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How to Reset a Loose Brick

A simple repair can save a whole brick wall

FH01MAY_LOOSBR_01-3Family Handyman
Learn how to clean, reset and tuckpoint loose bricks. A loose brick can ultimately lead to major problems – even a wall collapse – but the fix is simple.

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Clean bricks before remortaring

Photo 1: Chip out old mortar

Chip away the old mortar with a cold chisel or flat utility chisel. Hold the chisel at a low angle, work it in under the mortar and hit the chisel with short, light hammer blows. Dust out the cavity using a whisk broom and dampen it with water to improve mortar adhesion.

Photo 2: Clean the brick

Knock the mortar off the old brick by holding the chisel at a high angle and hitting it with rapid, light blows while moving the chisel tip quickly over the surface of the hardened mortar. Clean the brick with a wire brush and rinse it off with water.

Photo 3: Apply new mortar

Apply a 1/2-in. layer of mortar to the bottom, both sides of the cavity and the top of the brick. Slide the brick into the cavity.

Photo 4: Point the mortar

Pack the mortar oozing from the joints with a brick trowel and 3/8-in. wide pointing tool. Add more mortar by sliding it directly off the trowel and into the joint. Finish the joint surfaces to match the shape of adjacent joints.

When a brick works loose, you can’t just shove mortar in around it and expect the repair to last. Pull it out and fix it right.

It’ll take you at least 20 minutes to remove a loose brick from a wall and clean off the old mortar from both the wall cavity and brick (Photos 1 and 2). If possible, reuse the old bricks. New brick will never match the texture or aged color of the original.

When resetting bricks, follow these guidelines:

  • Select bagged mortar mix, not sand or concrete mix.
  • Wear safety glasses. Also wear waterproof gloves; mortar contains alkaline chemicals that can burn you.
  • Add latex additive to the water and mix the mortar in a shallow container (like an old dishpan) to the consistency of peanut butter.
  • Mix small batches of mortar. Hot, dry weather and direct sunlight can reduce the viable working time of the mortar from 60 minutes to 30.
  • Immediately clean mortar smears off brick faces using a soft-bristle brush (a wire brush may leave rust marks). If the mortar dries, you’ll have to use chemicals to remove it.

Required Tools for this Project

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

  • Bucket
  • Cold chisel
  • Hammer
  • Safety glasses
  • Trowel
  • Tuckpointing tool
You’ll also need a whisk broom, a soft-bristle brush and waterproof gloves.

Required Materials for this Project

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

  • Latex additive
  • Mortar mix