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Repointing Old Brickwork: Tips, Techniques, and Common Pitfalls

Repointing old brickwork is a vital maintenance task that can extend the life of a building and improve its aesthetic appeal. Over time, the mortar between bricks can deteriorate due to weathering, age, and environmental factors, making repointing essential for preserving the wall’s structural integrity. Here are some detailed hints, tips, and things to avoid when repointing old brickwork.

Understanding Repointing

Repointing involves removing deteriorated mortar from the joints between bricks and replacing it with new mortar. This process enhances the wall’s appearance and protects it from moisture ingress, which can cause significant damage over time.

Preparation is Key

Before starting the repointing process, it’s crucial to assess the extent of the damage. Identify areas where the mortar is crumbling, missing, or visibly damaged. You might also want to thoroughly inspect the bricks themselves, as damaged bricks will need to be replaced before repointing.

Tools and Materials Needed:

Mortar mix (preferably matching the original in composition and colour)

• Trowel
• Pointing tool
• Chisel and hammer
• Stiff brush
• Water spray bottle
• Hints and Tips for Effective Repointing

Choosing the Right Mortar Mix:

The mortar mix should be compatible with the original mortar to maintain the structural integrity and appearance of the wall. For older buildings, a lime-based mortar is often recommended as it allows the wall to breathe and is more flexible than modern cement-based mortars.

Removing Old Mortar:

Use a chisel and hammer to carefully remove the old mortar to a depth of about 15-20 mm. Avoid using power tools as they can damage the surrounding bricks. It’s important to clean out the joints thoroughly to ensure the new mortar adheres properly.

Cleaning the Joints:

After removing the old mortar, clean the joints with a stiff brush to remove any loose debris. Dampen the joints with a water spray bottle to prevent the dry bricks from absorbing moisture from the new mortar too quickly.

Applying New Mortar:

Fill the joints with the new mortar using a pointing tool. Ensure the mortar is packed tightly into the joints and smooth it out to match the existing mortar lines. Work on small sections at a time to prevent the mortar from drying out too quickly.

Finishing Touches:

Once the mortar has set slightly, use a pointing tool to shape the joints and achieve a consistent finish. Brush off any excess mortar with a soft brush before it hardens completely.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid
Using Incompatible Mortar:

One of the biggest mistakes is using a mortar mix that doesn’t match the original. Modern cement-based mortars are too rigid for older buildings and can cause the bricks to crack over time. Always opt for a compatible mix, often a lime-based one for historic structures.

Neglecting Weather Conditions:

Avoid repointing in very hot, cold, or wet conditions. Extreme temperatures can affect the mortar’s curing process, leading to poor adhesion and potential failure. Ideally, repointing should be done in mild, dry weather.

Insufficient Joint Depth:

Removing too little of the old mortar can result in a weak bond between the new mortar and the bricks. Ensure you chisel out enough of the old mortar to provide a solid base for the new application.

Overworking the Mortar:

Overworking or overwatering the mortar can weaken its structure. Mix the mortar to the right consistency and apply it carefully to avoid compromising its strength.

Maintenance and Longevity

After repointing, regular inspections are crucial to ensure the mortar remains intact and functional. Address any signs of deterioration promptly to prevent more extensive damage.

Repointing old brickwork requires careful preparation, the right materials, and attention to detail. By following these tips and avoiding common pitfalls, you can preserve the beauty and integrity of your brickwork for many years to come. Properly maintained brickwork not only enhances the appearance of your property but also ensures its structural soundness and longevity.

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About Dylan Garton

Dylan Garton is a co-founder, video producer and editor for the Skill Builder social media platforms.

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