# Any shade-tree masons out there? Could use feedback...

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#### Marc_G

##### Well-Known Member
Hi all,

I'm familiar with shade-tree mechanics... not sure if shade-tree masons is actually a thing. But here goes:

There's a window above my front entry door. Under the window is a line of bricks. The mortar under that course of bricks has come loose and is falling out. See attached:

The leftmost quarter of the mortar line is actually gone, but there's a crack where the bottom edge of the mortar should attach to the bricks underneath it, that goes most of the length of the course, almost all the way to the right.

Part of me says "hire a mason to chip out the rest of the mortar and replace it properly." But, where I live, contractors charge like crazy. Just a trip charge would probably be $250 (it was this way for some minor gutter work, couple of years ago, but the same parent company). I'm guessing this is at least$500 to job out.

Part of me says: "How hard could this be? Get up there, chip out any loose bits, pack new mortar in there, shape it, then order a pizza."

I have lain ornamental bricks on an interior project once (still have my trowels and stuff! but it was 15 years ago...). But I've never done any exterior work like this, and this could be tricky to get the consistency of the mortar right, to say nothing of trying to get the color of the new stuff at least reasonably close to the old.

Any advice here? I could hire a handyman cheaper than a mason, but not sure he'd do any better than I would.

Marc

PS: I have used in the past some "mortar caulk" that is latex caulk, sanded, to appear like mortar, in other projects. The problem with those is that they stand out like a sore thumb...

#### MikeyDSlagle

##### Well-Known Member
I was going to suggest the mortar caulk as you call it. You can get lots of different colors, probably even color matched, same for mortar as well. If its not load bearing or structural you could use some high strength epoxy (not our epoxy, masonry epoxy) to attach the bricks then fill in with mortar or the caulk. The old stuff wouldn't really need to come out either but with the current mortar lines being old, color matching may be challenging either way you go.

#### rcktnut

##### Well-Known Member
From your tiny picture looks like the whole thing was repaired before. Mortar looks darker, most likely from just being tuck pointed and then not acid washed which would lighten the mortar to look like the rest of the joints. Check the top of the sill also, water is most likely getting in from the top, freezing and that is blowing out the joint underneath. Easy enough for you to clean it up and tuck it back in. Get a premix bag of mortar add water to a workable consistency and tuck it in.

#### rharshberger

##### Well-Known Member
Color matching is difficult when old and new mortars meet. The best repair would be complete removal of all mortar and re-setting of the entire row beneath the windows brick mould. While not a particulary difficult process it is time consuming to remove, clean, and re-install the original bricks. Some tools are required such as chisels to remove the old mortar, trowels, a joint raker/finishing tool, muriatic acid for clean-up of any mortar residue that gets on the bricks. Re-mortaring the missing area and sealing the other cracked areas is a temporary fix that can buy you time ( a year or two) to get it properly repaired. I grew up in a family of masons, brick, stone, block and concrete finishing, going back 3 generations.

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#### dhbarr

##### Amateur Professional
I shadetreed this once. I won't do it again.

#### bobby_hamill

##### Well-Known Member
right click on photo and click on "view image"
when photo is on screen hold down the " control " button and at the same time hit the " + " key. Every time the " + " button is hit the photo will get bigger

No more " tiny " photo

Do the same thing but hit the " - " button and photo will get smaller

Bobby

From your tiny picture looks like the whole thing was repaired before. Mortar looks darker, most likely from just being tuck pointed and then not acid washed which would lighten the mortar to look like the rest of the joints. Check the top of the sill also, water is most likely getting in from the top, freezing and that is blowing out the joint underneath. Easy enough for you to clean it up and tuck it back in. Get a premix bag of mortar add water to a workable consistency and tuck it in.

#### snrkl

##### Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
If it can't be fixed with epoxy, CA or spare body tube parts, I'm at a loss...

That being said, I've suddenly become the "glue guy" as both my and my partner's kids have discovered that CA and Epoxy can fix all sorts of things.

Just today I've fixed a shattered hard plastic "favourite breakfast bowl" for her 6yo, re-glued a whistle unit into a screaming football dart (same 6yo) and I'm about to re-attach a bunch of hair band attachments (flowers, bows, etc) for his 7yo sister...

