Repointing exterior walls of a home

The brickwork in our otherwise well-built (in 1949) home has many areas of missing mortar, many areas of cracked, uneven brick-lines and many (ugly) areas where a previous owner appears to have done a half-assed job addressing those problems.

Have you had major repointing work done to your home? Was it “expensive?” Did it look alright when finished?

Are there any alternatives I should be considering?

Moving to IMHO from General Questions.

samclem, moderator

I’m not a roofer, but I’ve done a few roofs in my time … sometimes this involves fixing and/or replacing the chimney flashing … it doesn’t take that much time and a bag of mortar mix isn’t too terribly expensive … if I remember correctly I would only change an extra hundred or so and just tuckpoint the whole damn chimney while I was at it … now that’s a very small area to work so scaling up is going to get into some fairly serious money, if there’s a bunch of lose and broken existing mortar …

I didn’t find the work very difficult, with a quick learning curve … if you’re at all handy I would suggest trying to do this yourself on some back corner or other out-of-the-way place and see if this is doable … the new mortar will be obvious for a few years after but eventually it will blend in well enough … and keep a bucket of water nearby with sponges and brushes to clean off the brick faces, just so it doesn’t end up looking like an amateurish job …

If it’s just a few isolated areas it may not cost too much. If it’s entire walls, and yours may need to be redone if their old enough or old repairs were poorly done, you’re getting into fairly big project. A contractor will want to put in scaffolding, they’ll use a grinder to take out the old mortar so that will speed it up some. If you want it to look right you probably need to redo all the brickwork. I don’t know what contractors would charge for something like that these days though, but there should be a rough cost formula based on square footage.

My church, which is over 175 years old, needed some repointing work ( among other repairs) a few years ago. IIRC, it was a very minor line item on the list, probably under $500. it is rather specialized work and in this case required scaffolding.

I’m in the planning stage of such a project myself. One important factor to consider: Is the brick a component of the house superstructure (structural support), or merely a veneer (siding)?
Uneven courses and stair stepping of the brick is usually due to a failure in the footer that supports the brick. That is what I’m dealing with. Unfortunately, the brick is a component of the support of my home, and that equates to more bucks in repair than if it were simply veneer.

Either way: Anyone can quickly and (sort of) cheaply smear mortar into a failing brick wall, otherwise known as tuck pointing.

The issue to consider is whether the failure is due to the old mortar (that normally lasts over 100 years) “wearing out” and simply needs to be “refreshed” by tuck pointing, OR has the foundation (footer) that supports the brick failed (evidenced by long joint cracks and stair stepping) upon which no amount of tuck pointing will fix. If the later is the case, be prepared for major wall reconstruction, not tuck pointing.

Uhh… Why?

Hey… yeah!

Not a tough job to do but depending on the home the ladders/scaffolding rental and annoyance can get up there. It can also be a little tedious if you want to do it well/right so allow yourself time.

If you decide to call in a professional, make it a real professional with real experience and real insurance. A friend tried one of those “want ads handy man” types who then decided to fall of a ladder. My buddy basically won in the end but it wasn’t pretty or fun.

I’ve tuck pointed a few areas of my house’s brickwork.

Removing any loose mortar is very important. I used a old chisel, screwdriver, and hammer. Wear googles.

Here’s a DIY video. This is an ideal homeowner project. It is a bit tedious but who wants to pay somebody $30 or more an hour to do it?

I wish this video had been available before I did my house. There’s some excellent tips here. Especially his comments about selecting mortar.

btw the tools he mentions aren’t expensive. I remember buying the trowel, pointer tool, hawk, and brush. They’re stored in my workshop. I’ve loaned them to relatives that needed to fix their old brick. I’m pretty sure everything got returned. :wink:

I had to learn from a Time Life DIY book 25 years ago.

Videos make it so much easier today.

Wouldn’t happen to be a big hardcover oblong yellow book would it?

Those older books are fantastic, it seems as if they actually gave you all the information needed to fix everything! Can’t find good DIY books much anymore (please do correct me, if you have any suggestions). I prefer books, there are typically not any details left out, sometimes the online videos forget stuff. Check out how many silly videos there are for wiring outlets that don’t state “black to brass, silver to white” or forget to tell you to turn off your breakers, or the ones for changing car oil, which fails to tell you to look up your oil filter or type of oil (i’m talking YouTube here). Books always have that information/suggestions.


For OP; Almost all masonry tools can be had at Harbor Freight… its one of the few things I’ll get from there, since after a big job, you can pretty much throw them away and buy new ones later… they are so cheap. Probably $25 bucks for everything you need