Repairing damaged pointing in brick walls is an important maintenance job that should never be neglected. Repointing can also greatly improve the look of your brickwork, but needs doing carefully if it’s to look uniform.
The mortar joint visible between the bricks on the face of a wall is called ‘pointing’ and its most important function is to provide a smooth finish that prevents rainwater from seeping in behind the weather-resistant face of the bricks. If this happens during frosty weather, the water could freeze and expand, possibly cracking off the outer face of the bricks. In some cases, defective pointing can allow water to penetrate the wall completely, appearing as damp patches inside. So it’s important that it’s in good condition if it’s to do its job properly.
When the wall was originally built the joints may have been ‘struck’ out of the bedding mortar as the bricks were laid – a process the bricklayer refers to as ‘jointing’. Or the bedding mortar may have been scraped out before it completely set, usually to a depth of about 25mm, and then the joints will have been filled with fresh mortar and shaped – true ‘pointing’. Jointing is more durable than pointing because there is no break in the mortar between the bricks. However, either can fail in the end, so for simplicity’s sake we’ll refer to both as pointing.
If pointing starts to crack or crumble, it needs repointing – a job that involves chipping out the old mortar and replacing it with new. At the same time, the cause of failure should be traced and eliminated.