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jl61190 03-10-2013 11:50 AM

Repointing old brick home...for dummies
Thinking spring... One of the projects towards the top of my list is repointing this old house. Some of the mortar joints appear to be in good condition, while other areas are very eroded.

The original mortar is a cream color, and when you brush it with your finger it will rub off with a sandy feeling. My extensive online searching (haha, reliable, I know) has lead me to believe that to match the current mortar I will need to use hydraulic lime mortar. From what I understand; I cannot use modern mortars that contain portland cement, because this will cause the brick to crack.

So where does one find this Hydraulic Lime Mortar? The only source I can seem to find is Saint Astier I'm located in WI, between La Crosse and Madison. Does anyone have any near by recommendations?

And pics...
One of the exterior walls is currently inside an addition, the mortar on this wall had very little exposure in the last 20 years
Second story mortar joints, note previous owner "repairs"
Large area of mortar erosion

And a quick disclaimer; I know this would probably be better left to a pro. Funds to hire out are slim, but what I do have is my own young dumb labor, time, and the understanding that if I screw this up it's on me :yes:...

stadry 03-10-2013 12:42 PM

1st off, a good man can clean & repoint about 120sf day working off scaffolding w/mortar bag & pointing tools,,, mortarboard work is much slower,,, since the arrival of the arbortech, jnt cleaning has increased greatly but it still depends on how much repointing can be done in a day,,, for estimating, we figure 2 repointers for ea arbortech

tscar & concretemasonry ( dick really is his name ) will see this & add their $ 75.00 worth so pay attn to their wisdom - its priceless & they post it freely :thumbup:

tony.g 03-10-2013 05:47 PM

1 Attachment(s)
You're right not to use OPC-based mortar for pointing old brickwork like that.
Portland cement mortars shrink and can crack old soft bricks - see attached photo of a garden wall built of reclaimed hand-made brick in OPC mortar.

As a matter of interest, 1. how old is the house?; 2. assuming the brickwork is a veneer,is the inner skin brick also or timber?


joecaption 03-10-2013 08:42 PM

Look in the yellow pages under concrete.
Most real concete supply companys will now what your talking about.
If you can get a chip out and take it with you they may be able to also color match it.
Looks like what's called Buff.

jl61190 03-10-2013 09:25 PM


Originally Posted by tony.g (Post 1134048)
You're right not to use OPC-based mortar for pointing old brickwork like that.
Portland cement mortars shrink and can crack old soft bricks - see attached photo of a garden wall built of reclaimed hand-made brick in OPC mortar.

As a matter of interest, 1. how old is the house?; 2. assuming the brickwork is a veneer,is the inner skin brick also or timber?


Thank you for your post-

I am not sure the age of the home... a wild guess... 90 years? The inner skin is timber construction.

Tscarborough 03-11-2013 11:59 AM

You have found about the only hydraulic lime available in the states, your other choice is to use a Type S double hydrated lime and make putty. In your case, it will be worth the extra money to buy the St. Astier products.

Start somewhere that is less noticeable as you will make a mess at first. I find it quicker to do the bed joints off a hawk and just bag the headjoints. Much faster and easier on the forearms.

stuart45 03-11-2013 03:16 PM

Carefull how you cut out the joints and finish off with a churn brush the next day.

dakzaag 03-13-2013 02:00 PM

There are three or four suppliers in the US, of the Lime mortar you are looking for. I know that there is one producer in Chicago, and another distributor with an office in Chicago. I can give you references if you want. You are on the right path, I think you will want to practice up on your technique in a less visible location until you get the results you want.

A Little practice and a lot of patience and it can tun out as good as new.

jl61190 03-13-2013 04:29 PM

Big thanks to all that have replied! :thumbup:

Dakzaag; If you would kindly pass on your sources I would geatly appreciate it!! The nearest I can find is Denver!

Hoping that I can figure this out... will definately start in the back of the house! I can see this project having a learning curve.

