Repointing is hard work, period. The best that you can do is make sure that you are using the right tools for the job. In this article we will review some of the best mortar removal tools so that we can help you to make sure that you do! So, what are the best tools for repointing? Is there an easy raker/mortar removal tool?
Diamond blade and angle grinder
This is the option with the most control. Training is called for, however, as you don't want to play around with grinders The advantage of this method is the speed and efficiency with which you can get the job done. If you have the right blade and a little experience mortar removal can be a piece of cake.
When it comes to tools for raking out mortar joints this is one you are probably familiar with. This is the brute force method that you often see in movies. While this method will certainly beef up your arms the angle grinder method is going to be preferred if you have the training to this brick grout removal tool.
What if I want to salvage old bricks?
Good for you! A lot of material can be re-used if you are willing to take the time to do it. While not hard work it can be very time consuming but if you would like to go this route we are more than happy to advise. A lot of Masons like to salvage what they can for re-use and if this will be your first time we welcome you to the club.
So, how do I get the remaining mortar off a stack of old bricks?
Muriatic acid(also known as hydrochloric acid) has been used by Masons for some time for removing mortar. A mixture of about 10 parts water to 1 part acid makes a solution which you can soak the bricks in. This will soften cured mortar and after that you can remove it with a hammer and chisel or even that diamond saw blade that we mentioned previously may be used as an electric brick mortar removal tool.
“Pay close attention to the manufacturer's instructions.”
Safety concerns with muriatic acid
While this method has been used for some time there are going to be some safety concerns. Muriatic acid is one of the most corrosive substances that you can get for work in the home so we advise a little research. We'll go into a little detail here but again, it is recommended that you research this method on your own a little as well. It's always better to be safe then sorry.
How does it work with Masonry?
Strong acids can 'etch' the surface of your materials and when the calcium carbonate is cleaned off then you are left with a very smooth surface.
Are there alternatives to muratic/hydrochloric acid?
Yes, indeed. Most concrete cleaners are going to contain phosphoric acid and generally this is going to clean as well as muratic acid. There are also mechanical cleaning methods that are available although these may not be as efficient.
What safety methods should be considered?
- Dress for the job - A NIOSH approved respirator and acid-grade filters are going to be called for here. Acid-resistant gloves, vinyl-coated coveralls, and rubber boots are recommended as well. Most of all, full-face protection.
- Proper Ventilation - While the vapors are corrosive they are not flammable, so that is a point in your favor. That said, you could still get a reaction that produces hydrogen gas with that corrosive air floating about. Working indoors is not recommended.
- Prepare for accidents - Muratic acid can be neutralized with garden lime or baking soda and you want to have water around in case it gets on your skin. Half a cup of baking soda in one quart of water in a sprayer can be handy for quick action.
- Mix acid with water, not water with acid - The reason being that when you add water to muriatic acid it can produce an exothermic reaction. By adding the acid mix slowly to your water you prevent this by ensuring that the heat is dissipated at a slower and safer speed. Pay close attention to the manufacturer's instructions on the acid. While this is a powerful technique you need to respect it and your safety comes frist.
- 'Ware the foliage - Muratic acid can eat up your plants. Lay the work area with plastic tarp so that everything is covered and safe.
So, once I'm safely prepared...
The bricks can be soaked in your 10 to 1 solution bucket for about 15 minutes(make sure the bucket is only half full of solution to avoid overflow). After this, remove them and put more bricks in for while you clean the soaked bricks. You can cut or chisel them for easy cleaning. After that go at them with a wire brush and you'll have a sizeable stack of bricks very soon. A solution of lime as mentioned in our next step may be used to rinse the bricks as well once you have removed the mortar.
How do I clean up the old acid afterwards?
Three or four cups of garden lime mixed into a one gallon bucket of water can be used. This is an important part, you must add the leftover acid slowly to the water, as we mentioned before, never add water directly to acid.. It will fizz, a little like Alka-Seltzer, but keep adding the leftover acid slowly(and in your protective gear, we cannot stress this enough) into the lime bucket until the fizzing is stopped. This will indicate that the acid has been neutralized.
We've discussed the Raker tool, Diamond saw blades, and mortar removal through etching. Remember, if you have not worked with the latter two, these are not recommended to novices. Stick with the raker and play it safe or make sure that you do the appropriate research so that you can get the best results.