Aggregate for mortar.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The aggregate or main part of mortar is sand. The sand is dredged from pits or river beds and a good sand should consist of particles ranging up to 5 mm in size, In the ground, sand is usually found mixed with some clay earth which coats the particles of sand. If sand mixed with clay is used for mortar, the clay tends to prevent the cement or lime binding the sand particles together and in time the mortar crumbles. It is therefore important that the sand be thoroughly washed so that there is no more than 5% of clay in the sand delivered to the site. 

Soft sand and sharp sand.
Sand which is not washed and which contains a deal of clay in it feels soft and smooth when held in the hand, hence the term soft sand. Sand which is clean feels coarse in the hand, hence the term sharp. These are terms used by craftsmen. When soft sand is used, the mortar is very smooth and plastic and it is much easier to spread and to bed the bricks in than a mortar made of sharp or clean sand.

Naturally the bricklayer prefers to use a mortar made with soft or unwashed sand, often called ‘builders’ sand’. A good washed sand for mortar should, if clenched in the hand, leave no trace of yellow clay stains on the palm.

Matrix for mortar.
The material that was used for many centuries before the advent of Portland cement as the matrix (binding agent) for mortar was lime. Lime, which mixes freely with water and sand, produces a material that is smooth, buttery and easily spread as mortar, into which the largely misshapen bricks in use at the time could be bedded.

The particular advantage of lime is that it is a cheap, readily available material that produces a plastic material ideal for bedding bricks, its disadvantages are that it is a messy, laborious material to mix and as it is to an extent soluble in water it will lose its adhesive property in persistently damp situations. Protected from damp, a lime mortar will serve as an effective mortar for the life of most buildings.

Portland cement, which was first manufactured on a large scale in the latter part of the nineteenth century, as a matrix for mortar, produces a hard dense material that has more than adequate strength for use as mortar and is largely unaffected by damp conditions. A mixture of cement, sharp sand and water produces a coarse material that is not plastic and is difficult to spread. In use, cement has commonly been used with ‘builders’ sand’ which is a natural mix of sand and clay. The clay content combines with water to make a reasonably plastic mortar at the expense of loss of strength and considerable drying shrinkage as the clay dries.

‘Compo’ mortar.
During the last 50 years it has been considered good practice to use a mortar in which the advantages of lime and cement are combined. This combination or ‘compo’ mortar is somewhat messy to mix.

Mortar plasticiser.
As an alternative to the use of lime it has become practice to use a mortar plasticiser with cement in the mix of cement mortars. A plasticiser is a liquid which, when combined with water, effervesces to produce minute bubbles of air that surround the coarse grains of sand and so render the mortar plastic, hence the name ‘mortar plasticiser’ mixes.

Ready Mixed mortar.
Of recent years ready mixed mortars have come into use particularly on sites where extensive areas of brickwork are laid. The wet material is delivered to site, ready mixed, to save the waste, labour and cost of mixing on site.

A wide range of lime and sand, lime cement and sand and cement and sand mixes is available. The sand may be selected to provide a chosen colour and texture for appearance sake or the mix may be pigmented for the same reason.

Lime mortar is delivered to site ready to use within the day of delivery. Cement mix and cement lime mortar is delivered to site ready mixed with a retarding admixture.

The retarding admixture is added to cement mix mortars to delay the initial set of cement. The initial set of ordinary Portland cement occurs some 30 minutes after the cement is mixed with water, so that an initial hardening occurs to assist in stiffening the material for use as rendering on vertical surfaces for example.
The advantages of ready mixed mortar are consistency of the mix, the wide range of mixes available and considerable saving in site labour costs and the inevitable waste of material common with site mixing.

Cement mortar.
Cement is made by heating a finely ground mixture of clay and limestone, and water, to a temperature at which the clay and limestone fuse into a clinker. The clinker is ground to a fine powder called cement. The cement most commonly used is ordinary Portland cement which is delivered to site in 50 kg sacks. When the fine cement powder is mixed with water a chemical action between water and cement takes place and at the completion of this reaction the nature of the cement has so changed that it binds itself very firmly to most materials.

