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.
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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.
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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.
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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.