The horrors of Portland cement

Look at all that nasty Portland cement

Ever walk around NYC (or anywhere for that matter) and notice those old, dilapidated brick walls? The ones that seem to be disintegrating before your eyes? Ever wonder why it is that something supposedly so strong not even a big, bad wolf could blow it down now seems to be crumbling like a cookie? The answer is usually Portland cement.


Never heard of Portland cement? It’s awful, awful stuff. It can become hard and brittle, and because it retains moisture so well, it can cause brick and stone to crumble.

Huge areas of brick have failed over time

The majority of old stone and bricks walls originally had lime mortar holding them snug, but once it came time to do repairs, cheap-and-easy Portland cement usually beat out lime mortar as the substance of choice.

Reggie has had a lot of experience dealing with the aftermath of someone taking the easy route and replacing strong and durable lime mortar with Portland cement. This schoolhouse that he worked on in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is a good example of what Portland cement can do: cracked and crumbling bricks leaving behind huge holes.

Removing the old Portland cement

To repair it, Reggie and his team had to carefully chisel away all of the Portland cement, then re-point the wall using lime mortar that they color-matched to the original mortar and then mixed onsite.

Repointed with lime mortar

It may require more time, effort, and yes, money, but it will save the structure from cracking, crumbling and eventually failing.

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