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How to Strengthen Old Brick

Updated February 21, 2017

Brick structures are highly durable, but over time can suffer the abuse of constant exposure to fluctuating elements. The bricks themselves rarely suffer, but the mortar can begin to crumble and deteriorate. Before this problem goes to far, strengthen an old brick wall, patio or other structure by repairing the mortar. To repair the brick, remove compromised portions of mortar and fill them in with new mortar. This process is known as tuck pointing or re-pointing.

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  1. Walk around the brick structure to carefully look for areas where the mortar is crumbling, cracked, or loose. Circle those areas with white chalk.

  2. Take out the damaged layer of mortar in those spots. Use a chisel and a hammer to chip away at the mortar, or use a Dremel tool with a grout removal attachment. Brush away any residual mortar dust with hand broom or dry paintbrush.

  3. Prepare the mortar. If you wish to use a dry mix, simply add water according to the directions. To make your own mortar, mix together 3 parts of sand and 11/2 parts of cement and add water gradually until you achieve a thick, pasty consistency. Add latex binder to strengthen the mortar and deter future corrosion. Use approximately 1 cup of binder for every 1.36 Kilogram of dry mix or for every 1.36 Kilogram of sand and concrete. Grout dye is also available if you need change the mortar colour to match the existing mortar.

  4. Turn a large, square trowel upside down and put a nice pile of mortar on top. This will be convenient for holding the mortar and scooping from as you work

  5. Begin filling in the chiselled out areas. Start by dipping a paintbrush in water and dampening the area to be filled. Then force mortar into the gap with a tuck point trowel and level it off at the surface. Take care to not smear mortar onto the brick. As you work, periodically mist the newly mortared areas with water to keep them damp.

  6. Smooth down the seams. Once the mortar just starts to set-up, use a jointer tool to smooth down the mortar and create finished mortar lines. Do not wait too long to joint the seams, as overly dried mortar will just be pulled out by the jointer tool.

  7. Cover the brick with plastic for three days once you are finished. Regularly mist the fresh mortar with water to keep the mortar slightly dampened and to ensure that it does not cure too quickly, which can result in cracking.

  8. Tip

    If your brick is looking faded and lifeless, brick stains are available and will rejuvenate and enliven any brick structure.

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Things You'll Need

  • Chalk
  • Chisel and hammer or Dremel tool
  • Hand brush or paintbrush
  • Mortar
  • Liquid latex binder
  • Flat, square trowel
  • Tuck point trowel
  • Jointer
  • Plastic sheeting

About the Author

Mason Howard

Mason Howard is an artist and writer in Minneapolis. Howard's work has been published in the "Creative Quarterly Journal of Art & Design" and "New American Paintings." He has also written for art exhibition catalogs and publications. Howard's recent writing includes covering popular culture, home improvement, cooking, health and fitness. He received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Minnesota.

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