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Question DetailsAsked on 10/5/2014

Should brick or mortar come in contact with wood?

We just had our brick stoop replaced. The mason laid in mortar between the base of the wood door accent and the brick. I believe this will cause water to wick from the mortar up the wood and create rot. This damage would accumulate with each rain.

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1 Answer


Nothing inherently unusual with that though not probably a "best practice" - consider that almost all wood frame houses are sitting on top of concrete, concrete block, stone, or brick with mortar at the top - not to mention all the doors and windows installed in concrete and brick walls - though they do rot over time, granted. Technically, by code, the contacting structural wood on top of foundations is supposed to be pressure treated ground-contact rated wood to avoid the issue you are talking about.

What I would have done is put a layer of ice and water shield in there at the wood if a linear contact, or some non-expanding foam if just the stub end of the vertical trim - and of course under the door sill (unless it has a drip-edge built into prevent water wicking and running back under it) there should be a metal dripedge under there on top of the mortar mayer, recessed a bit back from the sill lip so it does not get kicked, to stop water wicking under the sill and under the door, or from wicking and then running right into that mortar joint.

If you are worried about it, several things you could do to mitigate it (short of calling him back to redo it, which is sort of iffy as to whether he did it "wrong" or just not best practices, which calls for no direct contact between untreated wood and concrete/stone/brick/block.

You could run a sawzall or keyhole saw blade in there and cut away the interface enough to slip in a waterproof barrier (ice and water shield, visqueen, etc) and then caulk it, or you could just use concrete caulk (is latex caulk for concrete joints and cracks that is concrete colored) to coat the mortar joint with caulk down to the first brick, to reduce the chance of that part getting wet and soaking up water. Or coat the mortar right at that one spot (not overall) with concrete sealer just too reduce absorption of any water that hits it. A little bit of sealer locally should not hurt as the moisture can migrate through the brick and mortar to evaporate nearby- you just don't generally want to seal brick and mortar because it then traps any moisture that gets in through cracks and starts breaking them down.

Does not make intuitive sense to many people right off, but sealers like paint and concrete sealer get scratches and cracks that let liquid water on the surface wick in toward the dry materials behind them, but are not at all effective in evaporating moisture because of the typically tiny crack size, so the underlying "sealed" material stays wet for a long time - or forever. This is not a problem with concrete which actually gets stronger if immersed in water, but not so good for brick, mortar, wood etc especially if it does not have a way to dry out on the back side. Also explains why direct applied foam on the underside of roof sheathing is generally a bad idea also, because it lock in any moisture that gets into the sheathing from roofing leaks.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD

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