It would be problematic to use Portland cement mortars to repair older buildings originally constructed using lime mortar. Lime mortar is softer than cement mortar, allowing brickwork a certain degree of flexibility to adapt to shifting ground or other changing conditions. Cement mortar is harder and allows little flexibility. The contrast can cause brickwork to crack where the two mortars are present in a single wall.
Lime mortar is considered breathable in that it will allow moisture to freely move through and evaporate from the surface. In old buildings with walls that shift over time, cracks can be found which allow rain water into the structure. The lime mortar allows this moisture to escape through evaporation and keeps the wall dry. Re−pointing or rendering an old wall with cement mortar stops the evaporation and can cause problems associated with moisture behind the cement.