Bricks are exposed to the elements and all kinds of weather, so it's no wonder that they sometimes crack or have pieces break off that need to be replaced. If a brick is broken or cracked, it should be replaced, because the opening will be allowing moisture to get inside your walls. Now, replacing a brick in a wall (or a chimney) sounds pretty intimidating, but it's really not that difficult a job. You do need a couple of special (but not expensive) tools, which will cost less than hiring a mason to do the job. Here's how you can go about replacing a damaged brick.
Things You'll Need
- Safety goggles
- Cold chisel
- Bolster chisel
- Small sledge hammer (lump hammer)
- Hammer drill
- Masonry bit
- Sharp trowel
- Mortar mix and coloring
- Corrugated cardboard
Finding a replacement brick to match the color of your wall may be your toughest job. If your brick is only cracked and not totally broken, an option may be to remove it intact, then turn it around and face the good side out.
Remove the broken brick by drilling a series of holes through the mortar surrounding the brick. Drill the holes as close together as possible to release the mortar's grip on the brick.
Try to remove the brick by jiggling it. If it is still held firmly, use your bolster chisel to cut through the mortar holding the brick in place.
Once the brick is loose, remove it, and if you're going to be reusing it, place it in a bucket of water. If you're using a new brick as the replacement, it needs to be soaked in water for at least an hour before installation as well.
Use your bolster chisel or cold chisel to clean out any mortar in the gap and remove all the mortar debris from the hole.
Mix a small batch of mortar following the directions on the bag. You can see what color the mortar will be when it dries by putting a small portion on some corrugated cardboard. The cardboard will absorb the moisture from the mortar quickly and you can determine its final color. Add mortar coloring to the mortar batch until you get a color match with the existing mortar.
Spray the bricks around the hole with water (to stop them from absorbing moisture from the new mortar and drying it too quickly), then spread a thick bed of mortar on the bottom of the hole.
Remove the replacement brick from the bucket of water and apply mortar to the top and ends of the brick with a sharp trowel and place it in the hole, pressing it firmly into the mortar bed.
Align the brick with brick on each side, ensuring the gaps are consistent. If there are any voids, apply some more mortar and press it in.
Use the handle of the trowel to make the new mortar joint match the joints in the rest of the wall.
Allow the mortar to dry slowly by spraying it with water a couple of times a day for three or four days.
Tips & Warnings
- Some folks suggest you should remove a damaged brick by breaking it apart with a cold chisel or drill a series of holes in the brick (rather than in the surrounding mortar as I suggest). Both of these methods will work, but the chances of damaging the surrounding wall or sending brick fragments flying around and potentially injuring someone make my method better. Not to mention that you may be able to reclaim and reuse the brick itself.
- Always wear safety goggles when drilling, hammering or chiseling mortar.
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