How to repair damaged bricks

Most repairs to the exterior of brick houses will be addressing issues with pointing, which can recess and crumble over time. But many homes will also suffer from problems with either individual or groups of bricks themselves. Bricks will wear naturally over time and will certainly be showing some signs of age if you live in a Victorian home, but natural ageing is not usually a problem. If anything, this just makes your brickwork more beautiful.

Structural problems such as bulging or sagging walls will need serious attention and could mean extensive and expensive repairs to your home, but single bricks can start to break down, otherwise known as ‘blowing’ or ‘spalling’. This is usually down to damage where water has got in and cannot get out. Damp, wind-blown rain and ice can all cause havoc with bricks where a small crack or damage to the pointing lets the wet get in. The result is a flaking brick that will eventually fall away in parts.

bike by brick wall

Image source: Markus Spiske/ 2.0

If you have damaged bricks then there are two main solutions, which experienced DIYers may try themselves or hand over to an experienced bricklayer to work on. The latter is definitely the best bet if you do not have any experience of working with bricks. You will be able to patch small areas of chipped brick yourself, but anything more can look a mess if attempted by amateurs.

Solutions for repairing damaged bricks:

  1. The first solution is to dig out any damaged brickwork back to the undamaged parts and patch up what is left. This is best for minor damage, not least because it is far less costly to do. There are also some businesses that specialise in doing just this and are expert at colour-matching. Once the damaged brick is removed then fillers can be used to patch up the damaged area. There are many ways of doing this and each bricklayer will have their own methods, although the favourites tend to be using lime mortar mixed with brick dust to allow for a colour match. Other methods include sealing with a clear sealant and applying a filler or painting with a breathable paint as applicable. Tradespeople should be careful to not trap dirt or damp when doing this job.
  2. The second solution is only used when damage is so extensive that the whole face of the brick will need to be removed. In this case then you or your tradesperson will need to find a way of replacing the damaged brick, with the most popular being the addition of a ‘slip’, which is usually a half brick cut lengthways. This is then wet and placed in the gap created by the removed spalled brick and sealed in place with mortar. The pointing is then shaped to match that around it.

back of houses

Image source: Markus Spiske/ 2.0

If the brick is entirely beyond repair then the whole thing will need to be taken out, usually with the aid of a power drill and chisel. A new brick that matches can then be placed in and pointing reapplied, as with the half brick or slip method. In some cases a skilled bricklayer can also dig out a brick that they can flip around, using the undamaged inner face to now face outwards and filling in behind it. This solves the problem of finding a matching brick or colour, which can be hard work when you have aged brickwork that requires a natural match.


Whether the whole of the brick needs removing or just the face repairing, then you or your tradesperson will always need to find a good match for the bricks that surround the damaged one. Specialist brick workers use their own collection of bricks and skill at colour matching to do this, but you can also try to find a brick stock similar to your own by visiting a salvage yard or looking around your neighbourhood to see if anyone is doing work on their home and has taken bricks out. Look out for clean bricks, as those smeared with cement mortar may be hard to clean up properly without damaging the surface. Remember to take a sample of brick with you so that you will be able to colour match, or at least have a good picture with you on your mobile phone.

If you cannot find an exact match then an experienced brick worker should be able to do some cosmetic work to create a good blend with the bricks around it. This is essential and skilled work if you want your home to have a mend that is invisible from the exterior. Experienced tradespeople will be able to do something akin to cover-up make up or camouflage, which will match any mottling or ageing on the bricks that surround the damaged one. Those that specialise in this work will have their own paints and a selections of brick dusts that can be mixed to create a brick that will not stand out to any passer-by.

Don’t forget to regularly inspect your brick walls to uncover any damage as early as possible. This could save you money by avoiding a  big repair job in the future.

Iain Aitch

Iain is a London-based writer who works as a journalist for a number of newspapers and magazines. He has also written two books, one of which is a hilarious lexicon about Britishness – Iain is a Brit through and through!

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  1. These are really useful tips. Wear safety goggles in order to avoid catching a piece of flying mortar in the eye. Use the cold chisel slowly and carefully to avoid damaging the surrounding brick. Use a brush to clean up all the loose material and dust after you finish chiseling.

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