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Common mortar components that are specified for varying job conditions include water repellants, pigments, lime replacements, latex modifiers, accelerators (cold weather) and retarders. These components often are not available in a batch-size quantity that matches a contractor's needs in the field. Furthermore, a specified additive or pigment sometimes is difficult or cumbersome to add in the field. This is especially true when required product dosages are much smaller than the relative field mix batch size, leaving workers to visually guess the amount used.

When jobs call for these special components and additives, custom mixes are valuable to help contractors meet specific job needs. Custom blended finished mixes can be supplied in any size and are typically packaged in small (80 pounds or less) and bulk (3,000 pounds) packaging. Custom mixes eliminate the need for mixing by volume and can be used for a variety of tasks such as matching mortar color and texture to existing structures and ensuring exact measurements of each component in a formula.

MCAA member Masonry Specialists of Union Grove, Wis., recently turned to custom blending to complete a job for the new Visitors Center and Café for Milwaukee County's Boerner Botanical Gardens. Mortar used for the project was required to match nearby structures built in the early 1900s. The job also called for a latex additive to increase bond and eliminate water penetration.

Adding pigments at the mixer can prove challenging when using conventional field mixing methods; pigments must be measured accurately, and moisture content in the sand piles varies from dry to wet conditions. In addition, many colors are temperamental to the varying sand dosages, with deep reds and darker colors generally requiring more care in the sand/cement/water ratio to ensure consistent color.

To avoid these potential complications, Masonry Specialists turned to QUIKRETE for a custom design mix. We appraised the existing structures and conducted lab experimentation to determine the perfect mortar match for these structures. Matching the texture was challenging, as it consisted of a combination of 3/8" pea stone, course and fine sand, pigment and a latex additive within the mortar. Experimentation also showed that the mortar needed a pigment to obtain a color match. We provided Masonry Specialists with a pre-blended custom mix that matched the color and texture of the existing structures, eliminating the need for mixing in the field.

"Mixing the mortar to obtain the right texture for every batch would have been difficult to accomplish in the field," said Tony Fox, president of Masonry Specialists. "We also had to strike the joints with a bucket trowel to match the original building. One man was able to do 80 to 120 square feet a day with this fieldstone. I can't imagine having to measure all the different materials for the mortar. QUIKRETE provided the solution to help us develop a match."



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