Techniques > Briefs > Repointing Mortar Joints > Components of Mortar >


• Imports, graph
• Saylor
• "guage"
• double-hydrated
• white vs gray portlans, sulfates, alkali

• Portland Cement Association
5420 Old Orchard Road
Skokie, IL 60077

Portland Cement

More recent, 20th-century mortar has used portland cement as a primary binding material. A straight portland cement and sand mortar is extremely hard, resists the movement of water, shrinks upon setting, and undergoes relatively large thermal movements.

When mixed with water, portland cement forms a harsh, stiff paste that is quite unworkable, becoming hard very quickly. (Unlike lime, portland cement will harden regardless of weather conditions and does not require wetting and drying cycles.)

Some portland cement assists the workability and plasticity of the mortar without adversely affecting the finished project; it also provides early strength to the mortar and speeds setting. Thus, it may be appropriate to add some portland cement to an essentially lime-based mortar even when repointing relatively soft 18th or 19th-century brick under some circumstances when a slightly harder mortar is required. The more portland cement that is added to a mortar formulation the harder it becomes — and the faster the initial set.

For repointing, portland cement should conform to ASTM C 150. White, non- staining portland cement may provide a better color match for some historic mortars than the more commonly available grey portland cement. But, it should not be assumed, however, that white portland cement is always appropriate for all historic buildings, since the original mortar may have been mixed with grey cement. The cement should not have more than 0.60 per cent alkali to help avoid efflorescence.