Inventor, artist, restorer changes
industry, supports non-profits
Overhearing a debate at a seminar for the brick industry spurred Tom Sourlis to sketch out a simple solution and launch an innovative idea.
“The discussion between two engineers got kind of heated. One of them had field experience and the other was educated, but spent time mostly behind a desk. They were discussing how to lay brick to prevent mortar droppings from plugging up cavity walls,” Sourlis said. “I thought, ‘What if you had something at the bottom of the wall that collected at two different levels?’ This had been a decades-long problem, which led to leaks in many brick buildings. I drew a sketch really quickly and threw it in my folder.
“I have lots of ideas and I am in love with every one of them … I felt if it was that obvious, somebody must have already done it,” he said.
After contacting a patent attorney, Sourlis took the necessary steps to bring his invention to market. His product, Mortar Net, is now found in thousands of masonry buildings and in more than 4,000 specifications on cavity wall construction in North America. It prevents mortar droppings from clogging weep holes designed to permit water to exit building walls. Since its inception, its use is considered the best practice by architects and contractors throughout North America.
Before creating Mortar Net Solutions, an environmentally committed company, Sourlis’ background was in masonry restoration and the family business. He took over his father’s tuck-pointing company in Gary in 1972, and later became an integral component of Chicago’s historic restoration industry with Sourlis Masonry Restoration Inc. He worked on historically significant projects such as the Glessner House, the Rookery, renowned churches including Old St. Patrick’s and Holy Family, Frank Lloyd Wright structures and the landmark Chicago Water Tower.
“I am so proud to be associated with bringing back the Water Tower to its original condition and to have restored the joint work throughout the building,” he said. “Even today, when I go by it, I smile.”
Sourlis’ success with Mortar Net Solutions has allowed him the freedom to assist region non-profits and foundations, including the Nazareth Home, TradeWinds, the Crisis Center, Parents as Teachers, Planned Parenthood, the Crossroads Fund, the Porter County Community Foundation and the Legacy Foundation.
“My parents were working people. They always helped out others and it was just part of their thinking. If you can help someone out, why wouldn’t you?” he said.
Today, Sourlis is tiptoeing into retirement, spending one or two days a week at Mortar Net Solutions, but not at the helm.
“I love creating art and fishing. They are my two pastimes. I’m also passionate about gardening and am living the dream right now, free to do as much as I want, but still go back to work a little,” he said.
He has always enjoyed painting, weaving and flat glasswork and has been making stained glass lampshades and fused pieces since 1974. He has a lifelong interest in the game of rugby, playing at all levels in Cuba, Brazil, England, Japan, Mexico, the Bahamas and throughout the U.S. and Canada. He is now coaching at the University of Chicago.
Sourlis has been named to the Times Business Hall of Fame in 2013, the Society of Innovators of Northwest Indiana in 2010 and as patron of the year by the South Shore Arts in 2011. He received an AFP Individual Philanthropist Award and Parents as Teachers Donor Recognition Award in 2009 as well as a LEAF Environmental Justice Award in 2011.
He is married to award-winning folklorist, educator, mother and philanthropist Susan Eleuterio, and they have raised four children together: Colin, Sarah, Patrick and Joseph.
Mortar Net Solutions
326 Melton Road in Burns Harbor