&#128540;

#### Marc_G

##### Well-Known Member
Thanks all!

Color matching is difficult when old and new mortars meet. The best repair would be complete removal of all mortar and re-setting of the entire row beneath the windows brick mould. While not a particulary difficult process it is time consuming to remove, clean, and re-install the original bricks. Some tools are required such as chisels to remove the old mortar, trowels, a joint raker/finishing tool, muriatic acid for clean-up of any mortar residue that gets on the bricks. Re-mortaring the missing area and sealing the other cracked areas is a temporary fix that can buy you time ( a year or two) to get it properly repaired. I grew up in a family of masons, brick, stone, block and concrete finishing, going back 3 generations.
Here's a larger view; the bricks around this joint aren't going anywhere. Definitely no need to remove them and re-do. It's just this joint. Back behind the failing mortar line, there's a metal reinforcing bar that I believe carries some weight across the door. The main job of the mortar is to keep water out, I think! So, the mortar here on this line is essentially cosmetic, more or less.

This thing actually has been like this a while (more than a year, less than three, probably), but it's time to deal with it.

#### rcktnut

##### Well-Known Member
Get yourself a bag of type N or S premix you should be good to go. I use S on my house, never had a problem with what I tuck pointed in 27 years I've been here. I have problems here and there and never had to redo the repairs I made. Just get new areas from time to time that need attention. The joints on my house were just cut by design I guess, and not struck, allowing more openings for water to penetrate and freeze. Your repair could last a few years, or for a much longer time. The only close up pic of my brick, and what the heck my Nike Smoke: Also a pic. of why I do have occasional problems:

#### Marc_G

##### Well-Known Member
Thanks! Great looking Smoke by the way!

Sent from my ONEPLUS A3000 using Tapatalk

Thanks guys!

Marc

#### Marc_G

PS:

I DID do some preliminary research. Looks like the bit I need is probably a diamond glitter bit. Can get one for $30-40 on Amazon. But, I'm not sure what the best tool to use it in would be. I have an old but rarely used craftsman tool that looks like a Dremel tool on steroids. Also have a nice (but old---was my dad's) router. Don't want to destroy the router... #### hornet driver ##### Well-Known Member Thanks all! Here's a larger view; the bricks around this joint aren't going anywhere. Definitely no need to remove them and re-do. It's just this joint. Back behind the failing mortar line, there's a metal reinforcing bar that I believe carries some weight across the door. The main job of the mortar is to keep water out, I think! So, the mortar here on this line is essentially cosmetic, more or less. View attachment 325727 This thing actually has been like this a while (more than a year, less than three, probably), but it's time to deal with it. All great suggestions! I'll give you one more that might make your life a little easier since your going to be on a ladder. Use a grout bag to insert the premixed cement. You'll need to chip out the old but the grout bag makes it easier to get into tight spots like that as well as getting as much cement into the crack as you need a little less messy. You can then finish it with a trowel or simply your finger. #### TheTellurian ##### In space no one can hear you fart I generally used a 5" angle grinder with a 1/4 inch thick diamond wheel meant for grinding mortar joints . The diamond wheel is expensive but cheap carbide wheels are available if you have an angle grinder available. They can be dangerous in use though, it twists in the hand when starting up and the wheel can bind in the joint causing it to jump out with considerable force. I have from time to time put a masonry wheel into a circular saw to get a deeper cut. With either please wear glasses, dust mask and gloves or you may wish you had after the fact. Richard #### bradycros ##### Well-Known Member QUOTE=Marc_G;1719222] Wow! Thanks to everyone who supplied some very useful and appreciated information. I think I will take a stab at this, and see how it goes. I can always abort and flush out the mortar if it turns into a mess. And Bradycros... thanks for taking the time to put up a picture of some of the requisite tools. I didn't know you had concrete running through your veins! OK guys, wish me luck. Marc[/QUOTE] Here's a pic of the brush I mentioned. A pic of a brick hammer, not absolutely needed but handy to have and a selection of chisels. Notice that they are all flat, allowing them to fit into the mortar joints. Happy pounding! #### Andy Greene ##### Well-Known Member I think I should probably do some experimental chipping to see how hard it would be to remove the portion remaining. This also involved es seeing how comfortable I am doing such work on a ladder... Sent from my ONEPLUS A3000 using Tapatalk Work from the window was my first thought..... :wink: #### Zeus-cat ##### Well-Known Member Just like with rockets, we want to see pictures after you finish. #### Marc_G ##### Well-Known Member Ok thanks guys. There will be pictures presuming I don't totally screw it up. Regarding working through the window... Not happening. The window is 10-12 feet up, past an inside ledge. I've been "up there" only once. Nerve wracking. Much better to lean a sturdy ladder against exterior wall. Sent from my ONEPLUS A3000 using Tapatalk #### RocketFeller ##### Well-Known Member I don't have much experience but I built a pretty cool fire pit out of a pile of recycled bricks. Here are a few things I learned: Don't work when it is hot, avoid sun on the bricks if possible. Wet everything down for a few minutes prior to mixing the mortar. Dry bricks seem ton suck the moisture out of the mortar and make it set up really fast. Have a bucket of water and a big sponge/brush handy while you work. It is easy to clean up before it starts to set, much more difficult as it sets. Wear PVC gloves. Mortar messes up your hands. I learned the hard way. Don't be afraid to use a finger to smooth the mortar - if you can do a fillet you should be able to fix that joint well enough! #### Marc_G ##### Well-Known Member Thanks. As I recall from the last time I worked with brick, "the wetter, the better." And yeah, I will be wearing gloves! Did a number on my hands when I worked with this stuff without them in the past. #### bradycros ##### Well-Known Member QUOTE=Marc_G;1719579]Thanks. As I recall from the last time I worked with brick, "the wetter, the better." [/QUOTE] I have to disagree with that. Many old timey bricks were solid but kinda soft and very poreus, they would indeed suck the water out of the mortar quickly. A experienced bricklayer would have no trouble with this type of brick without making a big mess by soaking the bricks with water. The bricks in your homes walls are modern bricks which were made to be much denser and fired in a way that makes them harder. Water absorption will be mucho less. Anyways, your not going to be laying brick. Your repairing mortar joints. Take a water bottle up the ladder with you and if the small patch of mortar your working on needs a little more work time give it a squirt. To much squirting and the run off, contain cement from the mortar will get into pores of the bricks face below the spot your working on and look less then pleasing to the eye (cement stains). Sure, you could acid wash the wall to remove some staining but who wants to do that? Don't use any more water then is necessary to get a workable mortar and use the squirt bottle sparingly. Have paper towel at hand and put it under the section of bed joint your going to squirt to soak up any run off if you have to use extra water. Again, your skill level is a 1 here so only repair a bricks length at a time. I highly recommend using a jointing tool, not your finger. #### Marc_G ##### Well-Known Member Great input and insight. Will do! Thanks! Sent from my ONEPLUS A3000 using Tapatalk #### Marc_G ##### Well-Known Member OK, the project has begun. Yesterday I stopped at Lowes and bought some tools, specifically a decent pointing trowel and some decent eye protection (most of my other pairs are scratched all to heck), a dust mask, and some mortar mix. Oh and a couple sizes of cold chisels.$55 outlay, though I was going to buy the safety stuff anyway before this job came up, so really I'm at \$35 specific to this project.

