Spectrophotometry Ensures Consistent Mortar Coloration


Posted on September 29, 2017

It’s the same old story. Brick gets all the press, but it’s really the mortar that’s holding everything together. Which means that, for architects, contractors, homeowners, and mortar manufacturers, the color of mortar is every bit as important to the overall aesthetic of a structure as the color of brick. While few may notice or comment on a mortar color that perfectly complements the hue of a building’s brick, incorrectly colored mortar can become glaringly obvious to even the casual observer. For this reason, contractors pay close attention to the mortar color specified by architects and desired by homeowners. Manufacturers, therefore, must closely monitor their products to ensure they continually produce the mortar colors they advertise. This is especially true for manufacturers who fill special color orders from architects, mixing to the preference of their customers.

Spectrophotometers Measure Mortar Color Objectively

Manufacturers who produced inconsistently colored mortar stand to suffer reputational damage. Few architects or contractors would deem inexact coloration acceptable and as a result are less likely to risk the aesthetic appeal of their project on a manufacturer’s spotty consistency record. After all, their reputation depends on the overall aesthetic of the finished structure as well. This reputational damage can seep down into the homeowner market as well, as homeowners and other amateur bricklayers are likely to choose their mortar based on recommendations from trusted contractors or the store clerks who sell them mortar.

Fortunately, controlling the color of mortar is a relatively simple process for manufacturers. Primarily, mortar color varies based on the color and ratio of sand in the mortar mix.1 For specialty colors, dry pigments can also be added to the mix. However, the simplicity of this process does not mean that ratios can be eyeballed, nor does it diminish the importance of instrumental color measurement. The inconsistent nature of the raw materials means that each batch has the potential to come out a slightly different color. This increases the importance of active color quality control during the mixing process, as relying solely on pre-measured formulas will produce inexact results. As a result, an objective color measurement process is necessary even when producing batches of the same color material over and over. Likewise, producing mortar batches to the custom standards of architects is impossible with accurate, objective color measurement.

To ensure that each batch of mortar falls within established tolerance standards, manufacturers can rely on reflectance spectrophotometers. These instruments measure the color of opaque materials, including dry powders or liquid solutions, by analyzing light reflected off samples of the material. Samples can be measured within seconds and pass or fail results will display immediately on the instrument’s screen. This rapidity ensures that production will continue with a minimum of interruption.

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