Almost every wall in the UK will need to be repointed at some point. The mortar between the bricks on modern buildings acts as a water barrier and also holds the bricks in place so they don’t move.
From a structural point of view, the mortar is just as important as the bricks themselves.
The importance of the mortar joint should not be underestimated. Poor quality workmanship can ruin the appearance of the brickwork and can lead to the early failure of the mortar.
While small patches at low levels can be repaired by DIYers with some basic training, higher level work and projects on older buildings should be completed by a professional.
(The guide on this page assumes you’re working on a modern building with cement-based mortar. If your home is a period building and is constructed with lime-based mortar, you should not use cement. Lime allows the wall to breathe and is best used on older buildings, cement is watertight and should be used on modern dwellings.)
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What is Mortar?
Mortar is a mixture of sand and either cement or lime and is used between the courses of bricks or blocks on most walls in the UK.
It shouldn’t be confused with concrete.
Mortar should always be weaker and more flexible than the bricks. If the wall experiences any minor movement or stress, it’s important that the mortar flexes too.
If the mortar mix is stronger than the bricks, any stress will be transferred to the bricks and cracks will appear in them, they’ll then need to be replaced.
Don’t forget: It’s much cheaper and easier to repoint a wall than to remove and replace broken bricks.
Why Does Mortar Fail?
As previously stated, the mortar mix should always be weaker than the bricks. This is where issues can creep in.
Most houses shouldn’t require any repairs or mortar renewal work for at least 60 years unless:
- the original bricklayer used a mix that was far too weak and it has now failed.
- the existing pointing was too brittle or thin and has now crumbled or cracked.
- the brickwork is in an exposed location and driving rain has washed out the mortar.
- chimneys, due to their exposed location, often require remedial work before any other part of the house.
The Best Mortar Mix For Repointing
While many tradespeople still use a mixture of sand and cement, this is almost always stronger than the bricks and can lead to problems with cracking in the future.
There is much debate amongst bricklayers and specialists about the “perfect mix” but it really depends on the age and type of bricks on a wall.
For a typical modern house, a mixture of 5 parts sand, 2 parts lime and just one part cement should suffice.
For period properties with very soft bricks, the cement can be reduced to half a part or even omitted completely.
This page contains a list of suggested mortar mixes for various projects including bricklaying and pointing.
Chimneys are the most exposed part of your house and wind-driven rain can wash out weak mortar mixes leaving the stack in a precarious situation.
The knee jerk reaction of many tradespeople is to use a stronger mortar mix, but as we already know, this can result in cracks and deterioration in the bricks.
One option is to repoint the chimney bricks using a 5 parts sand, one part lime and one part cement mixture and then allow the mortar to fully dry before applying a waterproof sealant to the entire stack.
There are plenty of waterproof sealants available online, the key is to apply them to a fully cured and dry chimney stack. Issues usually arise after the sealant has been brushed onto a wet wall.
Period properties were designed to breathe and the bricks are much softer than those seen in modern buildings.
Using a high concentration of cement in the mortar mix is a no-no as it will either crack and fall out or transfer any stress to the bricks that will crack and spall.
For older buildings with Victorian, Edwardian or Georgian brick facades, a lime mortar mix should be used instead. This type of work should be completed by a specialist and almost always costs more than a sand/cement mortar repoint.
What Steps Are Involved With Repointing?
The hardest part of most repointing projects isn’t the pointing itself but the preparation work.
For most brick walls on modern homes, the existing mortar should be raked out to a depth of around 15-25mm. For walls with inconsistent mortar strengths, you may need to use a tool such as a chisel or a disc cutter. This can add a considerable amount of time to the project.
The joints should also be free of dust prior to the work commencing.
Here the step-by-step instructions on how to repoint brickwork:
- cover the ground with a tarpaulin
- scrape, rake and/or cut out existing mortar to wall
- replace any cracked or spalled bricks
- brush down the wall to remove any dust from the courses
- prepare mortar to desired strength and ensure a good colour match (samples are normally created beforehand so you know which colour sand to buy)
- press mortar into joints
- cut off excess mortar and smooth over the mortar with a trowel
Pointing Styles and Finishes
There are many different types of pointing, here are the most common:
This is one of the most commonly seen styles of pointing, it’s also one of the easiest to achieve (try a tool like this) and has a good weather resistance.
This style is best suited to brick walls where you want a rustic finish. It’s easy to achieve but isn’t suitable for all types of bricks.
How Long Does it Take to Repoint a Wall?
It’s almost impossible to predict how long this work will take without looking at the wall.
Below is a very rough guide but please remember the following points:
- soft mortar = easy to rake out
- hard or inconsistent mortar strength = difficult and time-consuming to remove
- different finishes take different amounts of time and require differing skill or experience levels
- the suggested times below exclude scaffolding and assume flush or standard pointing
Small chimney – less than one day.
Medium chimney – one day.
Large chimney – two days minimum.
3-bed semi – between 4 and 6 days depending on how easy it is to remove the old mortar.
Whether you are planning to repoint the brickwork yourself or get a professional in, a significant expense is the access equipment you’ll need.
If you live in a bungalow, you’ll need nothing more than a stand.
For houses and townhouses, you need either a full scaffold or movable access towers.
Needless to say that a full scaffold system is far more expensive than movable towers.
When gathering prices for repointing work, we suggest you shop around as some tradespeople or businesses own towers while others will need to bring in the services of an eternal scaffold company.
If you’re not sure how much scaffolding hire costs, you need this page – scaffold hire prices in the UK.
Below is our guide to repointing prices in the UK.
The figures are per square metre, except for chimneys, these are priced per stack.
None of the prices below include the cost of scaffolding, however, as previously stated, many tradespeople have their own access towers which could be used, at least in part, to gain access.
|Small chimney||£400 - 500|
|Medium chimney||£600 - 800|
|Repointing to a modern house||£25 - 50 per square metre depending on location and overall size of project|
|Repointing period property with lime based mortar||£60 - 80 per square metre depending on location and overall size of project|
|Typical 3 bed house - modern||£2250 - £3000|
|Typical 3 bed house - period property||£3250 - £4000|
The prices above are based on a property in the south of the UK. Other areas may be slightly cheaper. For projects larger than 75 square metres, the cost per square metre will reduce.
What Prices Have You Received?
This is your opportunity to let other visitors to this site know how much you’ve been quoted for brick repointing.
We don’t allow businesses or tradespeople to advertise here, this is only for consumers:
|David||SE London||Point one gable end and one chimney on a semi detached property. (Aug 2017)||£1450|
|Kevin M||Yorkshire||Rake out and repoint a four bedroom detached house. (Aug 2017)||£3750|
|Margaret||Bristol||Our home is detached and was built at the turn of the century. A complete re-point including garage and retaining wall. (July 2017)||£7500|
|Mike Yates||Liverpool||chimney repoint and new cement cap + one cowl. No scaffold required. (July 2017)||£350|
You can add your own figures by filling out this form.
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