While I've never done any masonry I've looked at pointing, brick and mortar for decades. (I've even tasted the stuff, bricks too.) I'm a huge fan of the old mortar blends with the tiny pebbles. I do my research on sidewalks, in the streets and hang with some stone masons (I'm some kind of brick groupie to these guys who kindly tolerate my excitement with amused and bewildered expressions. No one's ever asked me these questions before, said Simon). These are my qualifications.

Loosely speaking, pointing is the mortar between bricks. A more accurate definition is that it's the visible edge of the mortar-joint. There are styles of pointing which include flush, tuck, bucket handle and recessed pointing.

The photo below shows the repointing debacle on the Capistrano building on Utah and Gustine.

I'm betting the original pointing on the Capistrano's exterior walls was recessed. That is, the brick presented about 1/4" of an inch further out than the pointing.

I realize (without never having done it) drag face brick is a bitch to repoint. I've documented enough of it and seriously, I sympathize. (I also know that old mortar had a higher lime content -hence the term lime-mortar- than the newer replacement mortar. The Portland cement content of new mortar can damage old walls beyond repair.) Repointing brick like this requires expertise, patience and proper tools. None of these were on the truck the day it pulled up to The Capistrano.

The mortar mix used does not begin to match the original and it will eventually pop out.

In the upper left hand corner you can see that the repointing was finger tooled. Finger tooled! No, NO, NO!

Click on the photo to enlarge it and you'll see cracks already forming in the mortar. No cracks present in the brick though!

And now, feast your eyes on the details of this one astonishing brick.

More finger tooling and resulting fissures.

Stretcher Bond:

NEVER sandblast old brick! Sandblasting can damage the hard surface of fired brick and open the bricks up to water damage. Not to mention that fact that it can turn beautifully rubbed facing brick into dented, pitted clinkers, and can blast out softened mortar joints. Sandblasting will kill your building.

There are alternatives to sandblasting that could be used if the brick is heavily soiled or stained. Some other options include rice-hulls, styrofoam balls, nutshells, etc. All of these options are easier on brick, although still risky. They require far less pressure, and may be safer. Still, the only surface really suited to sandblasting is metalwork.

NEVER paint brick!

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