Short to Mid-Term Fix for an Exterior Brick Wall?

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Topic: Short to Mid-Term Fix for an Exterior Brick Wall?

Home and Garden May 23, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Short to Mid-Term Fix for an Exterior Brick Wall?

The back exterior brick wall of our rowhouse is a mess…with patches of mortar slapped into certain areas to support crumbling bricks and our chiminey, and other areas where the brick is just turning into dust. 
I am sure the right thing to do here is to “re-point” all of the brick mortar and replace a bunch of bricks…but from what I’ve heard that can be extremely expensive. 
I am looking for a 5-10 year solution…no a 30-50 year solution.  Has anyone had any luck or experience in just putting a good, solid coat of mortar over a failing brick wall?  How long does it last?  
And finally…any suggestions for a local company or local handymen who do this and approximate cost ranges?  
Any suggestions and ideas are of course apprecaited…thanks in advance. 

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This is a really common problem in DC. Most people I know just mortar/cement over and thats a quick job.  I also know that others have gone the formstone route .


We eventually ended up repointing the entire front of our house, but of all the companies we contacted, Edgar’s Masonry was the only one that was willing to do a portion of the wall instead of insisting that everything had to be done absolutely the “right” way.  You might contact them to see what he can recommend–they get good reviews just about everywhere and are recommended by the Capitol Hill historic district folks.

We have not had brick work done to our home, but did have a new porch roof installed by this company that did great work. They also do brick work and the owner showed us some homes in our neighborhood that he worked on. Pretty impressive and he knows how to work with these old houses.  His name and number are below. I would call and ask him to give you an estimate.  Good luck!
William Mackay


You have a moisture problem somewhere. The light gray patch is portland cement and it’s making the problem worse because water vapor can’t pass through cement. It condenses back into liquid before it escapes and starts dissolving your bricks. Old fashioned lime concretes and a mortars have almost no cement in them and the old fashioned mortars allow water vapor to pass through. The problem is made worse because lower quality bricks were used on the back of rowhouses, saving higher quality and money for the front.
Find the moisture problem. It might be the chimney, make sure it’s venting properly. I’ve seen chimneys plugged up (by accident and on purpose) and the result is that hot wet air condeses like crazy inside the chimney than soaks into the brick. Remove any cement patches. They’re making the problem worse. Remove any loose paint (flakes, blisters, etc.) some paints aren’t compatible for brick the same way cement isn’t, the paint traps moisture. Look for bad roof flashing at the top of the wall. If you parge with stucco, no need to look for holes in the mortar, they’ll be covered up anyway.
Then parge the wall with a coat of lime-based concrete stucco, keeping cement content to an absolute minimum. A good parging of stucco should last 20-40 years as long as you do all the prep work explained above. If you skip the prep work the stucco will be lucky to last 10 years and the brick will be even worse than it is now.

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