I do have another question though; From what I've read, it's important to sheild the curing mortar from direct sun/wind/rain, but also wet it several times/day during the process. I'm guessing hanging a tarp over the wall is what this means? How long does one need to do this? The house is located on a windy ridge with little-no shade if that makes a difference..

dakzaag 03-13-2013 05:08 PM

I use burlap pieces that I tack to the wall with a few nails. (nail into the mortar joints) Then you wet the burlap down a couple times each day for the first two days. I like to keep the burlap moist so I watch the fabric and wet it down just before it completely dries out. If it is hot and windy, that can be every hour. Once the sun goes down, it isn't such a big deal.

Spring time is better for this repair so the fresh mortar isn't subjected to high temps right away. Make sure the last freeze is past, cause that can negatively affect the cure as well.

I have always just misted the burlap with a pump up sprayer or a very light mist from a hose. If you hit it hard with water from a hose, it will splash through the burlap and cause streaks on the wall.

It only looks easy cause a professional knows what he is doing.:thumbup:

dakzaag 03-13-2013 05:32 PM

St. Astier distributor

Top Block & Brick Inc.
Marc Hess
84 Frentress Lake Road
East Dubuque, IL 61025
815-747-3159 (T)

Virginia Lime Distributor

Henry Frerk Sons, Inc.
3135 W. Belmont Ave.
Chicago, IL. 60618
Phone: (773) 588-0800 Ext. 111 Matt Wolfe

U S Heritage Lime Manufacturer
3512 N Kostner Ave.
Chicago, IL 60641

I mostly use Virginia Lime, but I don't think there is a huge difference between them. Virginia Lime product BL 200 is an easy product to use. I just order it straight and add local sand so your not paying to ship a bunch of sand around. The BL product line has Pozzolans added to the lime to make it a more user friendly product.

If I had to guess, a fifty pound bag of BL200 would complete your house if you are careful with it.

I would not recommend the pastry bag to a beginner, you have too many things going on at the same time and nothing will come out like you want. Just get a margin trowel, mud board and regular trowel and go to work. Don't try to do this from a ladder, it will take forever. Set up scaffold and take time to do it right.

Tscarborough 03-13-2013 08:18 PM

I just scored some flyash and picked up a line of pozzolons, so I am going to try some experiments with using both (not together) as gauging materials in Type S lime mortars this summer once it gets a little warmer.

jl61190 04-14-2013 11:17 PM

Finally ended up going to Top Block and Brick in Dubuqe to get the St Astier mortar. Very much enjoyed my trip there; the guys were very nice to work with and had a pretty neat show room. I got 3 bags of the NHL 3.5...

Now I've started cleaning out the joints and am back... with more questions of course!

I did expect this to be a long and tedious process, but I must admit, I would love to find a more efficient way to remove this stuff!! Uff-da! I've searched and so far have come up with a few different ideas:

One of those sawzall attachments for removing grout..not sure if it would last very well...

Joint Raker I found myself doing a lot of back and forth scraping with a screwdriver, this seems like the easier version of what I was doing...maybe?

The mortar is SO sandy...I've contemplated if using some sort of wire rotary brush could work?

I wouldn't feel great about using an angle grinder. I have used one before and can just see myself cutting into the brick....

So... Would any of my scheming ideas be plausible to any of you more experienced veterans?

Or do I just need to suck it up and keep chiseling away...?? :wallbash: <-- How appropriate!!

stadry 04-15-2013 02:55 AM

like those blades & will try 'em soon,,, the arbortech's a bit pricey ( $ 1K ) but does a much better job than our old method of tuckpoint diamond blade on a 4" grinder :yes:

stuart45 04-15-2013 03:10 PM

1 Attachment(s)
You can use a hammer and plugging chisel if doing it by hand. On most conservation jobs this is required to avoid any damage to the old brickwork.
Attachment 69201
The joint rakers you have seen are more for new work.

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