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Repointing old walls

Is it time to repoint your period home’s brick or stone walls? Alan Tierney reveals how to spot the signs of failing mortar and what you need to know to get the job done right
This stone wall is being repointed by a SPAB member using a nonhydraulic hot mixed lime mortar of local quick lime and quarried sand
SPAB / RALPH HODGSON

Masonry walls are built of a series of individual units – generally brick, stone or flint – with mortar acting as the glue that holds them together. The external face of the finished wall therefore consists of masonry units separated by mortar joints. These joints are known as pointing.

Mortar basically comprises an aggregate (sand) held in a matrix by a binder. In old walls the latter ingredient was usually lime, but might be earth or a combination of the two. Stone walls were often built with earth-lime mortar, for example, but pointed using lime.

How pointing works

The most obvious purpose of pointing is to fill the gaps between the masonry units. This stops them from becoming loose and prevents water, draughts and foreign material such as dirt and vegetation from penetrating the wall.

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About Build It

What's inside the April 2018 edition of Build It magazine: - Stunning eco home on a heritage plot (page 22) - Glazed doors design ideas (page 64) - Renovating for profit (page 71) - Garage design options (page 74) - Complete guide to building with timber (page 81) - How to get planning on your garden (page 110) - Window cost guide (page 117) ... and much more!