Colorado winters are amazing for a great many things: the sparkle of the seasonal lights, waking up to fresh snowfall, skiing, hanging out inside with the family. Things Colorado winters aren’t good for: brick repair and outdoor masonry. As temperatures start to fall and the weather moves in, masonry becomes difficult for reasons beyond anyone’s control. For example:
Hydration Temperatures. Remember the science experiment in grade school when you made sugar crystals in a jar? The process required you to heat up water and progressively add sugar in order to enhance the saturation point. When the water cooled crystals would form that you could eat. A similar principle applies to mixing mortar - water mixes in better when everything is warm. At about 40 degrees Fahrenheit the hydration of cement slows down to a point where even the best masons can’t even work with it.
During warmer months it only takes about 2 hours for cement to set. It can take upwards of 8 hours for cement to set when temperatures are near freezing!
Expand and contract. Most potholes are made in the winter when water settles in cracks of the asphalt and the next drop in temperature causes the ice to expand and break the road up even further. Imagine the same thing happening to your brick walls. Bricks are very porous and can absorb a lot of moisture. Repairing brick in the winter could result in bricks or mortar not being able to take on their true shape.
A rapid change in temperature while waiting for mortar to set could result in further damages to your brick. A lot of temperature fluctuation can happen in the 8 hours it takes for cement to set at freezing temperatures.
Laying brick patios and walkway in the winter can also be risky. The ground, likely saturated with water, can freeze (resulting in more expanding and contracting). In the spring, as the ground thaws, the ground under your project could erode away - taking a potentially expensive project with it.
Is brick repair in the winter impossible? Of course not. In an emergency a repair can be done, but it is advised that the repair be assessed in the summer when a more permanent solution can be implemented. In most cases the best thing homeowners can do right now is plan ahead and budget for the brick repair on their Denver home after the seasons change. Until then, enjoy your winter!