All too often, even with the best of intentions, new and old flint structures are ruined by lack of thought or incomplete knowledge. Following a few basic steps can transform the aesthetics and strength of a structure, thereby keeping the tradition of flint working alive.
Though the prospect may appear daunting and complicated, many relatively simple repairs can be carried out by most individuals if they are prepared to expend a little time and effort. However, before undertaking any work it is important to assess the planned work correctly and if it is of major structural or historical signifance it may be important or even necessary to seek the advice of a professional or a conservation agency. Before undertaking any work it is recommended to spend a little time appraising, researching and documenting the structure. With just a small investment of time you will go a long way towards preserving the aesthetics and retaining the local distinctiveness of the structure. Damage can occur because of indifference or when the wrong repair techniques or materials have been employed. Using the correct methods and materials you are more likely to prolong the life of the structure.
Assessing the condition of a structure.
There are various flint laying styles and a variety of finishes. These can vary according to construction period, the importance of the structure, the region and specific location. Clients are not always confident about the most appropriate style to use. Generally, the answer lies in matching the style and finish to the particular location and period of the property. If you are undertaking or supervising flint work asking a few of the following questions may help: Choosing the correct flint: Is it the right colour and size? Is it a field flint, quarried, or a beach cobble? Laying style: Are the flints upright or angled? Have they been laid randomly or in courses? What size are the joints between each flint? Finish: Has it been snapped or knapped? Has it been left unworked? Is it a combination of field and snapped flint? If snapped, at what ratio to unsnapped. Pointing style: Is the finished pointing style flush finish, line pointing, snails creep, galletting or ribbon pointing?
Mortar (Sand and Binder)
As a general rule the mortar should not be allowed to dominate the aesthetic of the wall. The mortar is there to bed the flint, take up the inequalities in the shapes and weatherproof the joint. However, it is just as important to get the mortar right as the style and finish. Simple steps can be taken to match the existing mortar or identify an appropriate new one. Depending on the importance of the structure, this can be done either by basic or complex analysis in order to identify the colour, size, texture and proportion of aggregate and binder. The aggregate can be matched from either a single source or by mixing from more than one. The binder and setting agent can then be identified. The most appropriate choice will depend on the structure, the location and available finances.
Annual inspection and, if necessary, maintenance, can play an important part in extending the lifespan of a wall or structure. Prompt and appropriate action can reduce further damage and avoid increased costs. If problems have occurred, to prevent repeated damage it is important to identify the original causes. Frequent causes are: poor construction, general lack of maintenance, damage by foliage (especially ivy), above- or below-ground tree damage, soil removal or settlement. A correct assessment will recommend the most appropriate action to take.
The Flintman Company will be happy to provide consultation and technical advice on repairs and general maintenance (see the resource page).