Restoring brickwork

Exteriors, General

We all know the story of the three little pigs, the brick house saves the pigs from certain death with its strength and durability against the big bad wolf’s huffing and puffing. Yes, we know it’s only a children’s story but there is still a point to be taken away from it!

Buildings and other structures made from bricks often outlast those made from wood or other materials. Think of the oldest buildings still standing, they’re all made of some kind of brick or stone. If your home has a brickwork exterior it’s no surprise you want to show it off!

Over time, exposure to moisture and extreme temperatures may leave your bricks with signs of wear. It could be crumbling mortar or a dull, pollution stained finish. Cleaning and repairing old or damaged brick can restore this material to its former natural beauty.


Repair Damaged Mortar

  1. Safety first! Safety glasses and a dust mask are a must in this process.
  2. Using a hammer and flat chisel, chip away loose or damaged mortar from between bricks. This can be tricky as you’ll need to avoid hitting the bricks themselves.
  3. Prep some masonry mortar. Instructions on how to do this vary by product, so be sure to follow the guides with your particular mortar. Use a brick trowel to insert mortar into any gaps or empty joints between the bricks. Wipe excess mortar from the face of the bricks using the edge of the trowel.
  4. Apply a brick contouring tool, or jointer, to the new joints. Choose a tool that can be used to create a finished effect that matches the existing mortar. If the existing mortar between the bricks is concave then a rounded tool will recreate this for your repairs.

Clean the Brick – Make sure mortar is completely dry before beginning

  1. Wet the brick thoroughly using a garden hose.
  2. Apply a simple household cleaner. It doesn’t have to be anything heavy duty, a dish detergent will do the job nicely.
  3. Work the detergent into the brick using a bristle brush. After you’ve given it a good hard scrub give it another rinse with the hose.
  4. Allow the bricks to dry. After the wall if completely dry it will become apparent if there were any stubborn bits you might have missed. If there is any patches of remaining dirt, repeat steps 1-3 until you’re happy the job is done.

Top Tip

  • If the wall you are repairing was built after 1932, a standard cement-based mortar mixture is the best choice. For anything constructed between 1873 and 1932, mix lime and cement-based mortars. If your wall is dated 1872 or earlier, stick to traditional lime mortar for best results.
  • Always start with the gentlest method possible when cleaning a brick surface. Stay away from harsh chemicals and brute force until you know it’s the only option. This might seem like making more work for yourself but it will hugely minimise the risk of damage to your project.

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