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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello Folks..... New to this forum and recently retired from my 37 year "formal" job. Now will start my next career......home projects.

I have a rather long "decorative" brick wall which steps down in several places, and appears to be in good shape "except" for some of the top brick joints. The brick appears to be fine; it's the concrete between the brick that is breaking down. There are a few loose brick, and the joint concrete has fallen out in places. In other places the concrete in the joints is just disappearing. I bought a bag of hydraulic cement thinking that it being so fine I could patch holds and not make too much of a mess. I haven’t had the courage to try it, and would like some input from you before I start.

What can you folks tell me about the best way to fix the concrete between the brick?
AND if repair would leave the wall looking like a patchwork quilt, is putting a new “cap” on the wall an option? I think something like a thin flat rock might be attractive?

The top brick joints in this wall are 85% solid and in fine shape, it’s the other 15% that needs to be treated and repaired. A neighbor mentioned that I should fix the wall and then “seal” the brick and concrete.

Is sealing a good thing and what would I use for that?

Thanks in advance for any and all help with this……….Bob T.
 

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All cement is hydraulic. Do you mean something that is specifically used for patching underwater, like stop-leak or waterstop? BTW, concrete is generally considered to have a larger aggregate than what is used to lay brick. That material is called "mortar". I am not nit-picking, to have a discussion about it, we have to make sure we are talking about the same thing.

To answer your questions in brief, you should remove the loose/failing mortar, then repair it with mortar, not a patching compound. After you have your joints repaired, you can then seal the brick and mortar with a penetrating sealer such as Prime-a-pell 200.

Also, assuming your mortar is just normal gray, you will probably have to smear dirt on the joints after they cure (and before they are sealed) to achieve any sort of color match. Pics always help.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Tscarborough - Not a problem on the "nip-picking" - We're talking about the same thing I'm just not using the correct terms and you are. I want the best info I can get and will try to describe what I have a little better.

YES - what I now have purchased is labeled "hydraulic" or underwater type stuff. It is dark gray and very fine, and just a small bag which I was going to try a test fix behind some deck stairs where it wouldn't show. I really don't want to use that because of the color, but some of the cracks are very small and to fill them in-place I figured I would need something very fine, so that is what I picked up.


I would rather do it the right way and will use your guidance.

What my wall is put together with is the same stuff/consistency as the brick on the house. It is not a concrete mix like what you would pour a foundation with, but a "cement, sand, and water type mixture," or mortar.

Please correct me if I'm wrong....I was going to try and fix these places without removing any existing mortar and that is where I now think I would have gone wrong.

I think you are telling me to knock out all the mortar where it needs to be repaired, and then replace with new mortar. This actually would make it much easier to use a thicker mixture than the hydraulic under water patch, as there would be room to work in the mortar.

I would be happy to supply pictures but I don't have a web address setup for that. Can I send them straight to you on a PM from this board?

I think you will have me on the right track in no time.
Now you have made me think of a couple other questions:
1. What tools are best used to remove mortar?
2. Will this sealer keep water out of noticeable cracks?

Thanks for the help and quick reply.....Bob T.
 

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You only need to remove old mortar that is loose or cracked.

You will have to remove, either by grinding or some other method, at least the width of the joints to repair them. That is, for a standard 3/8" joint, you will want at least 3/8" of new mortar. As a rule, on a freestanding wall, the critical joints are those on the top of the wall and down the face a foot or 2. I am sure those are also the ones that are the most in need of work.

The appropriate sealers will not bridge gaps.

The type of repair material you bought works by having a very small amount of expansion as it (rapidly) cures. This locks in the patch, but can cause other issues besides color when used in this application.

You should be able to post pictures here, provided they are less than 100 K in size. Scroll down when you are replying and use the "manage attachments" button to do so.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Pictures

Tscarborough - I have very little problems on the vertical side of the wall, most all is right on top. I am going to try to attach 3 or 4 pictures that are typical of all the problems that I have with this wall.

I will attach one picture of the only vertical problem I could find. I'll assume the file names will come over with the pictures so you'll know which one is the vertical, the rest are all on top.

Please give me your opinion of the one long skinny picture of just a crack. I feel that water can get into this crack and freeze. Over time won't this break apart the joint? BUT the wall is 20 years old and I think is in pretty good shape, so maybe the crack isn't causing a problem.

But I need to get it back in tip top shape, so more damage will be avoided, and then seal it. Wouldn't you agree?