The cement is thoroughly mixed with sand and water, the reaction takes place and the excess water evaporates leaving the cement and sand to gradually harden into a solid mass. The hardening of the mortar becomes noticeable some few hours after mixing and is complete in a few days. The usual mix of cement and sand for mortar is from 1 part cement to 3 or 4 parts sand to 1 part of cement to 8 parts of sand by volume, mixed with just sufficient water to render the mixture plastic.

A mortar of cement and sand is very durable and is often used for brickwork below ground level and brickwork exposed to weather above roof level such as parapet walls and chimney stacks.

Cement mortar made with washed sand is not as plastic however as bricklayers would like it to be. Also when used with some types of bricks it can cause an unsightly effect known as efflorescence.

This word describes the appearance of an irregular white coating on the face of bricks, caused by minute crystals of water soluble salts in the brick. The salts go into solution in water inside the bricks and when the water evaporates in dry weather they are left on the face of bricks or plaster. Because cement mortar has greater compressive strength than required for most ordinary brickwork and because it is not very plastic by itself it is sometimes mixed with lime and sand.

Lime mortar.
Lime is manufactured by burning limestone or chalk and the result of this burning is a dirty white, lumpy material known as quicklime. When this quicklime is mixed with water a chemical change occurs during which heat is generated in the lime and water, and the lime expands to about three times its former bulk. This change is gradual and takes some days to complete, and the quicklime afterwards is said to be slaked, that is it has no more thirst for water. More precisely the lime is said to be hydrated, which means much the same thing. Obviously the quicklime must be slaked before it is used in mortar otherwise the mortar would increase in bulk and squeeze out of the joints. Lime for building is delivered to site ready slaked and is termed ‘hydrated lime’.

When mixed with water, lime combines chemically with carbon dioxide in the air and in undergoing this change it gradually hardens into a solid mass which firmly binds the sand.

A lime mortar is usually mixed with 1 part of lime to 3 parts of sand by volume, The mortar is plastic and easy to spread and hardens into a dense mass of good compressive strength. A lime mortar readily absorbs water and in time the effect is to reduce the adhesion of the lime to the sand and the mortar crumbles and falls out of the joints in the brickwork.

Mortar for general brickwork may be made from a mixture of cement, lime and sand in the proportions set out in Table 2. These mixtures combine the strength of cement with the plasticity of lime, have much the same porosity as most bricks and do not cause efflorescence on the face of the brickwork.

The mixes set out in Table 2 are tabulated from rich mixes (1) to weak mixes (2). A rich mix of mortar is one in which there is a high proportion of matrix, that is lime or cement or both, to sand as in the 1:3 mix and a weak mix is one in which there is a low proportion of lime or cement to sand as in the mix 1:3:12. The richer the mix of mortar the greater its compressive strength and the weaker the mix the greater the ability of the mortar to accommodate moisture or temperature movements. 

Table 2 Mortar mixes.

The general uses of the mortar mixes given in Table 2 are as mortar for brickwork or blockwork as follows:

Mix I For cills, copings and retaining walls
Mix 2 Parapets and chimneys
Mix 3 Walls below dpc
Mix 4 Walls above dpc
Mix 5 Internal walls and lightweight block inner leaf of cavity

Hydraulic lime.
Hydraulic lime is made by burning a mixture of chalk or limestone that contains clay. Hydraulic lime is stronger than ordinary lime and will harden in wet conditions, hence the name. Ordinary Portland cement, made from similar materials and burnt at a higher temperature, has largely replaced hydraulic lime which is less used today. 

Mortar platicisers.
Liquids known as mortar plasticisers are manufactured. When these liquids are added to water they effervesce, that is the mixture becomes bubbly like soda water. If very small quantities are added to mortar, when it is mixed, the millions of minute bubbles that form surround the hard sharp particles of sand and so make the mortar plastic and easy to spread. The particular application of these mortar plasticisers is that if they are used with cement mortar they increase its plasticity and there is no need to use lime. It seems that the plasticisers do not adversely affect the hardness and durability of the mortar and they are commonly and successfully used for mortars.

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what is mortar?
Types of Mortar
Properties of Good Mortar
Function of Sand in Mortar
Uses of Mortar
Precautions Required while Using Mortar Mix

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