AdviceHome Improvement

The ins and outs of pointing

Newspapers, property shows and financial advisors all implore us to sink our money into bricks and mortar. But what they don’t tell us to do is to look after the materials that are shorthand for the homes that we live in. Most of us simply assume that the bricks and mortar will look after themselves (as they may have been doing for the last 100 years or so), but this can be a costly mistake.

What is pointing?

Bricks, stones and blocks are, usually, hardy materials that will last and outlive you. But the material that holds them together needs regular attention to keep these hardy building blocks in good order and the damp, rain and water out of your home. The mortar that holds your bricks together is known as pointing and the need to have pointing repaired or renewed is definitely something that you should be aware of.

brickwork facade

Image Source: Remodelista

The best way to test the resilience of your pointing is to simply go outside and look at it. If it is all even and almost flush to the brickwork then it should be in order. No water can get in and damage the bricks (or stone or blocks) and your walls should remain free from water coming in from the outside. But you should also give your pointing a finger test, by digging a finger into a joint in the brickwork and seeing if any comes away. Try this in several areas around the front and back of the house.

If mortar comes away when you pull at it with your fingers then this is a sign that you will need to repair this across your brickwork. Mortar damage can be localised in areas where a leak may have happened, but more often than not the mortar will simply be crumbling with age. This does not always mean it will have been badly laid in the first place, but it can be a sign of a previous poorly-executed re-pointing job.

glass facade with garden entrance

Image Source: Pinterest

Re-pointing is a job that you can do yourself, but it is best to have any problems diagnosed and repaired by a professional bricklayer. This is because you will need scaffolding to do the upper floors of your home and an expert will be able to do a more thorough job than you, plus they’ll have the right tools for the job and the ability to leave a clean finish.

Old mortar will need to be dug out back to where it is crumbling, as putting new mortar on top of bad mortar will simply mean that the job will need re-doing in a couple of years. In most cases the mortar will be raked or drilled out to a depth of around 12mm, but this may be more if the damage is bad or a previous job has been poorly-executed.

old house

Image Source: Pinterest

Once the old mortar is removed then your builder will make up and apply new mortar to damaged areas or the whole of the property. They will usually work from the top down, brushing away any excess mortar from the joints as they go. Always check the work once it is complete, so that you can see all the joints are filled and that your brickwork is not flecked with unsightly lumps of mortar.

When the job is being done you should also ask the builder to deal with any ‘blown’ bricks or blocks. Check our post on how to repair damaged bricks.  In some cases these can be sealed or repaired after they have suffered water damage and some cosmetic work may be needed to improve the look of your home.

How much does it cost to repoint a house?

Pointing can be expensive, costing around £20 to £30 per square metre, but it is vital that you get it done in order to save money dealing with the consequences (blown bricks and damp interior walls) later on. Obviously costs will depend on how much work that you need doing and the size of your home, but the front of a small house can cost around £1,000, with a whole house coming in at upwards to £3,000.



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. Cement wasn’t used until the 1940’s and so houses 100 + years old were built with lime. These should be repointed with lime mortar. Modern builders use cement which does not have the same properties and may cause the house to become damp!

    1. Hi Jo,

      To find a tradesman to help, you’ll need to post your job on Up to three interested tradesmen will then be able to contact you to quote. Please only use this if you intend to carry out the work however, as our tradesmen pay for the opportunity to contact you. If you’re after advice, I’d suggest heading to our Ask an Expert section instead and posting your pricing question there:

      Best Wishes,

        1. Hi Karl, if you’re a tradesperson buying a lead, what you’re getting is access to the customer’s details so you’re able to contact them to quote. It’s then down to you to convince them that you’re the best tradesperson for the job (directing them to your profile page for example). Leads can only be bought a maximum of three times.

  2. I had my gable end done 3 years ago and it has rained in ever since the builder won’t come back HELP

    1. Hi,

      If you post your job on, up to three interested tradesmen will be able to contact you to quote. We’ll then send you links to their profile pages complete with their ratings to help you decide who to hire. As always, we would encourage you to ask for proof of relevant qualifications.

      Best Wishes,

  3. Been in my new build 18mths. Pointing on roof has crumbled in one year builder got the roofer to fix it an with in 6mths it’s all crumbling!!! Builder back today said he wil b back tomorrow with the roofer an he wil do it again! Builder said it should not hav happened again so soon but u wil find that this is on going cause that’s wat happens wet pointing an that I should consider paying toget the dry pointing put on! I was in shock! He said get a price of the roofer wen he comes round tomorrow! He also said after two years nhbc wil hav to fix it an after ten it’s my problem an I wil hav to pay toget it all fixed! Help there back tomorrow wat wil I say?

  4. Professional brick cleaning is the best way to give your property a face-lift without breaking the bank and along with our repointing services in Kidderminster.

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