• In this video, This Old House general contractor Tom Silva replaces crumbling, missing mortar.

    1. Spread a drop cloth at the base of the brick wall.
    2. Use a pointed raking bar to scratch the mortar from the horizontal bed joints between the rows of bricks. Remove one more than 1 inch of mortar.
    3. Remove the mortar from the vertical head joints with a brick chisel and masonry hammer. Tap out the mortar to a depth of 1 inch, being careful not to chip any bricks.
    4. Use the chisel to rake out any loose mortar or dust from the head joints.
    5. Remove any cracked or badly damaged bricks, then rake out all the old mortar.
    6. Roll up and move the drop cloth out of the way. Discard the old mortar raked from the joints.
    7. Spray the wall with a garden hose, lightly wetting the entire repair area, including the raked out joints.
    8. Into a wheelbarrow dump one bag of mortar mix. Add water and then mix with a shovel or hoe.
    9. Scoop some mortar from the wheelbarrow with a brick trowel and place it onto a small square of plywood.
    10. Lay the drop cloth in front of the wall to catch any dropped mortar.
    11. To install a full brick, use the trowel to lay down a thick setting bed of mortar onto the brick below.
    12. Apply mortar to the end of a full brick, and also to its top surface. Slide the brick into place, making sure to maintain mortar joints consistent with the rest of the wall.
    13. Tap the brick down, if necessary, to align it flush with the adjacent bricks.
    14. Use a narrow tuck pointer to tightly pack mortar into the vertical bed joints between the rows of bricks.
    15. Next, use a masonry jointer to force mortar into the horizontal head joints between the bricks.
    16. Once all the joints have been repointed, strike off the mortar with the jointer to tool and smooth the mortar.
    • 2 to 4 hours for about 12 square feet
    • About $4 to $6 per 60-pound bag of mortar
    • Difficulty: Moderate
      Requires patience and careful application
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      Video Directory

      Selected Topic/Section

      Tools List

      • cat's paw pry bar
        Raking bar
      • mason's chisel with hand guard
        Brick chisel
      • mason's hammer
        Masonry hammer
      • masonry hoe
        Shovel or hoe
      • wheelbarrow
      • brick trowel
        Pointed brick trowel
      • pointing trowel
        Tuck pointer
      • brick jointer
        Masonry jointer

      Shopping List


      Square of ½-inch plywood, used as a mortarboard