Repointing wall: How to Repoint Brick (Project Summary)

How to Repoint Brick (Project Summary)


Brick houses are hard to damage. Anyone familiar with The Three Little Pigs knows that. Inevitably, however, there comes a time when the mortar between bricks begins to degrade. The process of repair, known as repointing, is pretty easy (if a bit time consuming). Undoubtedly, it’s a smart thing to do. That’s because crumbling mortar, if not fixed, allows water to seep in between the bricks, causing them to swell and crack and become generally blow-downable.

Here’s how to keep your brick walls standing tall.

Step 1: Remove The Old Mortar

Repointing is all about out with the old and in with the new—and working in small sections. You don’t want to remove all of the old mortar from a wall at once, because you may weaken its integrity. So, working along the wall in an area about three- to five-feet wide, remove the old mortar from both the horizontal and vertical joints.

To ensure you don’t damage the bricks, you can use a cold chisel or handheld grout saw to tap it out. You can also use another hand tool known as a joint raker. If you’re confident in your abilities, you can use a 4-inch angle grinder, but be careful not to cut into the brick.

You’ll want to remove the mortar to a depth of about 1/2 inch. Use a whisk broom, wire brush or hose to remove all the dust and wear a respirator to keep debris out of your lungs.


Step 2: Wet The Wall

Give your brick wall a good soaking with a hose and let it sit overnight. This will ensure that the bricks and old mortar are hydrated and that they don’t suck the water out of the new mortar you’ll place between them the next day. When you are ready to put in the new mortar, lightly spritz the bricks one more time before beginning.

Step 3: Mix The New Mortar

If your house is less than 50 years old, you will likely be safe using standard portland cement mortar to refill the spaces between your bricks.

If your abode is older than that however, you’ll want to use a different mix, consisting of lime and sand. This is what was originally used in brickwork and it’s best to use the same mix as a replacement. That’s because portland cement mortar is very hard when it dries and can cause older bricks to crack. The lime mix acts almost like disks between vertebrae in the spine: it cushions the brick and moves along with the wall as it flexes.

If you want to be sure you’re using the correct mortar replacement, you can check with a mason specializing in restoration work, or you can send a sample to be analyzed to a company like LimeWorks. Otherwise, a general rule of thumb is to make a mortar mix from 6 parts fine white sand, 2 parts lime and 1 part white portland cement.

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No matter the mortar mix you use, be sure to make it in small batches as it hardens quickly. Place the ingredients in a wheelbarrow and mix to a frosting-like consistency whereby the mortar holds its peaks when you draw it upwards with a trowel.

Tip: Mortar sets up best in temperatures between 50 and 80 degrees, so you might want to do this project in the cooler months of the year.

6″ Pointing Trowel. Photo:

Step 4: Insert The New Mortar

Pick up some mortar on a large trowel and then, using a pointing trowel, work smaller amounts into the horizontal and vertical gaps between the bricks. You might find it easier to fill the vertical joints with a tool known as a margin trowel. Use the flat edge of the trowel to even out your work and scrape off any mortar you get on the face of the bricks.

Step 5: Clean Up

Wait about an hour until the mortar has hardened a bit, then scrape off any mortar that’s remained on the brick face. You can do this with a sturdy wire brush, but be sure to use a horizontal sweeping motion so as to not pull the new mortar out of the joints. For the next three to four days, give the wall a daily misting to allow the mortar to dry slowly and not crack.

All in all, it’s a tedious, detailed job and you may find yourself huffing and puffing during it, but you’ll soon be satisfied that nobody and nothing will be blowing your brick house down anytime soon.

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Repointing Brick – The Mason You Hire Can Destroy Your House

Repointing brick needed before water enters.

Repointing brick or stone is not as simple as it sounds. Masonry repair work can not only damage but destroy old homes, unless you are an informed consumer and know what to ask. You the homeowner are responsible for protecting your home.

Repointing brick or stone on OLD HOMES performed by most professional masons, or homeowners instructed by brick manufacturers on repointing brick, will result in the destruction of your house!

Read on – this is extremely important. Let the buyer beware!

Most of the best and well known masons out there may do a great job building a NEW brick wall, but you should use extreme caution when hiring them if you own an old home. When working with new brick, there is no problem, only the old brick and here’s why.

This pertains to homes build in the early 1900’s and earlier. Modern brick is fired differently and is therefore harder.

Your home may have wood shingles, but don’t forget about chimneys and foundation walls constructed with brick or stone. As time passes, the masonry on old homes eventually needs repair. The mortar holding the bricks or stone deteriorates. Cracks then form, allowing water to enter. If neglected, the freeze and thaw cycle will cause the bricks or stone to fall out and hit you on the head.

What do you do to prevent this? Repoint the mortar.

Repointing brick or stone is a process where about 1 inch of mortar is removed and replaced with new mortar. This is a very common practice and all masons do this. The problem lies in their knowledge of what type of mortar to use. Using the wrong type will cause irreversible damage.

Mortar used today is very strong and hard because it contains a large amount of Portland Cement. Portland Cement is good for certain applications, but it is not a fix-all as masons and building supply stores believe. Portland cement is not bad, it just must be used in the mortar mixture in a lower percentage when working with certain materials.

1.   The important thing to know is the mortar MUST be softer (in compression strength) than the brick or stone it surrounds and have greater vapor permeability.

2.   It must also be softer than the mortar it is replacing when repointing brick or stone. This is accomplished by using less Portland Cement and more Lime and Sand.

Moisture within a wall needs to escape and evaporate. Mortar that is too hard will force the moisture to escape through the softer brick or stone. This will result in permanent damage such as cracking and spalling.

Repointing brick with strong hard mortar does not make a solid structure. Your brick is damaged beyond repair.

This is a photo of damage caused to bricks from using the wrong type of mortar. The same problem occurs with stone.

Photo courtesy of Old House Journal. Here is a link to their article: “The Lowdown on Historic Mortar”