Masonry Repair: A Homeowner’s How-To Guide

Brick is a construction material that has long been valued for strength and durability. From Roman basilicas to Faneuil Hall, buildings made of brick stand the test of time. There’s a reason the wolf couldn’t blow down the third little pig’s house. But masonry has its weaknesses as well. If a homeowner is looking at crumbling brick or extensive moisture damage, a call to a professional might be in order. But if your mortar joints, the cement mixture between the bricks, are decaying, you may be able to handle the work yourself. Do-it-yourself masonry repair is easier than one might expect and can save significant expense down the road. This quick guide provides info on how to tuckpoint, a method of replacing bad mortar to preserve and prolong the structural integrity of brickwork.To start, you’ll need a few tools. For power tools, get an angle grinder with a 4-inch or 4.5-inch diamond blade, and a rotary hammer drill with a flat chisel head bit. You’ll also need a trowel and a tuck pointer, a flat blade that presses new mortar into the joints. To finish the repair, you’ll need a joint raker or similar tool to smooth and shape the wet paste. Finally, you’ll need a bag of mortar mix and a bucket to mix it in. With these in hand, you’re ready to tackle your masonry repair project.Start off by identifying the extent of the problem. A good test is to take a house key and scratch it across the joints between the brick. Solid mortar won’t crumble, but if it comes out in chunks, it needs to be replaced. Once you’ve got an idea of the scope of the project, use the angle grinder to make a horizontal cut above and below each joint. With the bad sections cut loose, use the hammer drill to work through the grooves and chisel them out of the wall. Clean out the new grooves with a stiff paintbrush.After the bad mortar has been completely removed, mix up a new batch. Mix with water according to the instructions on the bag; the final consistency should be something close to thick peanut butter. Put a glob of the paste on top of your trowel and place the trowel into the empty groove. Use the tuck pointer to tightly pack the fresh mortar into the spaces between the bricks. As you’re filling in the grooves, check to make sure the paste doesn’t harden and set. Usually, a newly masoned joint will be ready to “strike” within thirty minutes of application. Take your finishing tool and run it across the joint. Ask your hardware store’s masonry repair expert for advice on achieving any desired effect. The final step in the masonry repair project is to clean up as necessary to remove any excess mortar that dried on the brick. If a brush doesn’t cut it, try muriatic acid to finish clean straight lines on your newly repaired brick.

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