Thanks again for your help, advice, and direction......Bob T
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
Tscarborough - I guess the file name does not come over with the pictures. BUT If the pictures come across the way I am looking at them, then the vertical picture is the second one down from the top.

Again - Thanks for your help.....Bob
 

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Let me digest those pictures, because they do not really make sense for what I thought we were talking about.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
No problem......

OK - Thanks - I have two walls on either side of my driveway where there are repairs needed. Maybe a shot of one of the walls will help. It is a little blurry, but will show you what I have and how it is constructed....Bob
 

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That makes more sense. The face cut off of the brick is what threw me. That is a poor way to finish the corner, and maybe you can correct that while you repair the wall.
 

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Sorry it took so long, but I wanted to wait until I had time to answer.

The hard part is going to be removing the bad joints. A diamond blade for a 4" angle grinder is your best bet, and should only cost 20 or 30 bucks. Remove all of the loose brick, then grind the cracked joints (given the time, I would just grind all of the joints in the cap, if for no other reason than the mortar will all match) to a depth of 3/8".

Reset the loose brick, then re-grout (called "tucking" or "pointing" if you want to research it) the joints. To do so, you will want to use a grout bag(1) to place the fresh mortar. Cut the tip of the grout bag to a 3/8 or 1.2 opening. Run a bead of mortar in the joints that is more than will be required, and try not to get too much on the face of the brick, but if you do, LEAVE IT ALONE(2)!

The amount you can place at one time is variable due to temperature and skill, but will probably be 3 or 4 bags full (note that about 2-3 pounds is a bag full). Once the placed mortar has lost it's sheen and is slightly crumbly to the touch (usually 20-40 minutes), then you will take a jointer and tool the joints. A jointer is a tool that shapes the final joint to a slightly concave profile. For a 3/8" joint, buy one that is 5/8 on one end and 3/4 on the other. Run the jointer down the joints, bed joints (the long ones) first, then head joints (the short ones). At edges, always move the jointer from the edge into the body of the wall. Work the jointer hard, as what you are trying to to is to compress the mortar into the joint and flush the edges with the brick. Use mortar you have knocked off with the jointer to fill any voids. Use a water paint brush to clean excess mortar at this point, but do not worry about getting it clean.



After you have the joints tooled to a concave profile, let them sit for another 30 minutes or so, then use a wire brush to clean the faces. If the wire brush leaves marks in the joints, wait some more.



(1)Oddly enough, you will want to make your mortar drier than you would think. Mix it dry, to the point where you can pile it up about 6 inches high. Put some in the bag, squeeze out the air, twist the big end closed and see if it will squirt out. If it is too dry it will not, but if it is too wet, it will squirt a small amount and then stop. Aim for the middle ground, and remember that you can always add water to the mix, but you can not remove it.

(2)Any spillages or overages, just leave alone. If you attempt to remove/clean them while fresh, you will smear the mortar into the brick and it will not come off. Wait until the next step to take care of the mess.

Tools:
Grout bag:

Jointer:

Water brush:



I will see if I can find a diagram to show you how to make the corner the right way if you are interested, but it will involve removing about 6-8 brick and cutting them. I would probably pass on that, personally.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Quick reply

I can't believe how fast you are answering this post and THANKS for the great information and guidance. I have cut and pasted your replies into a word doc and will compile them for the project. I really appreciate the direction and insight you have given me, as I would have bulled ahead and tried what I thought was best to fix these places, and now it’s obvious I would not have done it correctly.

I would like to see, if you still have some time to answer this post, what would be involved in making the corners right. About 4 or 5 of the “half brick pieces” on the ends/corners have come loose, and some are broken and need to be replaced anyway. I don’t think I have any whole brick that is loose. I may pass on doing it if it looks like more than I can handle, but I do like to have things built correctly, and I will research the "tucking or pointing" process.

I have a little experience with cutting concrete. I used a diamond blade and a circular saw to cut a basement floor for 50 feet, in preparation for some jack hammer work. It wasn't what I'd call easy, but it was doable. Do you think the circular saw would work for the mortar removal? I don't have an angle grinder, BUT I can purchase one if needed. I can justify new tools by doing this work myself, and I'm thinking this mortar will grind out a bit easier than the concrete floor.

If you remember I mentioned I just recently retired, so I can do this project most anytime of the year. I'm thinking spring would be a good time, before it gets too hot. What part of the year would you recommend?

This is great…..I’m going to re-read over what you have posted so far and will more than likely end up with some more questions.

OH – got a question already…. What do I buy for mortar material? Is there any “premixed” stuff that I can purchase or is it just plain “cement sand and water?”

