Posts Tagged ‘re-pointing’

All a question of technique

Having spend most of the back of the house honing my re-pointing technique, an image of the work in action might help to illustrate how I am working:

Re-pointing in action

The coffee fairy took this photo while I was working on the front of the house.

The wood rectangle I am holding is the float trowel, it has a hand grip on the other side. The small trowel is actually a paint scraper. Once you have filled the area you are working on, let the mortar dry a little (I find another icecream containerful of mortar somewhere else is about the time needed) and then use a brush to clean up and smooth your work.

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Front of house, to the left

At $8 for a 20 KG bag of cream mortar, re-pointing is definitely cheap DIY thrillz, but still very satisfying. I have used up 2 bags already and I bought another 2 bags over the weekend so I could get started on the front of the house.

On Sunday I did most of the left hand side of the house and started on the right. There is still the U in the middle of the house, but I will do that last. As I go along I am getting cleaner and more adept at it, which is satisfying…and means less clean up too 😀

I still have some finishing touches to do at the back

  • Sweep up
  • Get DIY Dad to remove drain pipes so I can repoint behind those

But those can wait for a while.

The drain pipes will probably be left until the every end as pretty much every rain water pipe needs to come off so I can repoint behind it.

More territory gained


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I have progressed further with my re-pointing. It’s not perfect and it’s certainly not finessed like federation tuckpointing, but I know I am going to render the house so I don’t need to be as pristine as all that.

And now that I have a bit of a knack for it, I can actually go faster which is excellent. I have now done all the back of the house barring a 1 metre strip towards the far end (behind the lemon tree) and barring underneath the drain pipes (DIY Dad needs to help me remove the drain pipes for that bit to be finished):

Still needs a clean up, but that is one Sunday's worth of work right there

Things I have discovered:

  • Icecream sized containers are the best for carrying mortar about – you may have to make more quite often but it means the mortar won’t haave dried out by the time you reach the end of it
  • Perfect consistency is 4 mugs mortar mix to 1 mug water (with perhaps another 2 tbsp or so of water if needed)
  • Wear gloves, the thin latex gloves and change them often (or lose a layer of skin…or 3)
  • Diamond shaped trowels are good for mixing
  • A small flat head paint scraper is the best nifty tool for getting the mortar into the joints
  • A float trowel (large, rectangular) is very handy too, use it as a palette
  • A thin piece of dowel is good for pressing the mortar in to deep crevasses in the wall to make sure there are no air bubbles and your mortar is compressed.


I use the float trowel like a palette. You dump mortar onto it (as much as you need) and then move it level to the course you are repointing and flat against the brickwork.

Then use the small paint scraper to shift the mortar into the cracks until they are full. Even if the mortar falls off the wall, your float trowel should capture most of it (conservation and meaning less clean up). You can work quite quickly this way.

Because the float trowel has a long and a short side, you can shift it around – sometimes deliver mortar off the long side, sometimes off the short side; dependent on the obstacles around you.

There will still be awkward areas (around pipework, behind round hot water heaters and in other tricksy areas where you can’t get the float trowel in), for them I balled up the mortar in my hands and pushed it in, using the scraper to press and level it.

Not a professional but a gifted amateur

All in all, it has taken me about 4 days, over 2 years to do the back wall of the house. But now that I have the knack and am a bit more confident, I reckon I will try and get it finished before Christmas. Ideally I will spend the next couple of  Sundays on this until it at least the back and the front are done but we will see how we go. If I can tick most of this off before it gets too hot to work through the day, that would be awesome.

I calculate it will be another 5/6 days to finish the front (larger area with the U in the house,) and maybe 1/2 days for the side…and then there is the clean up. There is always the clean up…

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War wounds

Well the time of holidaze is almost over and the time for work begun, so I used the last day of my holiday (sob) to do some re-pointing.

For those of you who do not have an aging brick house or who have someone else (or can afford someone else) to do nasty things like DIY for you, repointing is the process of making the cracks in your bricks where the mortar that holds them together has worn away go from this:

The other definition of builder’s crack

Into this:

At least this form of builder’s crack is fixable

I had two live demonstrations of mixing mortar and using a trowel to re-point, thanks to DIY Dad.

It was at that point, I decided there was no way in hell I was doing re-pointing with a trowel and ordered a mortar gun from the UK:

Target acquired…

Unfortunately, the mortar gun experiment was a bit of a fail – according to the instructions one is supposed to use fine sand in one’s mix, but I have pre-made mix (just add water, sweat and tears) so the gun just clogs. Possibly the pre-mixed dry mix is using normal sand, not fine sand. Damn.

However having made a significant amount of mortar, with the view it would be easy to do with the gun, I had to use it all up…and found that using my hands (encased in gloves, naturellement) was the easiest and quickest for me…probably given my incredible lack of DIY coordination and skillz:

That patch of re-pointing seems to be growing…hopefully it is contagious

Doing it sans trowel is sort of like making mud pies…only it is fixing something and increasing the value of my house. What’s not to like?

Of course it is slightly messier than the painstaking, laborious trowel method…luckily I am a good cleaner upper.

At this rate, I will be round the front of the house by autumn!

Her majesty is acting as site supervisor and regularly checks progress:

You missed a bit

As of today, I have managed to almost finish 1/6 of the surface area of my house that requires re-pointing:

Taaadaaaaaaaaaah – applause please

I hae to say, no matter how amateurish it may be to adopt the “mud pie” approach to re-pointing, at least I am one step ahead of the person who previously tried to do it on this house…they used cement and not mortar. And that’s a no-no (or so I am told).

Of course, this war on crack (so to speak) has not been without casualties:

  • sunburn
  • dry hands (the lime in the mix dries out your hands even if you are wearing gloves)
  • a massive set of scratches down my leg when I stood on a crate to do some re-pointing on the upper courses of bricks (note to all – DIY-tards, each line of bricks in your house is called “a course”)…and it broke under me 😦

it looks like the evil dead tried to grab my calf, but I escaped

And then of course, there is the famous WA heat – it’s currently 42.4°C in Perth and this side of the house catches the sun and heat in the arvo, so the re-pointing exercises have to be done early in the morning (not a time of day I am on speaking terms with…)

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