Masonry buildings all use mortar, whether they be brick, stone or some other block material. The mortar's function is to hold bricks apart and fill in any irregularities on the bedding faces. Gravity is the element that holds masonry together, not mortar, contrary to popular belief! Over many years of British weather, mortar will begin to show signs of age and wear, gradually becoming more recessed. Mortar is designed to be softer and more porous than the brickwork, to take the brunt of the weathering process, as the relatively simple task of renewing the outer portion of the mortar joint, repointing, is much preferable to rebuilding.
Repointing work is generally straightforward but can labour intensive, so even though the materials are cheap, the ultimate cost of repointing can be considerable in terms of bricklayers hourly rates. However, don't let the costs deter you, repointing is necessary to maintain the structure and prevent more costly damage in the future. Repointing when necessary means the preparatory works of raking and cleaning out the joint are minimised, therefore the cost is reduced. If undertaking repointing on a DIY basis it is best to begin the work at the top, working down the wall. The preparation is the time consuming part and requires cleaning the joints out to a minimum depth of the mortar thickness and ensuring the cleaned-out face is square and not concave.
Once the joints have been cleaned out give a good soaking of water with a spray or hose to create a reservoir of dampness within the wall to facilitate even curing and drying out of the new mortar. Choosing an appropriate mortar mix can be difficult, every wall is different and needs to be considered on an individual basis - this is when hiring a professional bricklayer really can pay off! It's vital to maintain pointing as ultimately it affects the strength and stability of the internal and external walls of your home. Bricklayers can advise on the various styles of pointing and can match up repointing to your existing pointing for a professional finish.
Repointing costs used to be quoted per square foot, but today almost all bricklayers will price per square metre. Typically you would expect to pay somewhere between £20 to £40 per m2 depending on joint size, type of mortar required, type of brickwork, height and ease of access. It is important to note that brickies will remove the areas of windows and doors from the price quoted, as repointing around the edges of these into the reveals, can take as long as pointing across them as if the window or door wasn’t there! Any scaffolding required will add to the cost considerably, repointing scaffold is more expensive than roofing scaffold because more stages or levels are required. But prices quoted will normally include the mortar, with the possible exception of period properties which will normally require a special lime based mortar at extra cost.
If you want to hire a bricklayer that will conduct themselves appropriately and provide you with an exceptional standard of work. It's best to start your search for a good bricklayer by getting a referral from family or friends who have had some work done recently. Alternatively use the free service on this site to quickly and easily gather quotes for repointing work from local tradesman in your area. When contacting bricklayers always ask them how long they have been trading and what experience they have in repointing. Don't be fooled by badges and logo's, there have been a substantial number of cases of bogus bricklayers fraudulently claiming membership of official trade associations, so call the associations or check online to ensure they are bona fide members.
Get references from each bricklayer then check and even visit them to find out how happy they were with the quality of the workmanship. Get full details in writing of what is covered and what is not in each quotation, particularly with regards to site clean up once the repointing is complete. Avoid "VAT-free" or cash deals at all costs, you need a valid contract as proof of payment should things go wrong. Avoid paying upfront or a large cash deposit and check that the builder is insured to protect themselves against property damage and personal and public liability to protect you in the event of accident or injury.