DIY Chatroom Home Improvement Forum

DIY Chatroom Home Improvement Forum (
-   Building & Construction (
-   -   Brick steps failing (

sk8z 02-25-2008 03:55 PM

Brick steps failing
When our house was built back in 2004, instead of plain 'ole concrete steps leading up to the front porch I had him build steps from the same brick that the house has on it. 3 steps total. I noticed last summer that the mortar between the bricks, especially on the horizontal surfaces, was flaking and chipping away. A couple to the point where it looked like they might come loose. Someone told me that they may not have been sealed properly and water was penetrating and loosening the mortar. Someone else told me I should have never had steps made of brick since they'll never hold up in a horizontal application like that. Ignoring person #2, I went and bought some masonry sealer and applied (this works fine as water appears to bead up on the steps now instead of penetrating). Before that however I made what I thought was a repair to it. The job I did however is a complete embarrassment. I know nothing about masonry work so I just bought this caulk-like crap in a tube for $6.50 from Home Depot. It was supposed to be for mortar repair. Sounded easy, and was easy to apply. Unfortunately, it never looked good from the get go. Didn't match the existing mortar at all, and just appeared to "sit" on the surface of the existing mortar, not really adhearing to anything. I just noticed the other day that all this junk I applied last summer is peeling off like an old band-aid, as if it never stuck in the first place. And the old, existing mortar underneath is continuing to flake away. Not sure what to do come Spring (other than peeling the crap I put on off), but I would like to save these steps. Will regular mortar mix work, or do I need something else due to the horizonal application involved here?

redline 02-25-2008 04:51 PM

Did you throughly clean out the bad joints before you made any repair?

Bondo 02-25-2008 07:41 PM


or do I need something else due to the horizonal application involved here?

I would think that something like digging out the joints,+ regrouting it like a tile floor would work.......

Tscarborough 02-25-2008 09:41 PM

Several things. First, the steps should have been pitched to shed water. That won't help with snow and ice, though. Second the HD crap in a tube is no good, and won't stick once you have sealed the steps.

Your best bet is to use an angle grinder to remove the bad joints, then fill the joints with a high lime mortar. Use one bag of porttland, one bag of lime and 3 parts sand. This will make a lot more than you need, but it is still relatively cheap. The color will not match this year, but by next year it should be fine.

Feel free to re-apply the sealer a month or so after you finish.

sk8z 02-26-2008 08:33 AM


Second the HD crap in a tube is no good, and won't stick once you have sealed the steps.
Actually I sealed the steps after making the repair. I first thoroughly cleaned the mortar joints of any loose debris using a wire brush. Then I actually vacuumed between the joints to remove any fine particles. Then I applied the crap in a tube. Stuff is just junk period. I made the mistake of trying to take the easy route since I have no experience with mixing & applying regular mortar. Applying it out of a tube like caulk sounded great at the time. Looks like it's time to learn, or hire it out. In the spring I will take your advice and apply a mixture of your recommendation. Is the high lime a more "durable" mixture? Reason I ask (and to answer Bondo's quote) is because I was told that regular mortar is meant for vertical applications (i.e. water doesn't pool on it's surface, no foot traffic, etc.). Since these are steps, the bricks and surrounding mortar are exposed to harsher wear and tear. Or is this just BS and mortar is mortar?

so-elitecrete 02-26-2008 08:55 AM

all you need do is repoint the steps,,,
grab a 4" grinder & .250 tuckpointing blade,,, cut out all the mortar,,, wash w/wtr (no acid as its type s cement),,, new brick so h/dlowe'sacehdwe mortar mix's fine for this work,,, also grab up a mortar bag ( similar to a baker's icing bag ),,, mix your mortar a little ' loose ', squeeze in the mud, then use a properly siz'd pointing tool to ' seat ' the mortar,,, concave jnts.

let it sit for a month, pressure wash, & seal w/silicone siloxane.

' crap in a tube ' you've defin'd well :-)

Tscarborough 02-26-2008 09:09 AM

The lime increases the bond strength and flexural strength. There is no different mortar used for horizontal VS vertical applications.

so-elitecrete 02-26-2008 10:38 AM

don't think,,,
we're arguing, scar,,, but we usually mix lime mortars for historical work rather'n new.

you're correct but so're we,,, we use type s rather'n types 1, 2, & 3 portland.

Tscarborough 02-26-2008 11:52 AM

Type S is a strength designation. It can be made with masonry cement, portland cement and lime or portland cement and masonry cement.

Either way works, but a portland/lime mortar is the best for almost every application. Do not use lime and masonry cement together, however.

For historical work, a lime mortar is made that may contain a very small percentage of portland cment or other gauging mortar, but you will not get a Type S strength from a lime mortar (Which is OK, since 90% of the masonry laid does not need Type S mortar; a Type N is fine, and even a Type O is sufficent for most historical repair work).

msherman51 03-28-2009 10:23 AM

Best way to clean the mortar?
I foolishly put rock salt on my brick steps in this winter's prolonged icing and the salt ate much of the mortar on the top steps. Should I wash down the remaining mortar to get rid of any salt still there, and how do I actually clean mortar off the bricks to start fresh? - Do i have to scrape it off or is there another way?

yesitsconcrete 03-28-2009 03:16 PM

rinse the steps w/ammonia:water ( 1:8 ) & rinse w/clear water,,, then don't do that no more :no: ' foolish ' does have a price :furious:

mortar on bricks can be taken off w/acid solution however, if its been on a long time such as on my house, i used a 4" grinder & .110 blade but that's our wor,,, if the salt ' ate ' the mortar to the point you'll need to tuckpoint, use a .250 blade instead.

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 04:24 AM.

vBulletin Security provided by vBSecurity v2.2.2 (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2017 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.
User Alert System provided by Advanced User Tagging (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2017 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.

Search Engine Friendly URLs by vBSEO 3.6.1