Knowhow-Now Article

Simple Steps to Follow on Brick Maintenance and Repair

By Andrew Wilson

Andrew Wilson

The average life span of brick masonry can reach up to 100 years. However, the mortar joints are usually the first to give signs of wear and tear, lasting only half of the brick’s life expectancy. In most cases, brick maintenance and repair involves a process called re-pointing which is the removal and replacement of damaged mortar joints.

Loose, cracked, split, or crumbled mortar joints are caused by the brick’s exposure to natural elements such as sunlight, rain, and wind. The settling in the structure’s foundation can also cause the problem. All this indicates a deteriorating brick surface that is susceptible to water penetration.

The Process of Re-Pointing

  1. To prepare the surface, thoroughly clean it with a pressurized water spray to remove not only the loose mortar, but other accumulated dirt as well.
  2. Before proceeding to this step, wear a pair of safety goggles to protect the eyes. Use a chisel to remove all the weakened mortar down to 1/2 inch, taking care not to scratch the brick surface. Once re-pointing is done, apply a commercial bonding agent onto the mortar joints.
  3. Initially apply a small amount of pre-mixed mortar to determine the matching color. Once the right color mixture is achieved, apply the new mortar to the joints vertically and then horizontally, filling all the empty spaces or air pockets with a sharp trowel.
  4. During the finishing process, determine how to match the shape of the sound mortar joints. For a V-shaped joint, use the tip of the trowel while the finger or a nail head can be used to achieve the round shape. Wait for a few days of drying before scrubbing any excess using muriatic acid and brush.
brick walls usually look pretty

In case whole bricks become loose or damaged, find pieces that exactly match the size and color of the existing ones to make brick maintenance and repair work unnoticeable.

Replacing Spalling Bricks

Spalling refers to the condition when bricks become too soft and susceptible to water or moisture absorption. This condition is one of the primary causes of brick deterioration that usually affects small portions of a brick surface, requiring the replacement of the damaged bricks.

Steps to Replace Spalled Bricks

  1. Examine the affected area to determine the cause and extent of the problem as well as how to proceed without damaging the whole structure. Identify which bricks need replacement since only a maximum of four pieces can be removed from the wall at the same time. If the damage is too extensive, it is wise to seek professional assistance.
  2. Find the matching bricks to replace the spalled pieces, and keep the pointing style consistent with the existing ones. While this is dictated by common sense, it requires careful search. It is not always easy to look for bricks with exact color, texture, and size, especially if the spalled ones are considerably old.
  3. Remove the spalled brick by scraping the mortar around it. Use a cold chisel and a club hammer to take it out from the wall. If the brick refuses to go, use a 6 – 8mm masonry bit to drill holes then chisel and hammer to crumble the piece down. After removing the damaged bricks, clean all the scraps from the wall.
  4. There are several ways to prepare the mortar. You can use Porter cement based, mix lime and sand, or buy a pre-mixed mortar from any hardware store. Consult the store on the best type of mortar to use depending on your need.
  5. Make sure the area is dry before applying 10mm mortar on the base and sides of the cavity. Slide the brick into the hole and carefully tap it until it aligns with the adjacent bricks. Use the handle of the trowel in giving the new mortar joint a uniform look with the rest of the wall.

Brick maintenance and repair may be costly if the job is contracted out. While it can be a complicated task requiring careful research, all it takes is a little knowledge of these basic steps to make the bricks look good and lasting.

Loose, cracked, split, or crumbled mortar joints are caused by the brick’s exposure to natural elements such as sunlight, rain, and wind.

brick walls need maintenance

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