The DIY Guide to Re-Pointing Brickwork

Tools required :-  Small spade / shovel, spot board, bucket, bricklaying trowel, finger (pointing) trowel, a piece of metal or rubber tube 20 – 25mm dia, lump hammer, bolster chisel, soft hand brush, power hand grinder, extension lead, ladder or scaffold tower.

Safety tips :- Take care when working at height, especially on ladders, if possible only use a hand grinder at height working from a scaffold tower, wear a face mask that covers both your mouth and nose, wear safety goggles. Use an extension lead fitted with an RCCD plug top, (see – Safe DIY practice).

Over a period of time, mortar in brickwork seams can become loose and break up due to inclement weather, when this occurs it should be repaired to avoid water penetrating the brickwork, which could result in possible damp problems within the property. 

Re-pointing brickwork is a very time consuming job, but can be carried out with only a few tools. Small areas of brickwork can be repaired using a ladder to reach the work area, but if as an example, most or all of the wall requires attention, I would recommend hiring a scaffold tower to work off, as you will be spending a lot of time working from it and you will be working with power tools at height, therefore you need to be comfortable, be safe and have both hands free. (see- Tool hire)

You should start re-pointing at the top of the wall and work your way across the whole wall, therefore I would re-point only three or four courses at each pass. Re-pointing from the top down will ensure any dust and bits of dropped mortar can be cleaned off as you move down and it won’t spoil the brickwork you have already re-pointed.

You can remove mortar from small areas of brickwork with a lump hammer and bolster chisel, working off a ladder. To remove the mortar in larger areas I would use a hand grinder with a diamond tipped disc working off a scaffold tower (don’t forget the face mask and safety goggles). Remove the mortar to a depth of around 3/4″ (20mm) and brush away any debris and dust from the seams, take care when using the grinder that you don’t damage the brick faces as you make the cuts.

Damp down the seams with water using a paint brush or water spray bottle before pointing the seam with the new mortar. The mortar mix should be stiff enough for you to ‘slice’ it and push it into the seam with the finger trowel, if it is too wet it will just end up everywhere bar the seam. Dont mix too much mortar at any one time, otherwise it will ‘go off’ before you get a chance to use it. Try to mix the mortar each time using as near as, the same quantities of sand and cement, so the mortar is of a uniformed colour (see – Mixing concrete or mortar by hand). When the new mortar has started to set, strike / point the seam with your trowel or piece of pipe to give the brickwork seam a professional finish.