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

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Marc_G

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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:

TuckPoint.jpg

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

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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

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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

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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

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I shadetreed this once. I won't do it again.
 

bobby_hamill

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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

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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...

😜
 

Marc_G

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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.

MortarBigger.jpg

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

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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: DSCF0007.JPG

Nike Smoke.jpg
 

TheTellurian

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$500 ouch!

Tuckpointing was a major part of my job for a number of decades. Historical restoration was my specialty. If you want to do it yourself get a chisel for mortar removal and hammer out the old. If it has been pointed before its likely to be bad all the way across. Our building code specs type M mortar which can be made by mixing type S [1 part] to 2 parts sand, play sand prefered. If you can find some lime add 10% otherwise use a bonding additive latex or acrylic, doesn't matter. These will make the mix more plastic and easier to work.

Two ways to put it into the joint. My favorite was bagging which is to squeeze it though a pastry bag like affair made out of heavy poly but more likely you should find and use a pointing slicker which is a strip or flat bar with a handle and hawk or a common rectangle plaster trowel . Do not use the little triangle shaped trowel as I've never seen anyone do a good job with one of those. The technique is to put some mortar on the hawk, put the hawk up to the joint and scrape a small amount of the mortar of into the gap. Push it all the way to the back of the gap. Ideally it should be built up in layers but I was never that fussy. You might also find a shaping slicker or jointer about the same shape as the existing joints but let the mortar stiffen before using it. Any professional overruns can be erased with a common rubber ball cut in half but this must be done promptly before the bonding additive sets. Any remaining blush is removed with a little muriatic acid. [hydrochloric]

Pigments can be had to match the colour although it takes a lot of experience to get it right. A better way is to find a dye or stain about the right colour and shade, dilute it way more than you think and paint in the shade using multiple applications.

I hope that gives a bit of an idea of what it takes.


Richard
 

TheTellurian

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Just reread the thread and realized there is a steel lentil in back of it. Steel and mortar expand at very different rates and will eventually always crack. Just the way it is having repaired many of them. It is the only place I might use a caulk type. I think the caulks look ugly and I charged a lot to remove it. A proper mortar joint will last a decade or more but will let go eventually.


Richard
 

Marc_G

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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...

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bradycros

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The course of bricks underneath the window is called a "row lock". It's the masonry equivalent of a wooden window sill. The row lock should be slanted down with enough angle to shed water. It should also protrude from the rest of the wall so water can not work its way back into the bed joint beneath the row lock.

Looks like the row lock on your window is flush with the wall (that's bad), allowing water into the bed joint and your house. By the way the bed joint is way to large. Compare it to the other bed joints in the wall. The freeze/thaw cycle in Ohio tore the joint up.

Here's a pick of some of the hand tools I would be using for the repair. A pointing trowel, tuck pointer, jointer and a flat nosed trowel I use for mixing small batches of mortar.

You can get premixed mortar at any home improvement store like Lowes.

All cracked mortar joints have to be removed either by hand or a angle grinder, or both ( or the problem will reoccur). After that chore is completed the pointing can begin. To avoid smearing mortar on the bricks (making the wall look worst then it all ready duz) mask each brick off with masking tape. Rub the edges down like you would when masking a rocket. Get a workable amount of mortar on your pointing trowel and bring the long edge of the trowel up to and level with the bed joint. Use the tuck pointer to slide and push the mortar into the joint, really pack it in. Since your skill level is pretty low, only fill in about one brick length at a time and use a jointer to really pack in and smooth out the mortars outer surface. This goes a long way in aiding the joint to shed water. I use the brush part of an old kitchen broom (handle removed) to swipe off any the mortar that was forced out of the joint while jointing (this is where a lot of the smearing will occur, hence the time it took to mask the bricks now pays off).

Your probly thinking of doing all this work on a ladder. Good luck with that! You'll be one tired puppy before you get very far into the repair. I highly recommend you rent some scaffolding. It will make the work so much more doable because of the easier access.

Questions? PM me.

IMG_1583.jpg
 

Lowpuller

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+1 to what bradycros said.

The issue could be helped further with the proper installation of flashing but that's beyond the scope of this thread.
 

tightwad

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When I was 10 years old, I needed money to go to the movies, so I helped my grandfather and a mason reset some bricks. My job was to cut heavy felt into half inch strips. I asked what the felt was for and the mason said he used it where ever there was expansion and that it prevents the mortar from cracking. Do they still felt for this purpose? Sorry hijacking the thread.
 

Marc_G

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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.

Meanwhile, since there seems to be a bunch of expertise here on things dealing with cement, I've got another one for you.

Behold a cracked slab on my driveway:

Driveway crack.jpg

There are actually two that look like this. The cracks average an eighth of an inch wide.

About six years ago, I had a pro come out and address a bunch of these cracks. He had what looked like a router with a bit that stood up to concrete, and he widened the cracks, then he squirted concrete crack filling stuff in, and it set up nice, and six years later is still holding. This time, with just two slabs, I figured to do it myself. I recently ordered a bunch of what I believe to be the same stuff (DAP 37584), but I'm a bit unclear what exactly to use to widen the cracks. I have a router, (but no appropriate bit) but I would not be opposed to buying some other tool to widen it. Again, if I call people out to do it, it's $$$. Better to buy the tool and spend a couple hours cleaning and vacuuming out the cracks. Thoughts on the right bit or grinding tool? This is probably a one-time job for me (eventually, a bunch of slabs need to be broken up and removed). If a Harbor Freight tool that's disposable is the ticket, let me know.

Thanks guys!

Marc
 

Marc_G

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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

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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

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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

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QUOTE=Marc_G;1719222]
IMG_1585.jpgIMG_1584.jpgIMG_1586.jpgWow!

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

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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...

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Work from the window was my first thought..... :wink:
 

Zeus-cat

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Just like with rockets, we want to see pictures after you finish.
 

Marc_G

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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.

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RocketFeller

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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

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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

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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

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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:

Junk in Joint.jpg

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:

Cleared Joint.jpg

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

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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:

Masking.jpg

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.

Mortar and MAsk.jpg

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

Moartar.jpg

View from street Sunday.jpg

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.
 
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