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How to Replace Spalling Bricks

This article explains how to identify spalling on bricks, which causes them to deteriorate. It also tells how you can keep water away from brick walls to eliminate the problem before it starts. Otherwise, you'll end up having to replace the damaged bricks.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

How to Replace Spalling Bricks

This article explains how to identify spalling on bricks, which causes them to deteriorate. It also tells how you can keep water away from brick walls to eliminate the problem before it starts. Otherwise, you'll end up having to replace the damaged bricks.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Replacing damaged bricks

This brick retaining wall under a wood fence is falling apart. And it's too late to save it. The flaking surface is a classic example of “spalling,” a type of failure caused by moisture and the freeze/thaw cycle. Water from rainfall, melting snow or even wet soil saturated the brick at some point, probably often, and froze inside the brick when the temperature dropped. The slight expansion of freezing water fractured the brick. With repeated freezing and thawing, the fractures widened until the brick literally disintegrated.

To resist these forces, bricks used on the exterior are usually harder and denser (less moisture absorption). When you see an occasional brick in a wall that fails, it's often a softer brick that was mixed in the load by mistake. However, you have massive failure, indicating a severe water intrusion problem. The problem is probably not bad brick.

Exterior walls have to be detailed carefully to keep water out, particularly when they're part of a retaining wall. The most obvious element missing in your case is a coping or cap on the wall to keep rain out.

This consists of metal flashing, concrete or special bricks that are angled to direct water away from the top of the wall. The cap may have been there at one time, but it was removed or it wore away. In addition, the wood fence above probably catches and directs even more water down onto the wall.

If you have your brick wall rebuilt, make sure it's designed to minimize water intrusion. In addition to a cap on the top, it should have good draining fill (gravel) along the backside and weep holes along the bottom to relieve water pressure when the soil becomes saturated. Damp-proofing the backside of the wall will also help keep water out. And good drainage around the base will help keep water from entering from below.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • Hammer
    • Tape measure
    • Circular saw
    • Cold chisel
    • Level
    • Extension cord
    • Dust mask
    • Hearing protection
    • Wheelbarrow
    • Safety glasses
    • Sledgehammer
    • Spade
    • Utility knife
    • Trowel

You'll also need a masonry blade for your circular saw to cut the brick

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • Brick
    • Landscape fabric
    • Gravel
    • Drain tile
    • Mortar

Comments from DIY Community Members

Share what's on your mind and see what other DIYers are thinking about.

1 - 8 of 8 comments
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October 29, 8:26 AM [GMT -5]

so, no answers here.....
can anyone recommend some steps for a chimney that is just beginning to show signs of the problem? can i seal the bricks? recommend products that will do it?
any pointers would be appreciated!

April 04, 8:07 AM [GMT -5]

You should be ashamed of yourself! This was no "How to replace" article. Who was responsible for this?

April 03, 1:27 PM [GMT -5]

I agree. Where are the strps and the project itself?

April 02, 7:12 PM [GMT -5]

I'm a little surprised by this "step by step" article about replacing these bricks.. It doesn't say anything about replacing bricks. I mean, it almost came off as a joke. The first few lines in the "step by step" article says... well, this wall is too far gone to replace any of the bricks... and thats it!! Wow! This article should have never been published... at least not under the title of replacing the bricks. I've read other articles you have posted that are great... but this one really amazed me.

April 02, 7:12 PM [GMT -5]

I'm a little surprised by this "step by step" article about replacing these bricks.. It doesn't say anything about replacing bricks. I mean, it almost came off as a joke. The first few lines in the "step by step" article says... well, this wall is too far gone to replace any of the bricks... and thats it!! Wow! This article should have never been published... at least not under the title of replacing the bricks. I've read other articles you have posted that are great... but this one really amazed me.

October 10, 7:59 PM [GMT -5]

Let's see. The title of your web page is "How to Replace Spalling Bricks" But you don't explain how to replace spalling bricks. This is the similar to other pages on you website. It's starting to look as though you people are either dishonest or you just don't care what it is that you say, as long as it gets traffic to your website.

Now, some dishonest website owners will just hire someone off the street to write content. (Think AOL). The author may know absolutely nothing about the topic about which they are writing, but simply pulling erroneous or incomplete information from other sources. So deciding to visit a website is one thing, but deciding to ever come back really depends on how honest and careful you, the website owner are.

Since you, the website owner, are dishonest or extremely careless about the content of your articles, I really have no reason to trust anything you put on your website and no reason to return to your website.

May 17, 4:17 PM [GMT -5]

This article uses a brick wall as its example. My house (about 40 yrs old)is situated 200' from the beach facing west. This house was built of brick, which, I guess, was never sealed. The bottom rows are (have) turning to red dust; the mortar to grey dust.
There is no other texture between the bricks and the interior of the casa.
How can I safely replace these bricks without the house falling down? (just kidding).
I intend to stucco over the finished product.
Thanks for your input.

April 27, 7:40 AM [GMT -5]

Learned something new. I hope to keep my brick ranch house looking good for many years to come.

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