Help, I Need to Remove Mortar!


The removal of mortar within a residence is not as common an occurrence, as the need to remove grout between tiles.  The term mortar normally refers to the joint material located in the joints of stone or brick.  In most situations the removal is performed by a mason with the repairs to the brick and stone  and reapplication of new mortar, also performed by the same mason.  However, the removal of mortar is not a difficult procedure nor is the reapplication of mortar back into the joints.


The removal of existing mortar that occurs between stones or brick is not as commonly required as the removal of grout between tiles. If the existing mortar  is compromised, falling out of the joints, or has simply washed out from the joints, creating holes and voids between the stones or brick, removal and re-mortaring is required.  The removal of mortar is very rarely performed due to color issues or staining of the mortar.  Exterior mortar can be compromised if the masonry application is not adequate to drain moisture from the backside of the masonry assembly.  This situation will allow water to penetrate from the back of the brick of stone and flush out the mortar from between the joints. If this has occurred, the remaining existing mortar must be removed and replaced.

Quick solutions for removal

1.) The easiest method for mortar removal is with the use of a grinding wheel on a circular drill or other circular powered piece of equipment.  

2.) Goggles and ear protection is recommended to ensure that particles projected from the mortar removal do not enter the eyes and the ears are protected from the noise.  

3.) Care must be taken due to the dust that will also be created by the use of the grinding wheel.

4.) Carefully position the grinding wheel along the mortar joint and slowly grind the mortar down to a depth that leaves a structurally competent bed of existing mortar.  It will be a rare instance where the entire mortar joint is removed.

5.) Reapplication of the mortar is performed by a tuck method, where a special trowel is used to tuck the new mortar into the joint over the ground out mortar joint.  This is a labor intensive procedure and normally performed by a professional mason.

Future considerations

1.) The replacement of the mortar is called “pointing ” and the product used should  be a synthetic material that is bondable with the existing.

2.) Once the newly pointed masonry surface has cured ( all the water has evaporated from the joints ) the entire surface should be sealed with a masonry sealer that is designed to keep the masonry assembly sealed and prevent further water damage.  

3.) During the application of the new mortar, analysis of the masonry assembly should be performed to identify any masonry issues and corrections necessary to eliminate the moisture conditions that caused the deterioration of the existing mortar.

Professional suggestions

1.) The removal of the existing mortar and the reapplication of a new mortar is normally performed by a professional mason.  

2.) Deterioration of mortar joints is not a common occurrence and should be professionally investigated to determine why the existing mortar became compromised.

The removal of an existing mortar is normally  a larger  inconvenience than the removal of grout, and is not normally performed by the average homeowner.

It is important to accept, that failure to solve any of these “Now What” conditions, may require the introduction of a professional local consultant, or contractor that is experienced in solving this specific “Now What” issue.  Remember you are not alone when it comes to these very common problems and concerns!

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