Friday, March 16, 2012

Weeping Mortar Joints

Tools needed to remove WMJs.  (Brick Hammer is shown,
but any hammer to pop down on your chisel will do.)
From my end, it's clear that there is a lot of interest in the topic of Weeping Mortar Joints.  There are some that hold WMJs in favorable regard and believe they should be appreciated as an architectural element.  As I've mentioned before (see The Weeping Joints at The Fire House) when complemented effectively, I'm totally sold on how they can contribute to the exterior facade.  However, when they've been painted with the exterior brick, I think the result is less-than-impressive.  When I had weeping joints on the project we call The Fire House (before), most of my visitors believed strongly that I had no choice but to deal with them in some way.  I agreed.  

There is more than one way to skin a cat.  I've found that if you have a unique issue it's possible to get five different suggested solutions from five people.  They all may be right and they may not.  When you're the one making the decision it's up to you to listen, sort through what you've been told, and draw on your own knowledge base to move forward as you choose.  The WMJs at The Fire House (during) was an example of something that inspired a diverse variety of advice. One person strongly recommended that I hire a masonry crew to chisel away the oozing joints, grind out the mortar, and then tuckpoint replacement material back in to create more traditional looking joints.  Another visitor recommended that I find someone with a jackhammer and get out of the way.  A few thought I should simply get used to how the home looked because they knew of no viable options for me.  And another man got more specific and unloaded his seemingly costly and time-consuming advice for me to attach wire fabric to the brick and then apply stucco.  As I mentioned in my February post on this topic, it was pretty simple and I just chipped the WMJs all off myself by hand, a remedy that eluded the curious folks stopping by.

Question:  How do you eat an elephant?
Answer:  One bite at a time.
Front Before Removing WMJs.

I didn't try to chip all the weeping joints off in one day or even a weekend.  The exterior walls were between nine and ten feet high.  I broke that height in half and started moving my way around the house a day at a time and one 5' x 5' section at a time.  Some evenings I chipped away after work for 20 or 30 minutes and there was a day or two on the weekends when I did twenty-five square feet in the morning and the same sized section before dark.  It was not difficult or strenuous and there was an immediate pay-off because of how the work impacted the exterior look so profoundly.  Once the WMJs were gone, the joints then had a jagged look that differed from typical/traditional ones finished during construction with a jointer, but they looked good.  Better stated, within the painted brick exterior of The Fire House (after), they looked right and if a visitor didn't know any different, they likely assumed that the way it appeared was the way the brick facade had always been.
The back of The Fire House just before I removed the WMJs.  You can chip away from a ladder, but I built a box frame to use as a scaffold that I slid along and worked from as I progressed around the perimeter.  I also used this scaffolding to work from as I repaired the fascia and soffit. 



  1. Thanks for writing this up. I found it while searching for advice if the weeping mortar could be undone and how much grief it would be. I think it wouldn't be so bad, I've only got weeping mortar on the lower part of one section of our split level house. There is a little more brick (a couple chimneys, porch skirting), but that mortar isn't crying it's eyes out. There isn't anything charming about our weeping mortar, this and some paint could be the answer.

  2. It's not really hard to chip it off, Julie!
    There are a lot of DIYers out there that want options to deal with weeping mortar.
    I'd love see some before/after pics when you're finished. If you'd like, send them to:
    Good luck to you!

    1. Hi! I've been searching and searching the best way to redo the exterior of my 1957 Ranch. The bottom half is brick w/ WMJ and top half is wood shingle. I am SO thrilled to read your post about chiseling the mortar off. I, too, asked several for opinion on what to do. I wanted to knock it off somehow. I am concerned about breaking or cracking the mortar in between the bricks. Is a new mortar patch to a break or crack a long lasting fix? And is it easy enough to do on my own? Thank you for any feedback!

    2. Glad you found my post Chey Mar! Like with Julie Campbell above, I'd love to see any before/after pictures you'd like to share with me when you're done.
      Knocking off the weeping mortar is easy. You need chisels like the one's pictured at the top of the post and a hammer... not too small or too heavy though. The type of hammer that could drive in a framing nail.
      You shouldn't have any adverse issues with mortar breaking or cracking between your bricks. If you want to get more comfortable with what you'll be doing, why not do a small test area at the base of the wall, something that is likely obscured by landscaping? Then you can see how cleanly the mortar breaks off and also how easy of a task it is.
      Thanks for commenting!
      Good luck,

  3. Hello! I'm not sure you will get this comment since you posted this so long ago, but I have a very similar situation with the brick on my home. However, the paint is lead based. Do you know if the paint on the fire house was lead based? If so, how did you remedy that while removing the mortar?

    1. Hi Kiley. Thanks for the comment. You're right about needing to be mindful of the lead paint as you remove the mortar... wear goggles and a mask as you chip the mortar away. You'll also want to collect the paint and mortar on the ground below as you work. (catching it in a tarp, plastic, etc.) to most especially protect animals and children from ingesting the paint chips/dust. This may seem like a tedious annoyance at first, but once you get into a groove or routine with it, it won't be too difficult. To make yourself more comfortable and confident with the safety part of this, just do a little additional research to supplement what I'm describing. (example=clothing.)
      This is one of my most popular posts and I'd love to have some before/after pictures of your project. You can send them to

  4. Thank you for the response! I wondered if you have had any issues with the joints with time. Is repointing only recommended for aesthetic reasons? Or does it protect against water damage, etc? I don't mind the mortar being flush or crooked since we plan on painting anyway.