repairing stone walls

I'd like to spruce up the ol' homestead, mainly the outside exposed foundation of the house. It was built in the late 1870's and the foundation is made of huge rocks and stones. Some of the mortar/cement has broken away from the stones leaving huge gaps in the wall....some as deep and wide as 3". The local Home Depot style store suggested I use one of their ''ready to use/just add water'' products...
1) Sand Mix, contains dry concrete sand and portland cement or 2) Mortar Mix which contains dry brick sand and masonry cement.
Would this be a good fix? Any suggestions or help would be appreciated.
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I'd consult a local stone mason familiar with that type of construction. Especially if the home has any particular historic value as the wrong stuff could have a major impact on the value.
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Using modern materials like this to repair historic construction may well get you into trouble. The new work may be much stronger than the old and over time damage the wall. As suggested find a local mason who understands restoration.
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Joseph E. Meehan

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Thanks for the speedy replies! This house is classified as a ''Century Home'', but has no real significant historical value, besides, the previous owner has added on two additions in the past 60 years.
Here's a link to some pictures. http://f2.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/yellowhatman2001/album?.dir=/cc8b
Also, there have been several similar repairs done to the foundation by the previous owner that have stood the test of time....he has since past away so I can't ask him what he used. Consulting a stone mason is probably my best option. Thanks again!

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Besides what has been mentioned dirt has bonded in there over the years , you need to get to solid material and best is a mild acid wash before new cement of the proper mix
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To answer the question. You can use either but buy a bag of the same type of cement to enrich the mixture you use. The premixed stuff in the bag is always a bit weak on the cement. The cement adds "stickiness" to the mortar and makes this type of project easier to do. I generally add about 10-12% extra cement to a bag of concrete or mortar mix for general work and twice that amount for stucco type applications.
You are never going to match the color or inferior quality of the old lime base mortars and I would never waste my time trying. If you had a certified historical structure you might consider trying to find someone to do this for you. You picture tells me this is not the case or the damage has already been done.
I am not a mason. This is just what I have learned over thirty years of home repair.
Colbyt
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Thanks Colbyt for the response. Some of the old lime mortar has gotten crumbly and fallen out, I just want to patch up those spots. The house isn't historical, but it does have a 'Century Home' designation. Thanks once again for sharing your knowledge!

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BigManRestless wrote:

I have a similar project coming up ...

I concur that consulting a mason would be almost imperative. Although preservation concerns are one reason (the fix should be in keeping with the overall character of the structure), structural reasons are another. Separation of 3" or more indicates settling problems (I don't think that would have been filled with mortar originally), and just filling them in may do more damage in the long run, as a cracking wall is no longer supporting itself along the entire length. You may need parts completely rebuilt, and you may also need to solve a drainage problem.
Also, to get an idea of what considerations are important, read this Technical Preservation Brief from the government: http://www2.cr.nps.gov/tps/briefs/brief02.htm
Note especially the section on permeability. A class of mortar called "Type K" is sometimes recommended for pre-1880 stone wall restoration; it's hard to find these days, but should be able to order it even at the big box stores. It's no longer used for general construction. You might also consider types N and O. Again, a mason should be able to help you decide, even if you ultimately do some or all of the work yourself.
http://www.masonrymagazine.com/6-04/repointing.html http://www.imiweb.org/imihome.htm http://www.cr.nps.gov/hps/tps/tax/rhb/masonry01.htm http://www.mc2-ice.com/popular_conversion/popular_conversion_files/masonry/mortar.htm http://www.maconline.org/tech/maintenance/point1/point1.html http://www.heritagebc.ca/yoh_masonry.htm
There's also an industry niche serving restoration: http://www.jahnmortars.com /
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Excellent articles!! Thanks Dan!!

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