Thanks again for your help and quick response………Bob
 

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You can not control the skill saw well enough to use for cutting joints. An angle grinder at harbor frieght is less than 20 bucks, even though you might have to throw it away at the end of the project.

If you can afford it, buy a 4" grinder and a blade made for tuckpointing, as well as a small fan to blow the dust away from you as you cut. A tuckpointing blade will be 1/4" or 5/16", but will cost closer to a hundred bucks. The standard diamond 4" blade is 3/16", which means more cutting.

Premixed mortar is fine.

So long as it is 35 degrees and rising, the time of year doesn't matter.

Unless you have some of the same brick, you will not be able to re-do the corners correctly, but here is an example of how it could be done:



This is not the best way, but it is close, and gives you an idea.
 

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I'm giving Tscarborough a gold star for his posts to this thread. I really appreciate pros like Tscarborough who are willing to help out DIYers.:thumbup:
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
DITTO on that!

DITTO on that jogr....... He has helped me to no end! I love doing home projects myself, and wouldn't have been able to do a lot of them without folks like Tscarborough.

I'm still going to use him as long as he'll talk to me. I have more questions coming at him soon. Hope patience is his long suit!

I certainly appreciate other folks, like you, recognizing folks like Tscarborough. THANKS!
 

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I’m looking to build an extension on the side of my house

Okay friends, I’m looking to build an extension on the side of my house but I have no real idea where to start or the costs involved in planning permission and what not? What’s the first step and how much does it cost up to where the council tell you if you have been granted permission or not? Have you got any idea about planning and building my extension?
 

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Here is a rather long explanation of what's at play with brick walls. Altghough it was aimed at a post where bricks were spalling, parts of it apply to your case. especially the part about mortars.

First, can I suggest we understand the nature of the beast.
Bricks are made from clay. Not all clays are the same, mixed in with the clay are all types of salts and minerals, similarly, all sands used in the mortars are not the same, again sands near a beach for example are full of salt.

When clay is fired in a kiln, it changes properties permanently and becomes hard, the clay technically cannot revert to its former plastic state. The degree of firing and temperature determines how hard the brick becomes. There are poorly fired bricks called "dough boys" which are terra-cotta coloured and extremely hard bricks which have had manganese added called dark manganese bricks. These represent the two extremes. All bricks are porous, the lighter the colour, the more porous and hygroscopic (absorb moisture) they become. Early bricks tended to be under fired.

When mortar is mixed, it too becomes hard. It too is porous and hygroscopic.
Simple science is at work in a brick wall. Sources of dampness like water around foundations, water from rain against the wall, or even damp air, start the process of hygroscopic osmosis. The virgin bricks absorb this moisture from the source, and continue to absorb water till a balance of water content matches the water source externally to the brick or the brick becomes saturated. When the surface dries out, water is pumped (drawn) from the source, through the brick and out through the surface. Osmosis means the salt in high concentrations in the brick and mortar, dissolves in the moisture to equalise the concentration, and is subsequently carried to the brick surface.

As the water evaporates, the salt is left behind, just below the surface and on the surface. (That’s the white coating you see). Salt crystals form, and clump together and grow in size. This growing force is enough to spall the surface of the brick, hence the brick dust. The process continues forever till there's hardly any brick left while there is a source of water. (See older buildings and how many bricks are hollowed out.)

The key is to stop the water rising into the brick. Hence you need a damp-proof course or moisture barrier near the base of the wall and in two courses just above ground level and weep holes to let excess water out. Rain and dampness are on the outside of the surface and have a limited effect, compared to foundation water, because the pumping cycle is ground, up through brick to air, not the other way round, unless the ground bricks dry out and cycle reverses.

Another source, especially in basements is water bearing soil against the brick wall. This is more severe as the water is drawn from the outside directly through the brick and spalling on the inside surface. You need to tank the outside surface, by a waterproof membrane or bituminized tar layer, and provide drainage pipes at the base of scoria backfill.

The whole plan of attack, is to stop water getting into the brick. It may pay to call in a waterproofing expert, to see what needs to be done. The advice may not cost much, but the prevention measures will. It's an expense you have to make, because nothing else will stop the spalling cycle.

To assist you, here is a good description of different mortars in the following link that you should use to patch up the joints. (Note this is cosmetic and doesn't solve the problem for more than a few years.)
www.abcbricksales.com.au/howtomortar.pdf or www.concrete.net.au/publications/pdf/mortarmixes1.pdf
Cheers, hope you weren't bored to death, from Joe in Oz
 
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