the pre-existing colors within the surface to produce the outcome you want.
Placement is important to consider. When staining brick, you can choose the number or percentage of brick to change, what colors to use, and most important, which brick in which positions in the wall will be stained. Every element of the process is controlled, making mirroring every aspect of a wall achievable.
A proven masonry stain system matters
Beware of brick staining companies using latex or acrylics. They may start peeling, fading, cracking, flaking or blistering in only a few years, and are difficult to remove from brick and mortar when they need to be reapplied. Brick should not be made into a maintenance nightmare, scarred with an unproven masonry system. As a rule, never put a product on a brick that can hurt a brick.
The bottom line
To get a brick match, start planning early to find the brick or blend a combination of brick. If you cannot find brick that match, find brick that match in size and texture, and then get as close as you can in color. Then, use a proven masonry stain system to bring the color even closer.
Don Foster is founder and VP of Masonry Cosmetics Inc. He has more than 30 years of experience in matching and staining masonry. Contact Don at Brickmen@gmail.com.