The Basics of Repointing Brick | Ep. 173


Historic brick home in Rochester, Ill.
Repointing the brick on this historic home will help the exterior upkeep for longer. (Photo by Scott Evans)

Repointing brick is the process of renewing the pointing, or external mortar joints, in between them. Over time, weather deteriorates the mortar, which could then cause water to leak inside the brick wall. 

Repointing a historic brick home requires a different type of mortar so it will last for years to come.

Scott Evans in Rochester, Ill., has begun repointing his 155-year-old brick home in Rochester, Ill., but the mortar is popping out.

So, what’s the solution?

Scott’s problem has to do with the type of mortar he used.

When repointing an older brick home, you don’t want a mortar that will cure harder than the brick itself.

Older bricks are soft, and they tend to expand and contract more in temperature and humidity changes than newer, harder bricks.

Use type O mortar — a high-lime mortar with low compression strength. It contains less Portland cement and more lime, which makes it softer and also more waterproof.

Here are the basics for repointing brick:

  • Use a chisel or handheld grout saw to remove the mortar. 
  • Wet the bricks and let them soak overnight. Keeping them hydrated will prevent the bricks from soaking up too much of the water in the mortar mix.
  • Next, mix the mortar. The general rule for mixing mortar is to use three parts sand to one part mortar mix. Combine the mix with water until it reaches the consistency of cake frosting. Work in small batches so the mortar doesn’t dry out before you apply it.
  • Work the mortar between the bricks using a pointing trowel. Use the flat end of the trowel to scrape away any excess on the face of the brick.
  • For the next three days, mist the mortar daily so it dries slowly and won’t crack.

Skip to [9:35] for the full segment on the Today’s Homeowner Podcast.

Also on this episode:


Best New Product

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Simple Solutions

Adding Epsom salt to your tomato plant soil will improve its health and taste. (pixabay)

Epsom Salt in the Garden — Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate, which is rich in minerals that plants need. 

By adding Epsom salt to your garden, the plants will absorb much more nutrients from the soil and fertilizer. 

Here are three ways to grow healthy plants with Epsom salt:  

1) Plants in the nightshade family — tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, potatoes — need magnesium to produce greater yields and more flavorful fruits and vegetables. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt around the base of your plants. Or, mix the salt with a gallon of water and water the plants with the mixture. Repeat every two weeks. 

2) Is your lawn looking dull? Add three pounds of Epsom salt for every 1,250 square feet of grass and then water your lawn. 

3) Want robust roses? Sprinkle Epsom salt at the time of planting and when the flowers are in bloom. The salt encourages the rose bushes to produce larger flowers with deeper colors. 

Hanging tools on screw hooks keeps them off the floor and out of the way.

Storing Garden Tools — Here’s an easy and effective way to store long-handled garden tools in a shed or garage: 

  • Drill a pilot hole in an overhead joist and twist in a screw hook. 
  • Then, drill a pilot hole in every end of the tool’s handle, and twist in a screw eye. 

Now you can simply suspend the tools from the overhead hooks.

Watch: Tip for Storing Lawn and Garden Tools


Question of the Week

Q: I live in north Georgia where the soil is comprised almost entirely of red clay, so it’s nearly impossible to grow flowers and vegetables in my gardens. I tried tilling the soil and using fertilizers, but nothing seems to grow, except weeds. Do you have any suggestions? 

A: Clay soil has poor drainage and is compacted tightly, so roots won’t hold well. 

Typically, tilling the clay soil and adding a layer of topsoil is enough for grass to grow. However, for plants with deeper root systems, like vegetables and flowers, you’ll need to do a fair amount of work to make that clay soil suitable.

First, till the soil and aerate it as much as possible. Then, sprinkle about an inch of expanded shale over the soil. 

Till the expanded shale into the clay soil, and then spread two to three inches of compost over it. 

Finally, till the compost into the shale and clay soil mixture. 

Once your soil is prepped, make sure the pH is correct for whatever plants you choose.

Skip to [33:50] for the full segment on the Today’s Homeowner Podcast.


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