repointing brick steps

The mortar in brick walls can become affected by the action of wind and rain. lt may become loose and crumbling or be worn down below the level of the brickwork. Repointing brick is then called for. Repointing brick consists of applying new mortar on top of the old to bring it to the correct level. It is not a difficult job, and requires only a few specialist tools, but if you are going to tackle any high places, get a good strong ladder or a scaffold tower. You will also need: an old chisel or screwdriver for raking out loose or crumbling material, and perhaps a hammer to help dislodge difficult pieces; a hawk, which you can buy from a builders’ merchant, or make yourself from a small square piece of board and a short length of dowel or broom handle; a small pointing trowel; a straight-edge; an old painting brush; a bucket; and a ‘frenchman’, which you can fashion from an old kitchen knife sharpened to a point and bent at right angles at the end.

brick repointing stepsWork on a small area of the wall at a time: you will probably find a square metre (10 sq. ft) about the right size. Begin by raking out the old mortar to a depth of 13 mm, then brush out any loose material. Use the brush to wet the brickwork thoroughly with water from the bucket, so that it will not draw out the moisture from the new mortar. The mortar should consist of 1 part cement to 4 of sharp sand, and be mixed to a stiff consistency. Place some mortar on the hawk, and smooth it into a pat. Holding the hawk close to the wall, pick up some mortar on the back of the trowel and push the trowel forwards, tilting the front of the hawk upwards at the same time so that the mortar is lifted clear. Point the vertical joints. First, holding the trowel at a slight angle to press the mortar well into the joints. Using the frenchman with the straight edge, chop off the thick surplus at the outside of each joint when a section of verticals is finished.

Next of repointing brick, point the horizontal joints. Use a similar technique to till each one roughly, then draw the trowel across it to form a smooth continuous band of mortar. Cut off the thick surplus at the bottom with the frenchman. The horizontal joints must be formed so that rainwater will not lodge in them; there are several ways to do this.  Cracks are wide, a sand-and-cement mix would be better and more economical. Small packs of ready-mixed mortar to which you merely add water are available for such repairs. If you mix the mortar yourself, use 1 part cement to 3 of sharp sand. Clean out the crack with the point of a trowel or filling knife, and remove loose material. Then push home the filler – in more than one application if the crack is big – and smooth it off flush with the surrounding surface.

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