If You Can Ice a Cookie, You Can Repoint Bricks

Here is me. I am standing in front of our old house project in the City of Niagara Falls. We have been working on it for 13 months. This is a roller coaster of emotions: energy, excitement, fear, dread, sore muscles, creativity, community, new friends, old friends and most of all- half assed projects I learned on YouTube. But they are getting done. This project is the story of my life: Never Give Up. Never, Ever, Ever, EVER. Never Give Up.

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I’m pretty excited in this picture because a construction crew showed up this week to work on the porch. The porch was quite literally falling off and contractors ran in fear everytime we showed it to them all summer long. Finally, a great crew took the job and started first thing Monday morning. This picture was taken before, during and after I hung on that fence crying tears of joy in the middle of the public view, while wearing this absolutely ridiculous painting outfit.

We were dealing with a time crunch. The crunch was that it was about 60 degrees but about to fall by 40 degrees. I had to finish painting the exterior of the garage and repointing the bricks in one day. No problem.

What IS repointing? Here’s my simple answer: It’s when the stuff between your bricks gets old and crumbles away and you need to replace it. Here’s how you know you need it. Your bricks have gaps between them, like the ones on the right side of this photo:

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There are two reasons I am doing this  myself:

1.) The estimate to have it done was $8,000.

2.) The directions were on YouTube and the supplies cost about $50.

Here’s what I did. It appears to have worked.

First, I purchased a bag of “mortar mix” from the home store. It says right on the bag it’s approved by masons. (haha). I mixed it up in a bucket by slowly adding water to it, until it was the consistency of very thick brownie batter. I used this really impressive looking attachment on my drill to mix it. Mixing by hand is a terrible thing. Do not do it.

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Then I sprayed the first few feet of bricks with a misting bottle of water. Just enough to get it damp. That helps the mortar adhere to the bricks. Then I filled a awesome pastry bag, (but actually made for mortar and sold in the masonry department), about halfway with the mortar mix. Twist the top around to keep the stuff in, point the tip into the space between the bricks, squeeze consistently and glide the bag betweeen bricks.

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This is going to hurt after about 1o hours.

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Let all that slop stay in there, overflowing a bit, for at least 10 minutes. Continue misting and filling every few feet at a time. Once the 10 minutes or so has passed, it’s time to sort of shape up that sloppy mortar job.

You use this tool that I cannot identify by name. It is sold in the mason department. It’s kind of like using the back of a spoon to smooth your icing. This tool is needed to make the mortar gently curve inward between bricks, which is for some reason desirable in my region. (The North East United States).

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It’s pretty simple, just drag it through the troughs between the bricks. Do a bunch of feet at a time, and then take out a thin spatula type tool and scrape off any extra mortar that is hanging around on the outside of the brick.

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Once you clean it all up, it’s going to look pretty good. You will be pretty damn impressed with yourself. Then you realise your hands and clothing are covered in this dry dust. You’re going to think this is going to be a gentle exfoliant and your hands will be as smooth as a baby’s bottom.

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But you will be wrong. Instead your skin will be very, very, very dry. This is when you get to use the skin lotion from Dollar Tree. It’s called Dermasil, and it is ONE DOLLAR. It works better than $15 bottles of lotion. It’s been on product review shows. It’s good stuff.

When you are done, you should have something like this, and this, and that is GREAT! You did it yourself and you saved thousands of dollars!

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Now for the “people part” of this story. This beautiful house was empty for at least seven years before we purchased it at a city auction. The neighbors have been watching it slowly falling apart. They were SO HAPPY when the porch started coming off, they came into the streets with cocktails and raised toasts to us and to the house and to the porch and to the glory of The Gods of Renovation and Saint Jude himself.

It felt a little like being on top of the world.

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