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How to Repoint Old Brickwork in 7 Easy Steps

Estimated Reading Time: 7 min

No need to hire a professional—learn how to keep brick walls, chimneys, firepits, garden retaining walls, and more in tip-top shape.

Cost
Skill Level
Novice
Approximate Time 1-2 hours
plus 3-4 day maintenance

When researching how to repair crumbling mortar joints, or repointing, most advice suggests leaving masonry work to the professionals, but that can be costly. And why hire it out when repointing is something you can accomplish with a bit of time and the right tools? We’ll walk you through all the necessary steps to keep your brickwork in peak condition.

Here's what you'll need:

Materials
  • Mortar Mix
  • Colorant (optional)
  • Brick and Stone Cleaner
Tools
  • Hammer and Chisel OR Joint Raker OR Grinder and Raking Bit
  • Masonry Brush
  • 5-gallon Bucket
  • Tuck Pointer
  • Magnesium Hawk
  • Slicker
  • Brick Jointer
  • Scrub Brush
For Your Safety
  • Safety Glasses
  • Leather OR Rubber Work Gloves

Step 1

Remove Old Mortar

There are a few ways you can go about “raking” out joints depending on 1) the type of mortar used, and 2) the amount of surface you plan to repoint. We’ll go through a few options starting with the tools needed for small to medium sized repointing projects.

tools needed to remove old mortar

1.     Hammer and Plugging Chisel

A Hammer and Chisel is a classic combination that can handle any raking job.

Hold the Chisel nearly parallel to the joint that needs repointed and hammer the end to rake out the old mortar. Be sure to strike lightly—you could destroy your bricks by hammering the Chisel as you would a nail.

2.     Joint Raker

Joint Rakers have wheels that allow it to roll along the joint while the nail in the head of the tool rakes out the old mortar. It makes quick work of softer mortar (like mortar with lime in it). Depending on your Joint Raker, the nail in the head is often adjustable, allowing you to set the raking depth for a uniform finish.

3.     Grinder with Raking Bit

If the old mortar is still stubborn (which typically means there’s cement in it), try using a Grinder with a Raking Bit. The bit attaches to most standard drills to dig out the joint—just be sure not to get too overzealous and cut into the brick as you work

This option is also great, and a real back-saver, if you plan to rake and repoint a significant amount of brickwork.

Pro Tip

Always work in sections—removing old mortar compromises the integrity of your brickwork. And, as always when dust and debris is involved, make sure to wear your Safety Goggles.

Regardless of which tool you choose to use, you’ll need to rake out about ½” to ¾” (or 15-20 centimeters) of material to give the new mortar some space to grip.

Step 2

Dust Off and Wet Bricks

Use a Masonry Brush to remove any remaining dust and debris before dipping that same brush in water and going over the area again to dampen the bricks and joints.

dust off and wet bricks with masonry brush 

Q: Why do the bricks need to be wet before I can repoint the joints?

A: For the best finish, the new mortar needs to be able to retain its moisture to prevent it from becoming brittle—this is also why you shouldn’t repoint brick on a scorching hot day. New mortar sets best between 50- to 80-degrees Fahrenheit (or about 10- to 26-degrees Celsius).

Step 3

Prepare Your Mortar Mixture

Follow all mixing instructions as written on the bag. It’s best to work in small batches as mortar tends to harden quickly. Colorants can also be added to the mixture to achieve certain looks when finished.

Pro Tip

It’s always best to use the same type of mortar (which includes its physical makeup and color) when repointing. Chip off a small section of old mortar, bring it with you to the store, and ask a professional for help finding the right type of mortar and colorant for your project.

Mix everything together in a 5-gallon bucket until it has reached an oatmeal-like consistency that holds its peaks when you draw it upward with a trowel.

mix mortar to oatmeal consistency

Step 4

Insert New Mortar into the Joints

insert new mortar into joint

Scoop a liberal amount of mortar onto the edge of a small Magnesium Hawk or a wide trowel (like a Brick Trowel). Hold the mortar-ed edge up to the joint and use a Tuck Pointer to press the new mortar into the joint until it comes in contact with the old mortar still present at the back of the joint.

As you work, try to only press the mortar into the joints, steering clear of the edges, corners, and face of the bricks. If mortar does get on the brick, don’t sweat it. Wait for the mortar to dry a bit before gently scraping it away with a stiff Margin Trowel.

Step 5

“Slick” the Joints

Once that section is completely repointed, use a Slicker to “slick” or flatten the joints between the brick to give it a smooth, finished look that blends in seamlessly with the rest of your wall. There are also a variety of Brick Jointers to choose from that offer their own unique finish. We've included examples of convex, v-shaped, and grapevine joints below. Click the image that best matches your exisiting wall to find the corresponding Jointer on our website.

convex brick jointv-shaped brick jointgrapevine brick joint

Step 6

Brush Away Excess Mortar and Blend

Run a wet Bucket Brush in horizontal sweeping motions over your finished patch job to clean away excess mortar and blend the new mortar with the old, giving it a seamless finish.

 

wet brush running over brick

Pro Tip

Remember, you’re only lightly brushing—not scrubbing. Scrubbing the bricks with the brush can pull out the new mortar, ruining your hard work.

Over the next three to four days, give your patch a daily misting to allow the mortar to dry slowly and reduce any risk of cracking.

It may be necessary to clean the bricks with a Brick and Stone Cleaner if you notice a film developing over the patch. Follow the manufacturers mixing instructions and scrub the area with a long-handled Acid Brush—do not apply this solution more than twice. Rubber Gloves and Eye Protection are a must.

Step 7

Clean Up and Allow Your Work to Dry

Before you pack up, don’t forget to clean your tools! Trust us, it isn’t easy or fun trying to wash dried, stuck-on mortar off your tools.

Some soapy water and a Heavy-Duty Scrub Brush will make quick work of this task.

clean tools after use

Step 8

Mist and Clean Bricks as Necessary

Over the next three to four days, give your patch a daily misting to allow the mortar to dry slowly and reduce any risk of cracking.

It may be necessary to clean the bricks with a Brick and Stone Cleaner if you notice a film developing over the patch. Follow the manufacturers mixing instructions and scrub the area with a long-handled Acid Brush—do not apply this solution more than twice. Rubber Gloves and Eye Protection are a must. After this, your brick wall repair will look as if it were just laid that day.

 

Ready to get started on your own repair? Use our bundle button to add all the tools you need to complete your brick repointing project with ease.

Add Brick Repointing Tool Bundle to Your Cart

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