Yada yada yada, I spent a lot of time fussing with my ladders to figure out how to access the whole length of the joint. It led me to removing some bushes that were mostly dead anyway, so I could plant the ladder in the spaces those bushes took up. I was going to call somebody about landscaping, but these bushes needed to get out of here today, so I got out my sawzall with "The Axe" blade. Bye bye bushes.

With help of the cold chisels and hammer, the problem quickly became evident:

Behind the joint, there was "something" back there, such that the joint that failed was only about an eighth of an inch thick in places, a quarter inch at most. Above is a picture of the "Something" where the joint failed the worst. I think it's a strip of what was plywood at one time. Shown above is where the joint was thinnest. The something was farther back (and more deteriorated) for most of the rest of the joint width.

Really less than half an hour of chiseling over the ~3 hours I worked on this today; the rest was fussing with bushes and ladders and stuff. Here's the cleared joint:

I didn't have time to fill it today. Tomorrow I'm actually planning to launch some rockets so maybe not tomorrow either. I've got to clear out that "Something" for about six inches, to a depth of at least half an inch. I took a quick stab at it with my Dremel and a drywall bit. I could poke holes in it but it didn't want to just go away. Most of the length of the joint it's no problem; basically rotten and raking it with the cold chisel cleared it out. But for about six inches it's pretty tough still.

Stay tuned. The story will continue.

Marc

#### Marc_G

##### Well-Known Member
Almost got the job done today, but ran out of mortar. I had bought a bag that comes as a ziplock pouch. Add 10 ounces of water, zip tight, knead, apply. But I needed about 40% more material.

I started by masking after I cleared out that bit of wood-like stuff that was blocking where the mortar needed to go on one section, then blowing the joint clean with a vacuum cleaner outlet hose:

Then I mixed up the mortar and tried to do the "pastry/icing bag" technique but that didn't work out so well. I wound up using traditional trowel and (double gloved) fingers, packing in with the pointing trowel, and smoothing with my other trowel.

When I was out of material and the mortar was setting anyway, I brushed it with a damp sponge then pulled the masking.

So far so good. The joint is pretty flat; should hold well. Just need to replicate the process for the remainder of the joint, in the next day or two when I get another bag of mortar.