Get the Best Repointing Brick Work from Masonry Chicago

Answer All Your Repointing Brick Questions – What, Why, and How Much

Brick walls and structures are fantastically long-lasting and durable, requiring very little maintenance. However, even the most solidly built brick walls will require repointing eventually. But there’s more to repointing brickwork than just slapping on some new mortar and hoping for the best. Knowing when to repoint and how is vital, as is clearing away the old mortar and choosing the right shade of mortar for the joints. If your brickwork is looking tired and your mortar joints are old and damaged, contact Masonry Chicago, repointing and tuckpointing experts, with over 20 years of experience with the bricks of Chicago. You can contact us on 773-231-5371 or email [email protected]

Repointing brick – the basics

To repoint brick wall it’s important to understand what repointing is and why we need to do it.

What is repointing brick?

Repointing brick is the process of replacing old, damaged mortar with fresh mortar. You might have heard it called tuck pointing too, and while these two processes are similar there is an aesthetic difference to the end result.


Repointing is the most straightforward version of the process. When you repoint old or damaged mortar joints you remove the old loose mortar and put in new mortar, usually in a contrasting color.


Tuckpointing is a little more detailed and requires a little more effort from the mason. When tuck pointing you remove the existing mortar and first use new mortar similar in color to the brickwork. Then a line of contrasting mortar is applied down the center of the joints giving the illusion that the mortar joints are all thin, neat, and perfectly straight.

Because it requires a bit more effort, and two colors of mortar tuckpointing can be a little more expensive than standard repointing.

Why do you need to repoint brickwork?

There are several reasons why it’s important to repoint your brick walls from time to time. Luckily most mortar lasts for 20 – 30 years so you won’t need to go through this process frequently, but it’s very important to have strong mortar joints in your brick house.

Mortar can be damaged in various ways:

  • Movement in a building or in the surrounding soil can lead to cracked mortar and gaps in your mortar joint.
  • Weather conditions such as rain, freezing weather, and storms can all take their toll on mortar joints.
  • Time can cause old mortar to break down and flake away.

What happens if you don’t repoint brickwork?

If you don’t update your old mortar from time to time you can have various issues with your brickwork, from leaks and mold to cracked bricks:

  • Aesthetic reasons – old crumbling mortar doesn’t look very attractive and will reduce the curb appeal and value of beautiful brick houses.
  • Keep water out – one of the jobs of mortar in brick structures is to keep moisture out and if you have large amounts of damaged or missing mortar there are a lot more opportunities for water to get into your house, leading to internal dampness, mildew, and other damage.
  • Avoid cracked bricks – another issue with water getting in between the bricks, especially in colder climates, is that it can freeze and expand cracking your bricks. And replacing damaged bricks is a much larger job than simply repointing your brick mortar.

Why mortar matters

If you are living in an older building it’s very important to choose the proper mortar for the job. In buildings from the early 1900s and before you should always carry out a mortar analysis to ensure you use the right mortar type, as using the wrong mortar can lead to a lot of problems.

When repointing historic buildings it’s especially important to work with very experienced masons, like the team at Masonry Chicago, as historic mortar and bricks are not the same as modern building materials. Old buildings are made from softer brick than current buildings and the original mortar will also be softer. It’s vital that the bricks are harder than the mortar or it can lead to damage to your brick face due to moisture only being able to evaporate through the bricks themselves.

An experienced mason will solve this issue by mixing lime mortar into the portland cement mortar to create a mixture closer to the original recipe.

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        Can you repoint brick yourself?

        While it is possible to carry out a repointing job yourself, it is a skilled time-consuming process, often carried out at heights. And if you are dealing with an older brick wall or historic buildings then it’s recommended that you work with a mason who has prior experience in working with old brick and mortar.

        If you want to try your hand at repointing a wall, we recommend you start with something small, like a garden wall, which call be entirely accessed without ladders or scaffolding.

        How to repoint a brick wall

        If you decide to repoint a wall yourself we suggest only attempting walls that were built in the second half of the 20th Century or later, as older walls may use different mortar, and using modern mortar can do more harm than good.

        To repoint a wall you will need:

        1. First, remove the old mortar from the horizontal and vertical joints using a joint raker or cold chisel. Mortar removed should be to a depth of around 1/2 inch, and be careful not to damage the surrounding bricks, while doing this.
        2. After you’ve cleared out the mortar use a wire brush to remove any debris or dust. Wear a protective mask while doing this to avoid inhaling the mortar dust.
        3. Moisten the bricks before adding new mortar as this will prevent the brickwork from sucking the water out of the mortar and making it dry too fast.
        4. Mix your mortar following the instructions on the package. We suggest starting by mixing a small amount as it may be slow going at first and you don’t want the mortar to all dry out before you can apply it.

        5. Using a pointing trowel apply the mortar into the joints pushing it in firmly. Working from top to bottom and right to left is generally the recommended way to proceed.

        6. Try and remove any big blobs of excess mortar on the bricks as you go, using the side of the trowel.

        7. Once the mortar has started to dry you can use a wire brush to remove any mortar from the bricks.

        8. If the mortar seems to be drying out too quickly you can spray it lightly with water.

          How much does it cost to repoint brick?

          If you want to check the exact cost of reporting your brickwork you should speak to local masons who will be able to give you a cost based on the work you need doing. Without knowing all the details it’s very difficult to give an exact repointing cost due to many factors that will influence the final price.

          Pricing factors

          Various factors can affect the repointing brick cost, including:

          • The skill of the mason you are working with.
          • The cost of labor in your area.
          • The size of the project.
          • How complex the project is – is it a simple wall or a chimney?
          • The amount of damage to the mortar
          • Is it a historic building using old mortar?
          • What the site access is and how high the brickwork is – do you need scaffolding?

          Cost to brick walls

          While it’s impossible to give an exact cost for repointing here are some guideline costs:

          • For walls up to 8 feet high you can expect to pay from $3 – $20 per square foot.
          • Walls over 8 feet high that need scaffolding will cost from $5 – $25 per square foot.
          • Chimney repointing is likely to cost $8 – $30 per square foot.

          Frequently Asked Questions

          Is repointing brick expensive?

          The cost of repointing brick will depend on many different factors, so the more complex the project, the more damaged the mortar, and the higher up the brickwork the more expensive it will be.

          Repointing a simple brick wall up to 8 feet tall will not be very expensive and in fact, can cost as little as $3 per square foot. However, a chimney can cost up to $30 per square foot to repoint, due to the difficulty of access and the complexity of the work.

          Is repointing brick necessary?

          While mortar can last for 20 – 30 years, it’s important to replace old, damaged mortar with new mortar for the structural integrity of a building.

          If you have any loose mortar, gaps in your mortar, or any signs of cracking bricks it’s very important to consider repair and repointing.

          What does it mean to repoint bricks?

          When you hear someone say they need to repoint bricks they are talking about updating the mortar between the masonry units, by removing old mortar and refilling the joints with new mortar.

          A brick or stone wall is held together with mortar, which is usually made with portland cement, lime, and sand. Modern masonry cement or mortar is very hard and strong, especially compared to historic mortar, which was lime-based mortar.

          Masonry work and brick repointing near me

          At Masonry Chicago, we have over two decades of experience building and repairing brickwork and brick mortar throughout the city, including experience with historic brickwork. We understand the importance of proper repointing and using the best mortar for the job, to avoid any further damage to your precious home.

          Our team of expert masons understands all the issues that come with repairing and repointing and will ensure that your brickwork is repaired to the highest standard possible. Call us now for a free consultation and thorough estimate: 773-231-5371 or email [email protected]

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