Brick Home Mortar Repair

Dear NH,
I own one unit in a brick, single story + basement duplex built around 1912. My side was inspected at purchase (1 year 6 mo. ago) and determined to be in good condition. However, there are a few spots that appear to need some mortar repair. I've been told that I could do the tuck-pointing myself. Could you offer some tips? I've also heard that older buildings need a special kind of mortar for tuck-pointing. Can you give me some hints on what this special mortar is and how I can find it?
GC from Denver, Colorado

Dear GC,
Tuck-pointing is no more than scraping out the loose mortar to a depth of at least a half inch, dampen the old work slightly, and press new mortar into the spaces. There are special tools you should buy to handle the mortar, such as a hawk and a pointing trowel, that will speed your work and make it easier to do a great looking job. You can even use your fingers in tight spots, though the cement is tough on the hands!

As far as needing a special mortar, you can use a premixed bagged mortar, but add a bonding agent to it. A bonding agent is a chemical that increases the adhesion of the new mortar to the old work. Old cement is very hard and nonporous, and the additive will increase the chances that your repairs will stay put for a long time. Refer to the label directions for mixing proportions.


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